A new law giving the Indonesian government wide ranging powers to exert control over not-for-profit organisations has been condemned by CIVICUS: World Alliance for Citizen Participation, the Indonesian Forum for Environment (WALHI) and the International NGO Forum on Indonesian Development (INFID).
The Law on Mass Organisations (Ormas Law) will allow the government to restrict the activities of organisations on political grounds thus undermining trust in the sector and will challenge the independence of organisations to act freely within a clearly defined regulatory framework. Indonesia, the fourth most populous country on earth, has huge potential for mass engagement in philanthropy and already ranks seventh globally in terms of World Giving Index score. With the number of people giving money to charity regularly in Indonesia increasing by 14% from 2007 to 2012 it would be a great shame if such regressive policy were to undermine this growth in giving.
Furthermore, Tor Hodenfield, Policy and Advocacy Officer at CIVICUS points out in a recent CIVICUS press release that “It is also deeply troubling that a law that will restrict the independence of civil society in Indonesia should be passed under the stewardship of President Yudhoyono, while he is co-chair of the UN Secretary General’s high level panel on the Post-2015 Development Agenda”. If the potential for mass engagement in giving highlighted in the Future World Giving Concept Paper are to be realised then international leadership must give strong and consistent messages about the role of civil society.
CIVICUS also provided the following overview of how the ORMAS Law threatens the development of civil society in Indonesia:
- It bars CSOs from propagating ideology that conflicts with ‘Pancasila’ – the principles of official state philosophy of Indonesia – thereby providing government officials with a powerful tool to silence organisations that oppose official policy.
- It prevents CSOs from undertaking activities falling within the purview of law enforcement agencies and government, curbing activities related to reform of the political, legal and security sectors.
- International CSOs are subjected to ambiguous demands to refrain from activities which “disrupt the stability and oneness” of Indonesia or “disrupt diplomatic ties,” creating obstacles for projects related to good governance and democratic reform.
- International organizations are also forced to abide by discriminatory and excessive bureaucratic controls including requirements that they have at least five consecutive years of residency in the country and IDR 10 billion (US$1 million) prior to establishing an organization.