“WOMEN AT THE INDONESIAN PEACE TABLE: ENHANCING THE PARTICIPATION OF WOMEN IN CONFLICT RESOLUTION” JAKARTA
24th to 25th March 2010
Overview of Issues A roundtable discussion entitled, “Women at the Indonesian Peace Table: Enhancing the Role of Women in Conflict Resolution,” was held from 24 to 25 March 2010, in Jakarta. The discussion, organised by the Centre for Humanitarian Dialogue (HD Centre), is part of a collaborative effort with the Indonesia Institute of Sciences (LIPI) and the State Ministry for Women Empowerment and Child Protection.
The event was attended by 30 people, comprised of government officials from Coordinating Ministry for People’s Welfare (Menkokesra), the Coordinating Ministry for Political, Legal and Security (Menkopolhukam) and the Ministry of Defence (Dephan), amongst others; NGOs from Jakarta and the regions such as Aceh, Maluku and Papua; academics and researchers; as well as former female combatants.
The principle aim of the meeting was to strategise ways to enhance women’s substantive contribution to conflict resolution particularly at decision making levels in the political and security sectors. Whilst it is evident that women in Indonesia play a variety of important roles in conflict management at the grassroots level, their contribution to formal peace processes and a higher level of decision making is hardly visible.
In a keynote speech, the Minister for Women Empowerment and Child Protection (KNPP&PA), Linda Gumelar, spoke of the various existing regulations that incorporate the principle of gender mainstreaming. The Minister noted the following: • In the midterm Development Plan (RPJMN) for 2010-2014, Presidential Ruling (Perpres) No. 5/2010 states gender perspectives have to be integrated in development processes in all fields; • Presidential Instruction (Inpres) No. 9/ 2000 states the need for gender mainstreaming in national development which includes planning, conceptualisation, implementation, monitoring and evaluation processes; • Perpres No. 38 and 41/ 2007, on the division of authority and organisational structures at the regional level, stipulates that in all provinces and districts, there should be a women’s empowerment (and family planning) body that work together with the Regional Body for Planning and Development (Bappeda) and Regional Workers Unit (SKPD). Finally, the Minister acknowledged that even though Indonesia has signed the United Nations Security Council Resolution (UNSCR) 1325, the socialisation of the resolution has been dismal.
During the first session, participants emphasised on the importance of mapping the broad categories of conflict in Indonesia and noted that the roles and contributions of women to conflict resolution differ according to the issues at stake. The types of peace processes also differ depending on whether the conflict is separatist, religious or economic in origin.
The importance of women’s contribution to conflict resolution need no longer be debated. But while women in Indonesia are known for their active involvement and participation in conflict resolution efforts at the grassroots level, it remains difficult for them to gain access to the formal peace process where significant and wide ranging decisions are made. Some participants argued that there is no need to separate the formal from the informal as the former builds on the latter and hence on the contribution of women. However, such argument ignores the need for men at the decision making level to acknowledge women’s contributions, share political space, open up access for women’s representation, and pay greater attention to holistic gender concerns as an integral part of sustainable and comprehensive peace.
However, even when there are women representatives at the peace table, gender inclusive issues and perspectives do not necessarily make it on the agenda. The preoccupation with security and reduction of violence often obliterates other important issues. Shadia Marhaban, who acted in an advisory capacity to the Free Aceh Movement and the only female representative at the Helsinki talks on Aceh, claimed if she was able to do it differently, she would insisted on two tracks to the peace talks: one that focused on security and political issues and a second track that looked at ‘soft’ issues namely social which would involve civil societies, victims of violence and war and others, which would also incorporate greater gender perspective.
In cases of sexual abuse and violence common during armed conflicts, while the perpetrators from the security forces, for example, may be suspended or brought to trial, often nothing is done to address the multiple needs of victims and survivors. The key issue brought to a peace table often revolves around security including the reduction of violence and disarmament, where the general perception is there is no room for women’s involvement. With a heavy focus on security issues, other equally important political issues such as resettlement of internally displaced people (IDPs), rehabilitation of victims and survivors of violence, and reconciliation of conflicting parties are neglected. This is where women’s participation and representation can be particularly important and beneficial. Due to greater interaction with the local community through their grassroots activities, many women have a greater awareness of the situation on the ground and are able to raise other issues such as social and economic often ignored in formal peace processes, yet critical in contributing to lasting peace.
The lack of women’s representation at the peace table is not only a disadvantage to conflict victims and survivors, but former combatants as well. Women combatants have the most to lose in the post-war period. While their sacrifices are as great as their male counterparts, their representation at the peace table is minimal and as a result, their needs and perspectives are not sufficiently addressed and incorporated through the armed group’s negotiating team. Traditional gender relations come to the fore again and subsume women to irrelevance. In the aftermath of the conflict, many of these women have minimal access to economic resources and political participation. Moreover, rehabilitation programs often pay little attention to the needs of former women combatants. The low level of education is another challenge for many of these women.
