The political and industrial elites in Indonesia grasp their opportunity
In September 2019, the streets of Jakarta were filled with angry demonstrators protesting against the Omnibus Employment Law. The law will ease the rules for mining, make it much more difficult to hold companies liable for criminal acts and severely restrict the power of the national anti-corruption committee. At the moment, such protests are completely impossible in Indonesia because of the COVID-19 crisis and the associated lockdown measures. And Indonesian people already had few other means of exerting influence on decision-making and legislative processes.
The Indonesian government, which had to act promptly at the beginning of March to bring the COVID-19 outbreak under control, took advantage of the situation to have the Indonesian parliament approve in record time a number of controversial proposals that had been the subject of heated protests last year.
More than 70 other legislative changes under the Omnibus Law are currently being pushed through parliament, one by one. No public consultations are possible on the law, and there is certainly no time to read the proposals, amounting to more than 1,000 pages, and to assess what their impact will be in practice.
Priority for companies
"The Omnibus Law shows how indifferent the government is to community rights," says Djayu Sukma of the organisation Yayasan Masyarakat Kehutanan Lestari in West Kalimantan. "By conducting the discussion on the law during the COVID lockdown and giving priority to the interests of investors and the largest companies, the government is abusing the mandate it has been given by the people."
"The idea behind the Omnibus Law – removing the inconsistencies between a lot of overlapping laws and regulations – is good in itself. The problem is that the law does this not to strengthen the position of local communities, but by legalising all the dirty practices of investors, such as land-grabbing, destruction of the environment, and ignoring human rights, including the rights of indigenous peoples. The potential consequences should not be underestimated."
The proposed legislative changes include, for example, minimising the obligation to prevent environmental damage and to draw up environmental impact assessments in advance, as well as punishments for those who violate the rules. In practice, this means that it will be much more difficult to make companies liable when they cause forest fires or other environmental harm.
In addition, the new law will abolish the obligation for palm oil companies to reserve 20% of their land concessions for the small-scale famers that formerly owned the land, so that they can continue to make a living among the plantations. Furthermore, the Indonesian central government wants authority over the management of land, forests and natural resources, so that local government no longer have any say on what happens to the land, forests and water in their regions, and all decisions will be taken in far-off Jakarta.
The whole procedure also raises a lot of questions about the legitimacy of Indonesian legislative processes, and many civil society organisations have called for attention to this issue. "We have as many problems with the process as with the content of the proposed legislation," says Franky Samperante van Jakarta NGO Yayasan Pusaka, which works with indigenous and communities in forest and plantation areas. "The process is not inclusive, there are no public consultations and the government has mainly met with representatives of the business community. Most people in regional Indonesia, where the changes will have the greatest impact, know nothing of the legislative proposals."
Human rights and environmental legislation undermined
Decades of struggle by trade unions, environmental activists and human rights defenders are in danger of being undone in a short time. "If is it adopted, the Omnibus Law will undermine current human rights and environmental legislation more than another measures," says Andi Muttaqien of the Institute for Policy Research and Advocacy (ELSAM) in Jakarta.
According to the government, it is necessary to speed up adoption of the Omnibus Law during the lockdown so that investment can be attracted in the second half of 2020 to compensate for losses incurred during that same lockdown. "The government wants to make Indonesia more attractive to investors and promises that this will create jobs," says Muttaqien. "But if we look at the details, the law is actually very bad for the Indonesian people."
The response in the EU and the Netherlands
It is unclear what impact that the changes proposed in the Omnibus Law will have on ongoing negotiations on free-trade agreements between the EU and Indonesia. The Netherlands is the largest importer of Indonesian wood and palm oil in Europe and has committed to importing 100% sustainable palm oil in 2020. In addition, from 2020, Dutch imports of all agricultural products must not contribute to deforestation. It is still unclear how the Dutch government and importers will respond to the legislative changes in Indonesia, which conflict with these sustainable procurement obligations.
Towards a sustainable EU trade policy
In a time when there are increasing doubts about the industrial methods and development models that we have taken for granted for so long and when so many countries are making the transition to clean, sustainable and inclusive development models, it is especially alarming that the Indonesian government is taking these backward steps.
To combat these kinds of negative developments, not only in Indonesia but also in other countries where the EU obtains its food, energy and other crucial natural resources, Europe should make sustainability the main priority in its trade policies. The EU cannot simply rely on sustainability measures in producing countries, which are often vulnerable to changing political interests and national economic priorities, being adequate and complied with in practice. The EU must therefore impose strict binding criteria for imports, monitor compliance effectively, and terminate trade relations in cases of doubt.
Read more about this subject
Large-scale infrastructural projects have detrimental effects on local people and the environment, while their benefits are felt elsewhere. Both ENDS is working to ensure that local people have a greater say in decision-making and is investigating the way these projects are funded.
News / 29 June 2020
On 23 July 2020 a global network of NGOs working to strengthen corporate accountability for environmental destruction and human rights abuses, including Both ENDS, published an open letter to European Commission DG Justice Commissioner Reynders. The letter is a response to his recent commitment to propose legislation in 2021 on both corporate due diligence and directors’ duties as part of an initiative on sustainable corporate governance.
Publication / 29 May 2019
Blog / 5 May 2020
Today the Netherlands is celebrating freedom. Our freedom goes further than living in peace. We have the freedom to discuss policy to our hearts’ content on, for example, ending the lockdown on television, in the press and on social media. We can do that freely because we know that our rights to freedom of expression are well protected. But how different that is in countries where authoritarian leaders are grasping the crisis as an excuse to throw these rights out with the trash and rule with an iron hand.
