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Politics and Goverment

Participants research interests:
1. National / Domestic Issues
  • West Papua – is it time to see West Papua as a development issue? To broaden the discussion and seek alternative (non-military) solutions to manage the issue and integrate West Papua into the Indonesian state? Why is West Papua treated like an internal but foreign policy issue? How can that be overcome? Are the challenges of West Papua a problem that is unique to Indonesia? Are the problems comparable to other states around the world? Is it appropriate to discuss West Papua as an issue of unequal development?
  • Provision of education – who are the key stakeholders? How can the quality of education provision be improved? What function should the central government play? How should the regional actors be engaged with education provision?
  • Environment – Is this a domestic issue? How can the environment be tackled when there are valuable business interests at stake? For example how can the different government approaches to the issues of protecting the environment be reconciled with Palm Oil production?
  • Cyber Safety and Cyber security
2. Foreign Policy Issues
  • Military Developments (including Indonesia’s role managing the South China Sea disputes, changing military structures within Indonesia, Peacekeepers and peace operations, political relationship to the military)
  • Indonesia as a Middle Power – what norms is Indonesia seeking to promote and how is it attempting to achieve global acceptance of them (for example, Democracy promotion)? Is Indonesia cooperating or learning from the experience of other middle powers (e.g. ROK, and Australia)?
  • Indonesia’s regional relations – what role will Indonesia continue to play in ASEAN, how are its regional relations changing?
  • Sovereignty promotion - can Indonesia continue to promote respect for sovereignty but also encourage other states to change their domestic political and/or economic structures (e.g. Indonesia’s relationship to Myanmar)
  • Institutions – what roles does Indonesia play in global and regional institutions – are these roles changing under Jokowi?
  • Indonesia’s Foreign Policy – has Indonesia had a consistent FP since the AFC? Under what conditions is it more or less consistent? What effect does a changing leadership have on the formulation of Indonesia’s foreign policy?


Key themes and action plans
1. Indonesia’s Internal Development

Publications Workshop – Eastern Indonesia: Development Inequalities (moving beyond the Human Rights issue)
A key aspect of the discussion of the group’s discussion was that the discussion around West Papua tends to focus on and be driven by the issue of HR. Indeed key stakeholders are NGOs or HR organisations who have an interest in this agenda. However, alternative narratives or conceptualisations of the problem may produce more fruitful discussions.
Furthermore in understanding the issues in WP there are a number of gaps in the literature because of the overwhelming focus on HR. It was suggested that there should be a move to diversify the discussion to include education provision, culture, infrastructure, economic development, the military and cyber. As well as seeking to engage with non-traditional stakeholders in the area (to incorporate businesses in the development of Eastern Indonesia).
A key proposal was to broaden the geographical scope to include more than just West Papua to Eastern Indonesia. As it was noted that some of the development challenges experienced in WP are common to other parts of Eastern Indonesia – for example the different levels of economic development experienced by the coastal/highland areas.
It was also suggested that industries operating in this area often don’t contribute to the development of infrastructure that would have a positive effect on the quality of life of the population and would also be helpful in developing education provision.
Trying to engage with methodological diversity and move away from methodological nationalism should also be a key element of this workshop – for example engaging in more comparative analysis and lessons learned from other SEA states.


Action Plans
  • As many members of the group were PhD and MA students it was felt that any research agenda should serve their research and professional development needs.
  • It was noted that there are many pressures on Indonesian scholars to publish high quality research.
  • It was therefore agreed that participants should cooperate to develop an article writing workshop – either online or face-to-face.
  • Then main aim of the workshop would be for a small group of academics and new researchers to come together will full drafts of papers they want to publish and comment and suggest improvements on each manuscript.
  • The aim would be to produce a group of publications that would move the agenda on Eastern Indonesia forwards and help to develop the professional skills and networks of the participants.
2. Regional/Global Issues

One key element of the literature on states engagement tends to focus on whether the state is being changed to be incorporated in to the international norms or whether the state under exploration is being changed. However, the discussion in the group suggested that this narrative should move beyond this approach, indeed this approach may be particularly problematic in relation to middle powers, because their agency is unlikely to fall into this binary set up.
A second element of the discussion centred on the different locations of interaction. For example, Indonesia in SEA is a large and influential power, but in a global context (even within the G20) its agency is less (but not non-existent). In addition, even within global institutions or places of engagement depending on the location of interaction a state’s depth of influence may vary – for example if they have special skills or expertise.
A third aspect of discussion centred on the practices of interaction – hence the literature could do more to look at the bureaucratic and instrumental aspects of states interactions. Hence, there is a need to differentiate the strategies and actions.
Finally, an issue raised was in how to make it easier to do this research (discussed in the following section).

Action Plans
  • This discussion was very wide ranging and varied. There was a great diversity of research agendas in this group.
  • The suggestion was that under a broad umbrella around the idea of ‘convergence’ or ‘globalising Indonesia’ or ‘Indonesia as an international power’ or ‘Indonesia’s increasing role in the world’, a collection of streams of research groupings should be developed.
  • Each stream should have a dedicated mail list and online forum so that relevant information can be shared whilst maintaining a focus on research objectives. The aim should be to bring together small groups of UK and Indonesian scholars.
  • This would allow people to become aware of other research being undertaken and facilitate meaningful research interactions.
  • It would also aim to then generate more intense research interactions and potential collaborations in the future. But, the ground work needs to be undertaken before these next stages can be achieved.
  • One suggestion may be that for the next Scholars forum these groups – following a year of engagement – can usefully plan to achieve specific objectives in the breakout sessions.
  • There was also some interest in exploring comparative analysis as a part of these streams.
3. Making research easier

Both the other objectives indicated that it can be difficult to make connections to Indonesian scholars, access to the locations or sites of investigation (particularly in PW). It is also difficult to get full research visas and funding to facilitate fieldwork. Hence a significant amount of discussion focused on just making doing the research easier.


Action Plan
  • Create an online database on research funding (both larger pots of money such as Newton Fellowships, but also small amounts to facilitate PhD fieldwork). [This could be a password protected resource, to highlight the collaborative and community aspects of the forum.]
  • Create a simple fact-file or resource of Indonesian institutions and individuals that are willing to collaborate or host UK scholars.
  • Liaise with the Indonesian Embassy to the UK and Ireland regarding research visas – possibly ask for easier to apply/use visa system – or possibly a contact point for Scholars Forum members to seek advice and assistance to maintain the links between the embassy and the forum and facilitate meaningful research that could be policy relevant.