Challenges: The single greatest challenge to enhancing the role of women in peacemaking in Indonesia is the country’s patriarchal society reinforced by culturally and religiously driven conservative values. As a result, participants agreed that to move forward, there is a need to separate the issue of women’s representation and participation in peace processes and decision making from religion and tradition. As such, the onus is on women to push for their voices to be heard and to take on measures that empower them. This, however, has to be complemented by educating men in decision making positions on the importance of women’s representation. Above all, the role of women needs to acquire political significance and not simply become an issue of headcount.
Political apathy, lack of confidence and commitment to political participation, as well as the low level of education were all cited as obstacles to greater involvement of women in conflict resolution. Thamrin Elly, the head of the Muslim delegation in Malino II peace talks on Maluku, justified the absence of women in his negotiating team by claiming that there were no women who met the requirements needed for inclusion in his team. Among the requirements he set were good communication skills, conceptual ability and public presentation. Hence, in pushing for greater women’s involvement in peace processes, he argued more measures and initiatives need to be taken to ensure there is ready stock of potential women. However, given the strong voice of women involved in civil society on the ground in areas of conflict such as Poso and Maluku, clearly he (and others in positions such as him) need to reappraise the skills of women available for such positions. Nonetheless, training and education were suggested by participants as important complements to existing skills and networks.
Recommendations In the Women’s Affairs Minister’s speech, a list of measures and regulations has been put in place to encourage gender mainstreaming in various fields. But positive results from the government’s measures are lacking and these are blamed on the lack of socialisation and political will. This lack of socialisation applies to the UNSCR 1325 as well. In the discussions, participants referred to the clear need for government agencies to provide impetus for enhancing the role of women, but did not provide clear indications on which government agencies should take the lead in socialising these regulations and what the procedures should be. The problem is one of power, but also coordination, for even within government agencies, whilst there may be a policy or special unit on gender; this is rarely aligned properly with other areas of policymaking. Most government agencies have separate divisions on conflict management and gender mainstreaming. These agencies and divisions do not have a system of cooperation and coordination. Cooperation is usually ad hoc, depending on the situation and the personalities involved.
In debating the issue of socialisation and norms, local regulations (perda), Inpres and other regulations that stipulate gender mainstreaming as integral part of any policy was regarded by participants as an important stepping stone towards greater gender equality. However, the sequencing of actions and procedures on the implementation of these regulations need to be fully spelled out, as well as when and how the government should intervene in these matters. A clearer operational guideline will not only assist the working of government officials but also non-government actors in lobbying for greater women participation.
Other key suggestions include:
• Creation of a working group (pokja) on women and conflict resolution. The working group will cooperate with the various ministries in ensuring that women’s rights, needs as well as their representation and participation in the different phases of a peace process and stages of conflict are addressed. Ideally it ought to be an inter-ministry working group. The Women’s Affairs Ministry should take the lead on the formation of this working group with the minister as its head.
During the formation process, more discussion and consultation are encouraged to determine the various ministries’ representation in the working group and the level of representation. The modus operandi for cooperation needs to be clearly specified. This will also address the problem of which agencies should take the lead in conflict management (specifically on armed political conflicts).
As a first step, the working group could look into the existing regulations and law that contain specific provisions on women’s participation and representation, as well as procedures for implementation. As mentioned by several participants, the efforts to ensure greater gender balance in many areas have been spearheaded by the Indonesian Government but the problem lies in the operational procedures. Hence, one of the possible tasks of the working group is to look at ways to improve the implementation as well as the socialisation of those regulations.
• Specify clearly who or which government agency should take the lead on increasing the leadership potential of women MPs, facilitating the involvement of women MPs in peacemaking. The Indonesian Parliamentary Caucus for Women is cited as one of the entities tasked with increasing awareness on the importance of women’s involvement in politics.
An initiative, designed to promote the lead role of women in the Indonesian parliament in existing and planned peace advocacy groups, such as the ASEAN Inter-parliamentary Caucus on Myanmar, should be considered. The initiative could source experts and funding to enhance existing efforts and publicise the role of women. In this way, more political interest and backing from women in parliament will help socialize UNSCR 1325.
• The Women’s Affairs Ministry could usefully revisit the draft law on conflict management (on the waiting list to be debated in the Parliament) to ensure a holistic gender perspective has been incorporated. Civil society could then help link up the Ministry’s efforts with interested and engaged members of parliament to ensure that gender is raised and emphasised when the draft law is considered in parliament.
• Efforts will be made to secure more effective cooperation between the Women’s Affairs Ministry and the United Nations Population Funds (UNFPA) to draft a National Action Plan (NAP) on Women and Security in line with the UNSCR 1325. These efforts ought to be supported by other government agencies and NGOs as well as political parties.
At the end of the discussion session, participants suggested more discussion and consultation with the relevant government agencies and institutions are needed in order to further refine practical steps on how these recommendations can be realised.