Sat, 25 Jan 2003

Antiglobalization movement grows in Indonesia

M. Taufiqurrahman, The Jakarta Post, Jakarta

A flier displaying a blurry color photo of a pensive farmer and a bold headline saying "Indonesian farmers cry, developed countries laugh" immediately grabs the attention of passersby.

On the back page, a more forthright headline declares that "Indonesia needs to quit the Cairns group", which is a group of leading agricultural exporting countries.

The flier was spotted among a stack of TV guides in a big house with a sizable green garden in the upscale district of Menteng, Central Jakarta. The house is the office of the Institute for Global Justice, a non-governmental organization (NGO) whose work focuses on the struggle against globalization.

"The liberalization of the agricultural sector will only cause serious damage to developing countries as local producers are not yet fully prepared to compete with overseas producers," said Nur Hidayat, the program officer of the institute.

Founded on Jan. 15, 2002, the institute campaigns for the establishment of a new world order that is fairer to developing countries. It believes that globalization, of which economic liberalization is an important component, is embedded in the World Trade Organization (WTO).

Thus, the institute makes the WTO the target of its criticism. It does not want the WTO be an all-encompassing institution regulating international economic relations. For example, the institute does not want the WTO to address agricultural issues in its round of negotiations.

A stern position against the WTO notwithstanding, the institute does not question the existence of the organization.

The institute is just one of among many other groups making up the anti-globalization movement in Indonesia.

Another group in the same camp as the Institute for Global Justice is the NGO the Coalition on the WTO Watch (KOP WTO).

The coalition comprises a number of high-profile NGOs, such as the International NGO Forum on Indonesian Development (INFID), Indonesian Forum for the Environment (Walhi), Agrarian Reform Consortium (KPA) and the National Consortium for Nature and Forest Conservation (Konphalindo).

The coalition does not oppose the presence of foreign capital in Indonesia as long as the rules are fair and beneficial to all parties.

"What we oppose are the excesses and unfair treatment from the international system," said Syaiful Bahri, an activist from KOP WTO.

The coalition urged the government to take a firm stance against rulings by the WTO that were unfavorable to developing countries, he said.

"We have negotiated certain issues concerning the WTO with the House of Representatives, the Ministry of Foreign Affairs and the Ministry of Industry and Trade," said Syaiful Bahri.

To build credibility, the coalition has established connections with academicians from some universities.

"Intellectuals from Gadjah Mada University (UGM) and Bogor Institute of Agriculture (IPB) provide us with data, analysis and critical thinking, which serves as the foundation of our campaign," he said.

"In the near future, the coalition will expand its membership to include more members of the general public, such as workers, farmers and students," he said.

But in the case of the Democratic People's Party (PRD), the involvement of workers, farmers and students in their struggle against globalization has long been a reality.

"We try to involve workers and farmers in our struggle against globalization.

"We campaign against issues that concern them, such as the rise in fuel prices, and electricity and telephone rates," said Kelik Ismunanto, the head of international relations at the left- leaning party.

"Globalization enables institutions, such as the WTO, the International Monetary Fund and the World Bank, to interfere in our internal affairs," he said.

He believes that given the inequality of capital and technology between developed and developing countries, there was no way globalization would work out for the third world.

"Developing countries simply don't have the power to compete in the globalization era," he said.

"We are against institutions which stand as the hidden helping hands of global capitalism," he told The Jakarta Post.

Although the party does not have a formal network with other non-governmental organizations, it is involved in anti- globalization issues, such as writing-off debts of developing countries, he said.

The Network of Popular Cultural Works (JAKER) has also been campaigning for the same cause.

JAKER concentrates on incorporating political themes into works of art, such as paintings, street plays and performing arts, which are used in the campaign against globalization, said Andrean Romico, the secretary of the performing arts division of the network.

"Recently we staged a rally against the privatization of state telecommunications company Indosat," he said.

The rally was an example of the network's political stance against globalization, said Andre.

"Privatization of some state companies, which is a direct result of globalization, is harmful to workers, especially white- collar workers," he said.

Kelik and Andre both believe that globalization is harmful for developing countries. "Not all problems can be resolved through market mechanisms," Kelik said.