The Partnership for Governance Reform (KEMITRAAN)

Please present yourself

My name is Laode M Syarif and I am the Executive Director of KEMITRAAN. I have been working on the issue of environmental protection, the rule of law, anti-corruption, good governance, and judicial reform since 1998. I teach International Environmental Law at Hasanuddin University, Faculty of Law, and collaborate with several law schools, such as Sydney University Law School, National University of Singapore Law School, IUCN Academy of Environmental Law, and many more. In addition, I was a Commissioner of the Corruption Eradication Commission (KPK)  from 2015 to 2019.

KEMITRAAN has managed 17 programs focused on anti-corruption and accountability issues between 2007 and 2021 (ongoing). These programs – which included a $16.7 million project funded by the Dutch and Danish governments and a $1.4 million USAID-funded program – have employed technical approaches aimed at strengthening anti-corruption institutions and enhancing public engagement. These projects exemplify KEMITRAAN’s twin-track approach of building the internal capacity of state institutions, while at the same time increasing the ability of civil society to monitor these institutions.

What motivates you/inspires you to work in anti-corruption?

Indonesia is a very rich country in terms of natural resources but mismanagement and government corruption have put about 40 million Indonesians in poverty. According to a recent study, 1% of the richest Indonesians control about 50% of the Indonesian economy. These unfortunate conditions (injustice and inequality) are the source of my motivation to work in anti-corruption. I do believe that justice and prosperity can only be achieved in a less corrupt country. Fighting corruption is a noble cause and the responsibility of every man/woman to humanity.

What are your organization’s main goals?

The vision of KEMITRAAN is to establish fair, democratic, and sustainable governance that improves the welfare of Indonesians.

Our mission is to disseminate, advance, and institutionalize the principles of good and clean governance among government, civil society, and business while considering human rights, gender balance, the marginalized, and environmental sustainability.

KEMITRAAN works on three fronts:

  1. To support initiatives focused on the transformation of governance within public institutions – building capacity from within.
  2. Strengthening the capacity of civil society, the private sector, and other non-state groups to demand and promote governance reform – applying pressure from without.
  3. To synergize and harmonize governance reform activities and to drive transformation via a network of partnerships – the multi-stakeholder approach.

How does your organization operate?

KEMITRAAN is an independent legal entity established as a non-for-profit civil law association under Indonesian law. Its main governing body is the Partners (Teman Serikat). The Meeting of the Partners is the highest decision-making body within KEMITRAAN.  Its membership consists of those individuals who are signatories to the Articles of Association of KEMITRAAN.  The Partners consist of senior and respected Indonesian citizens who are active across, and representative of, various sectors and communities of Indonesia.

It will, among other things, make the final decision on any amendments to the Articles of Association.  It will also make any final decision regarding matters relating to mergers or the dissolution of KEMITRAAN.

The Meeting of the Partners will also ratify the composition of the Executive Board.

A committee of the Partners, an Executive Board, meets more frequently and maintains more day-to-day oversight of KEMITRAAN’s Executive Office. While the Partners provide long-term strategic direction, the Executive Board monitors overall implementation.

The Executive Board appoints the Executive Director, who is in charge of the day-to-day operations of the Executive Office.  The Executive Director of KEMITRAAN since January 2020 is Laode M. Syarif, PhD.

What are the biggest successes your organization has accomplished in the field of anti-corruption in the past years?

Over the last five years, KEMITRAAN programs have helped to enhance the financial transparency of COVID-related economic recovery programs, the management of electronic evidence for corruption trials, the optimization of non-tax revenues through transparent timber licensing, cross border asset recovery, and mutual legal assistance (MLA) in corruption cases, environmentally responsible tin mining operations, the role of faith-based organizations in anti-corruption education, and sustainable fisheries management.

KEMITRAAN has authored and published 81 reports on sustainable environmental governance, 52 reports on anti-corruption, 34 on civil society empowerment, 25 on political party reform, and 19 on private sector governance. KEMITRAAN’s research with national and local government counterparts has led to important reforms in the areas of bureaucratic reform, judicial practice and democratization, and anti-corruption laws and institutionalization.

KEMITRAAN also played a catalytic role in supporting the development of the law to establish the Corruption Eradication Commission (KPK). This was followed by supporting the Government and Parliament in selecting good candidate commissioners while also supporting civil society groups in critically monitoring the selection process. Once appointed KEMITRAAN was asked by the Commission to assist in its early institutional design and recruitment and even to play the role of donor coordinator. Can KEMITRAAN lay claim to the success of the Commission? Certainly not. But it is very clear that KEMITRAAN played a key role in supporting the Commission to develop the necessary capacities and strategies to be as effective as it has been.

