Indonesia Damage Report: Human Rights and the Danger of Poverty

The occurance of the International Day of Human Rights on December 10 was observed by a number of people here in Jakarta. The timing of this year’s theme, poverty, could not be more timely in Indonesia. The World Bank recently released a report on Indonesia, saying that poverty was one of the main obstacles to be overcome by Indonesia on its road to economic success. Please see an article in the Tehran Times, “poverty rematins a major challeng to Indonesia: World Bank.”

homeless man at staseun tebet

A homeless man, sitting at the Tebet bus station

While I may not agree with the ideology or methods of international financial istitutions like the World Bank on all occasions, I can certainly agree with the assessment that a focus on increasing the lot of all people, especially the poor, is absolutely vital to the success of any country. Indonesia is definitely on a track to become a more and more powerful economy – however, a majority of the people here are in danger of not benifitting from that growing economy. As it is, only a few, elite and powerful, actors are in a position to be involved in growth and development. The development of Indonesia’s economy has to occur in a way that lets the majority of Indonesians participate and benefit, not in a way that further concentrates wealth and control. The level of poverty is a threat to the very functioning of a healthy civil society.

A civil society that is not healthy is a breeding ground for instability, violence, and could surely be identified as one of the root causes for the form of terrorism that the Western world is so frightened of in this age of globalization.

Speaking of civil society, today is also a monumental day in Aceh because the first election in over 30 years is a part of the long process of civil society revitalization after so many years of conflict. The ability to communicate, organize and take action within a democratic environment is essential to a productive society.

As of now, it appears that the elections are going to occur successfully. Actually, several of the leaders of the former Free Aceh Movement are running in the election to fill important government posts.

My friend, whose birthday is today, was born in Aceh and is there today, participating in that province’s first election during his lifetime. He is celebrating his 30th birthday – he was born the same year that the conflict in Aceh, between the Indonesian military and GAM, the Free Aceh Movement. Today is not only a celebration of the start of his life, but the start of a new life for all the people in Aceh.

Here is an article from the Jakarta Post today: (Click link here aceh election jkta post 11 Dec.txt)

Acehnese vote for peace
Nani Afrida and Ati Nurbaiti
, The Jakarta Post, Banda Aceh, December 11, 2006.

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