Blog / 13 April 2020
Since his previous government, prime minister Mark Rutte has wanted to create a green legacy with Invest-NL and Invest International, two new financial organisations. With the advent of the COVID-19 crisis, these organisations are more important than ever. Aiming to stimulate investment in sustainable and social projects, they will operate at a distance from the government so that they can act quickly and efficiently. With an initial budget of 2.5 billion euros, they will give financial support to companies active in sectors that the market avoids and which are at the heart of the transition. At Both ENDS, we see that as an essential step in closing the door for good on our old polluting lifestyle and putting sustainability at the centre of developments in the energy sector, in the organisation of our transport and mobility system, in how we produce our food and in the design of our cities.
Publication / 2 December 2014
News / 15 November 2018
On Wednesday, November 14, Dutch Newspaper De Volkskrant published a joint op-ed by Both ENDS, Hivos, Greenpeace Netherlands and Witness about the deforestation in the Amazon region which is still going on rapidly, having disastrous consequences for the indigenous people who live in the area, for biodiversity and for the climate. The Netherlands is one of the largest buyers of Brazilian agricultural products such as soy and beef, and should ensure that deforestation, land grabbing and human rights violations do not occur in these production chains. Unfortunately, this is not at all the case yet.
Blog / 13 May 2020
You can't eat gold, copper and gas
"The virus is spreading quicker than the information" – that was the first we heard in the Netherlands about COVID-19 in many African countries and the measures they were taking to tackle it. While states of emergency were announced, borders were closed and we saw image after image of violent police and army responses, many people outside the big cities did not know that what was going on. When the situation became clearer, serious concerns arose about the consequences of the measures that had been taken: the informal economy coming to a standstill, food shortages and internal migration flows.
Blog / 15 April 2020
After Dutch Minister of Finance Wopke Hoekstra had brought the fury of the Southern European countries down on his head on 26 March by blocking the European emergency fund, the Dutch were suddenly 'small-minded and selfish‘ (Parool) and we should ‘go on holiday somewhere else‘ (RTL News). The tone was set. The difficulties encountered in making agreements on support at European level contrast sharply with the speed with which the welcome support measures for employers, entrepreneurs and companies had been announced in the Netherlands two weeks earlier. We have learned nothing from our own past, while everyone benefits from greater priority for solidarity.
Blog / 12 May 2020
Post-corona economy: five recommendations for the Dutch government on achieving the SDGs and the goals of the climate agreement
By Daniëlle Hirsch and Maria van der Heijden
The social debate on the Netherlands' role in the global economic crisis is now in full swing. At the centre of the debate is the question: how can we compensate for the setbacks affecting the Dutch economy without losing sight of efforts to make international trade and production chains more sustainable? We – Both ENDS and MVO Nederland (CSR Netherlands) – are particularly concerned about what we hear in these discussions about human rights, climate and the environment. That these are 'luxury problems' which we have no time to address at this time of crisis. And this, while the Corona crisis is showing us just how closely our current economy is irrevocably intertwined with the pollution of the planet and is making people all around the world more and more vulnerable. In short, we have to make our economy more resilient to such shocks. And that means committing ourselves to achieving the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) and the goals of the Paris climate agreement. We therefore address ourselves first and foremost to the government.
News / 8 May 2019
Organisations join forces against polarisation
A broad coalition of organisations has joined forces for peace, human rights, equal opportunities for all and a society where discrimination and exclusion are actively opposed. Under the name "Heart trumps hates", the organisations call upon the public to sign a manifesto and to vote against divisions and for connection at the European elections on May 23rd 2019. On Sunday May 19th an event takes place in Utrecht, where visitors can make a joint statement. People in ten other European countries will also take action on this day.
Blog / 16 April 2020
In this time of crisis-driven reflection we can read telling analyses of past and present on all sides which are being translated into agendas for action. Many of the analyses address issues like inequality, climate, the financial sector, health care, education and women’s rights. They talk about ‘what’ and much less about ‘who’ or ‘how’.But a different future can only be built together with everyone, young and old, men and women. This future will not simply happen to us; we ourselves have a hand in it. It is time for new faces around the table, with new voices. It is time for a new future.
Publication / 27 June 2018
Blog / 14 April 2020
The World Trade Organization (WTO) is often seen as an institution in crisis, powerless and no longer relevant, and especially after US president Donald Trump decided in 2019 to pull the plug on one of the WTO’s most important bodies (the one dealing with trade disputes). Now, more than 150 civil society organisations, networks and interest groups from around the world have signed an urgent letter to WTO Director General Roberto Azevedo, because they are seriously concerned about the state of affairs within the organization.
News / 2 July 2019
In the Nam Ou river in Northern Laos, seven dams are built by a Chinese company. All over the world one can see the same picture when it comes to hydropower projects: it has devastating impacts on the people living in or around the area where they are being built, primarily because they are being displaced. It seems that displacement of communities is still accepted as the unavoidable collateral damage of infrastructure projects. This reveals a highly unacceptable attitude towards poor communities in whose name development is proceeding. In Laos, our Laotian partner visited communities along the river to talk with people about their life after displacement:
Publication / 21 April 2017
Publication / 21 April 2017
Together with civil society organisations from all over the world, the Fair Green and Global (FGG) Alliance aims for socially just, inclusive and environmentally sustainable societies in the Netherlands and the Global South.
Publication / 26 July 2018
News / 7 October 2018
We are very proud that our director Daniëlle Hirsch has been included again in the ‘Sustainable 100’ (an annual ranking list published by Dutch newspaper Trouw), and has gone up more than 40 spots compared to last year! Danielle was included in the list because of the many things she does with her organisation as a whole, but she got the higher ranking for the way she combines her criticism of the destructive role of the Netherlands as a trading nation and large cause of CO2 emissions in the world (often supported by the Dutch government), with a constructive attitude when it comes to finding alternatives and solutions.