To what extent has your organization been involved in the UNCAC Review Mechanism?

Several KEMITRAAN staff were involved as resource persons of the review team. KEMITRAAN was also the first Indonesian organization to conduct a gap analysis of the UNCAC and Indonesian legislation. As a follow-up to the gap analysis, KEMITRAAN is also pushing the Government and the Parliament to revise the existing corruption law to include the criminalization of trading in influence, bribery of foreign public officials, bribery within and among the private sector, and asset recovery.

What are the key challenges specific to your local context that your organization has been facing?

Since 1998 Indonesia has made notable progress in reforming its systems of governance, but significant challenges remain. We identify several key challenges with particular relevance for the mission of KEMITRAAN:

Reforms once implemented need to be locked in to prevent backsliding

It is difficult to sustain momentum for reform over a longer period of time. A number of indicators in the field of anti-corruption and rule of law show that after several years of good progress, the situation in Indonesia is stalling. Legal, institutional, and accountability frameworks have been created or improved, but the operationalization and implementation in practice are lacking. Governance reform needs to be consolidated and systems need to be further cleaned up and made to work, for example in the judicial sector. Indonesia can be proud of its free and fair elections, but many political parties are captured by individual interests. There is also a recurring risk that Parliament will try to restrain the role of the Corruption Eradication Commission (KPK), in effect moving the country backward in the fight against corruption.

Civil rights and inclusivity need to be safeguarded and promoted

The Indonesian nation was founded on the premise of inclusivity, equality of citizenship, and the notion of unity in diversity, as expressed in the State Philosophy of ‘Pancasila’. However, in recent years, the space for minorities and civilian rights has been encroached upon especially at the local or regional level.

Sustainable growth needs more integrated and coherent policies

The current Government has prioritized economic growth through trade, investment, and infrastructure development but failed to establish more coherent policies to combat endemic corruption, especially corruption in political parties and law enforcement agencies. The government has also failed to enhance the quality of Indonesian democracy as shown by the country’s declining ranking in the Corruption Perception Index and Democratic Index in 2020.

Financing governance reform in Indonesia requires a new approach

Official Development Assistance (ODA) to Indonesia has been decreasing for some time, mostly because Indonesia’s poverty rates no longer qualify the country for ODA but also because ODA worldwide is decreasing. To the extent that ODA is still available for Indonesia, it is focused on a limited scope of work, foremost environmental issues, and climate change, and to a lesser extent on anti-corruption, judicial, and security sector reform, the latter with an emphasis on preventing violent extremism. Thus, the main traditional source of external funding for governance reform is diminishing, also for KEMITRAAN. This requires revisiting KEMITRAAN’s business model and diversifying its resource base and sources of revenue.

Maintaining the Independency and Professionalism of KPK

The most important challenge faced by Indonesia in preventing and eradicating corruption is the change of the legal foundation of KPK in 2019. This new law has drastically changed the KPK from an independent State agency to an organization under the executive wing of the government (executive). This radical change is a clear sign of the lack of commitment of the current government and parliament to prevent and combat corruption. This new change coupled with the weak leadership of the current KPK has created a massive outcry and the declining of the KPK image. In addition, the weak commitment of provincial and local governments to implement good governance and the lack of funding for civil society to develop programs on corruption prevention has created difficulty in the fight against corruption.

What can other organizations learn from you?

Our reform efforts apply a two-pronged approach of strengthening capacity from within, and applying pressure from outside, to institutions of priority focus. To ensure the effectiveness of our programs, we work on two fronts: building the internal capacity of state institutions, while at the same time increasing the ability of civil society to monitor these same institutions and the broader reform process.

Moreover, through its multi-stakeholder approach, KEMITRAAN tries to synergize and harmonize governance reform activities and to drive transformation via a network of partnerships.

KEMITRAAN operates as a “bridge” between the needs for reform by various domestic actors including government, civil society and private sector as well as with the donor community:

  • It builds coalitions,
  • It translates priorities for reforms,
  • It channels funding supports to various actors.

Provide a “bridge” between various demands for reforms (government, civil society and the private sector) and various resources that can help the reforms materialized (donors, experts, networks).

Why is it important for you to be part of the UNCAC Coalition?

It is important for us because we want to share our experience in creating and implementing anti-corruption programs over the last 20 years and at the same time, we also want to learn more from other members of the Coalition.