Highlights: Development of Think Tanks in Indonesia
Before the 1998 decentralisation era, the opportunity to assemble and hold political activity was relatively restricted in Indonesia. All cross-sector activities were very dominantly determined by the centralised regime, known as the Suharto regime. These conditions led to the relatively limited development of think tanks in Indonesia. Some of the think tanks that existed at the time were formed at the instigation of the government itself to address very specific information/advice needs, such as the Center for Strategic and International Studies (CSIS).
After decentralisation, the problems became more complex. This condition prompted the government to be more open to input from parties outside the government. The main principles that characterised development in the decentralisation era were community participation, bottom-up planning and partnerships, pro-poor, transparency and accountability of governance. Governments and local leadership were considered good enough if they were able to embrace all parties.
Based on the above, think tanks, both at central and local level, began to emerge in Indonesia post-decentralisation. They were also accompanied by a growing number of funders, both domestic and foreign, who poured their funds to support the activities of think tanks in Indonesia. However, complex issues that were fragmented sectorally demanded each think tank to be more focused and deeply involved on one issue or sector. The think tank movement that emerged became more specialised. The more specific and focused the community, at some level, demands partnerships between think tanks to complement each other in to make appropriate contributions to Indonesian policy.
Article 33 Indonesia as a Think Tank
Article 33 Indonesia was also born in this new era of democracy and freedom of assembly. Article 33 Indonesia was established in 2009. The birth of Article 33 Indonesia is driven by the need to develop a unique think-and-do-tank that combined capacity to produce good quality of research on the one side, and the ability to engage with policy makers and policy movements on the other side.
The main area of focus of Article 33 Indonesia is the failure of natural resources management in favour of the welfare of the people in Indonesia. This is mandated in the 1945 Constitution of the Republic of Indonesia, article 33 verse 3, which emphasises that the management of natural resources by the State should be geared towards the welfare of the people.
Article 33 Indonesia’s Experiences in Collaboration
As disclosed above, the urge to split into more specific issues has pushed think tanks to be more focused. Meanwhile, at a certain level, the urge of policy change requires the integration of a variety of specific issues. This condition creates an opportunity for think tanks to collaborate in Indonesia. Here are some examples of Article 33 Indonesia’s experiences in collaboration.
Collaboration in Research
In 2013, Article 33 Indonesia collaborated with the World Bank in a study of “Administrative System of State Non-Tax Revenue in the Mining Sector” to support the policy of the Fiscal Policy Agency (BKF) at the Ministry of Finance. This research aims to optimise the State’s non-tax revenues by improving its administration system. In this study, Article 33 Indonesia and the World Bank collaborated in every step of the research process, which includes the preparation of research design, research instruments, data collection, analysis and writing.
This collaboration with the World Bank is beneficial for Article 33 for the following reasons:
- To raise the profile of Article 33 Indonesia by collaboration with the World Bank;
- To share research experiences and knowledge with the World Bank;
- To ensure that research results are well accepted and implemented by the government due to the good relationship between the World Bank and the government; and
- To strengthen better connection with the policy makers, in this case with the Ministry of Finance.
However, in this experience there are also various barriers and challenges that must be considered by Article 33 Indonesia for further collaborations, among others:
- Time: The research process took long enough for the coordination process, especially in the initial steps. Coordination is primarily related to the need to adjust work patterns.
- Branding: Dissemination of the results of this research was only limited to the scope of work required by the Government of Indonesia, so that Article 33 Indonesia is not allowed to publish this research without its consent -even when the Corruption Eradication Commission (KPK) requested this information to the World Bank.
Collaboration in knowledge sharing and advocacy
Article 33 Indonesia collaborated with the Institute for Essential Services Reform (IESR) from Indonesia, the Indonesian Parliamentary Center (IPC), Bantay Kita from the Philippines, and the Revenue Watch Institute (RWI) in the Southeast Asia Partnership Initiative (IKAT-US). The programme, funded by USAID, aims to build the capacity of think tanks in the Philippines, Vietnam, and Malaysia to advocate for the transparency of the extractive industries sector . Think tanks in these countries will encourage their governments to implement the Extractive Industries Transparency Initiative (EITI) scheme.
The benefits for Article 33 include:
- Sharing knowledge on advocacy models of various think tanks in Southeast Asian countries;
- Stronger advocacy position, especially in the Indonesian context to encourage the Indonesian EITI Secretariat to immediately meet the requirements of the International EITI; and
- Network connections with think tanks in the region. This network is expected in the future –from Article 33’s side- to advocate other policies in Southeast Asia.
Meanwhile, several barriers in implementing this programme exist, among others:
- Performance: Unequal performance in implementing the programme -there are think tanks that perform very well but some does not perform well enough.
- Time: This program takes a long time due to several things, among others: (i) adjusting working patterns, and (ii) coordination, especially to maintain a basic level of performance.
- Finance: The administrative processes that involve many parties (think tanks) take a long time. This also affects the disbursement of funds which is sometimes not in accordance with the programme schedule and the organisation’s needs.
- Branding: For this kind of collaborative advocacy project, it is very difficult to claim that one organisation has been more successful than others. This is because: (i) there is no clear (written) evidence as in collaborative research, and (ii) advocacy is done by many parties whose contribution from each other has merged as one.
Collaboration in projects
Article 33 Indonesia will soon collaborate with Transparency International Indonesia (TII) and Air Putih on the forestry sector revenue transparency issue. The programme is funded by the European Forest Institute (EFI). The collaboration was initiated by TII.
Article 33 of Indonesia decided to join this collaboration with the following considerations:
- EFI had previously worked with TII, so EFI already had its own form of trust withTII. It would have been hard for Article 33 Indonesia to receive the funds if it had approached EFI alone. However, TII itself at the time had no concept of what to be brought to this programme. Article 33 Indonesia proposed the idea of “harmonization of transparency initiatives in Indonesia to promote transparency of the forestry sector”.
- Clear division of roles in the collaboration will facilitate the programme implementation process.
- Bargaining position to influence policy will be stronger.
Meanwhile, some of the barriers that may arise in the implementation of this program include:
- Branding: As with other collaborative efforts, it is difficult to say whether the organisations can claim success for the overall programme or only to whatever component relates to their specific roles.
- Trust: This trust is related to expectations that the institution have of each other. This is particularly relevant in this case where there isn’t a history of collaboration between the institutions.
- Time. The process, from the preparation of proposals, has already taken quite a long time. This would have been done faster if it had been handled by one institution alone.
Some things that have been done to anticipate this, among others, include a clear division of roles in the collaboration, namely Article 33 Indonesia will focus on research, TII on advocacy, and Air Putih to infrastructure (online system).
The cases above shows some interesting issue to be discussed in order to strengthening the opportunity of collaboration of think tanks in the On Think Tanks Exchange. Our challenge in collaborating, at least, will be related to two aspects:
- The differences in the external/country context, e.g. the differences in terms of political economy, culture, ecology, etc; and
- The differences in the organisational context, e.g. the differences in terms of culture, experience, issues, etc.
So, we need to think about the kind of collaboration model that will fit all parties involved