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News / 19 October 2020

Both ENDS and partners worry about the Indonesian Omnibus Law

Both ENDS together with 13 other Dutch NGOs and trade unions have written to the Dutch Minister for Foreign Trade and Development Cooperation to express their deep concerns over the hasty approval of the so-called Omnibus Law on Job Creation by the Indonesian parliament.

Fundamentally, the law deregulates many sectors closely associated with human rights and environmental risks, such as the extractives and agri-business industries (eg mining, timber and palm oil), in favour of investors and at the cost of workers, local communities and the environment. "The Omnibus Law legalises 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", says Djayu Sukma of the organisation Yayasan Masyarakat Kehutanan Lestari in West Kalimantan.

Human rights at stake

The law contains over 1,200 articles and amends over 70 other laws and regulations on issues from employment conditions and entitlements, to environmental protections, social safeguards, land-use planning, and authority over resource license allocation.

Indonesian CSOs, trade and labour unions, environmentalists and human rights organisations vigorously oppose the Omnibus law. "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. "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."

Pushed through parliament

The Indonesian Government pushed the Omnibus Law through the law-making process on the basis that it is needed to attract foreign investment to Indonesia and to boost the Indonesian economy after the economic impacts of the COVID pandemic. However, local NGOs claimed the government was using the cover of the COVID lockdown to rush the law through parliament and avoid public scrutiny and accountability. The law was passed on Monday 5 October 2020, less than a year after it was introduced to parliament, with very limited public debate and consultation.

Public protests and mass demonstrations against the law have erupted in many Indonesian cities. Local organisations accuse the Jokowi administration of deliberately undermining human rights, contravening Indonesia's commitments to international norms like the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) and the Paris Climate Agreement, and jeopardising the integrity of Indonesia's democratic and law-making processes.

Consequences for Dutch trade relations

The deregulation of large parts of the Indonesian economy has significant consequences for the Netherlands and other global trading partners, especially those committed to responsible business conduct and sustainable development.

Both ENDS, other Dutch NGOs and the Netherlands' two largest labour unions are calling on the Dutch Government to raise these concerns with the Indonesian Government and to initiate an open dialogue with Indonesian government and civil society representatives about the potential consequences of the Omnibus Law for sustainable development in Indonesia and for relationships with the Netherlands and EU.

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