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Indonesian NGOs Must Set Transparency Example: Study

Sumber: THEJAKARTAGLOBE.COM | Tgl terbit: Senin, 07 November 2011

Alack of transparency and accountability, as well as heavy dependence on foreign institutions for funding, are the main challenges that Indonesian nongovernmental organizations face, a new study says.

These are among the key findings of a new publication titled “An Asean Community For All: Exploring the Scope for Civil Society Engagement,” which was officially launched in Jakarta on Friday.

Initiated and published by the German political foundation Friedrich-Ebert-Stiftung, the publication aims to present an overview of the civil society landscape in Asean’s 10 member states, highlighting their roles, strengths and challenges.

“While many civil society organizations [in Southeast Asia] often demand transparency and accountability from governments and businesses, they often fail to do so themselves,” said Dr. Terence Chong, a senior fellow at the Institute of Southeast Asia Studies and co-editor of the publication.

The report says most Indonesian NGOs do not bother to publish regular financial reports and fewer than 50 percent are open about their funding sources.

“In an effort to be transparent, the majority of NGOs in Indonesia usually use simple leaflets and Web sites to disseminate information on their organizations,” the report reads. “However, almost all the information on these Web sites is not regularly updated, while much of the information is only on their programs and activities, and generally does not pertain to financial reports or funding sources.”

Over the last decade, the report said, there have been initiatives by local NGOs themselves demanding self-regulation, but the situation has not improved much. So far, most NGOs still rely on funding from international organizations instead of the government, the public or the local private sector.

Yuna Farhan, secretary general of the Forum for Budget Transparency (Fitra), said that NGOs should comply with the Public Information Law.

“It should be our main concern that when the NGOs shout for others to be transparent, they should first set the example,” he said. “I believe all NGOs are willing to be open on their financing, but the high cost of auditing budgets is a problem.”

Indonesia Corruption Watch researcher Ade Irawan said the graft watchdog published its audited financial report every year on its Web site.

“We can even give detailed information upon request, given by our information management officer,” he said, adding that ICW had its own rules for funding sources.

“We get Rp 80 million ($9,000) from public fundraising monthly,” Ade said. “But we’re careful in doing this. We can’t accept from companies or unidentified sources. Personal contributions are also limited to Rp 10 million per person.”

The report also noted that civil society in Indonesia had seen rapid growth since the downfall of President Suharto in 1998. The exact number of local NGOs is almost impossible to determine as many remain unregistered, in violation of regulations.

Estimates put the number of local NGOs in the country in the tens of thousands, though in 2010 only 9,000 were registered at the Ministry of Home Affairs. Only a few thousand of them, however, work effectively.

The FES report praised the ones that had made an impact, naming the National Commission on Violence Against Women (Komnas Perempuan) and the Commission for Missing Persons and Victims of Violence (Kontras) as two of the more influential ones.

“Decades of experience in managing the problems and issues consistently through action and advocacy, in addition to resources and support from the international community, have made human rights NGOs and women’s movements highly capable of highlighting and addressing issues concerning social injustices in Indonesia,” the report says.

Dr. Stefanie Elies, director of the Friedrich-Ebert-Stiftung, said the study was meant “to support the process of greater civil society participation in Asean.”

“The outcome shows that there is great knowledge and expertise among local civil society organizations which could support the Asean community building process, if taken into consideration,” she said.

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