Indonesians will do it for themselves

Posted: June 12, 2013 in Indonesia, Site announcements
Tags: , , , , ,
Indonesia Pavilion at Expo2010

Indonesia Pavilion at Expo2010

This is where I was on this day three years ago: the Indonesia Pavilion at Expo 2010 in Shanghai.

Indonesia is Australia’s largest neighbour but I knew embarrassingly little about it and it was only by random chance that I visited their pavilion at all (it happened to be located near the main axis).

If you ever get a chance to attend a World Expo, do! The next will be held in 2015 in Milan. It’s like being able to visit all the countries in the world at once. After I returned, what passes for ‘big issues’ in the daily papers have seemed incredibly trivial. It also sparked a desire to do something more meaningful with my spare time, which eventually took the form of this blog.

Conscious of the widespread poverty in Indonesia 482469_4532530598733_388566560_nI figured I could best assist by donating my knowledge on labour relations. With some research I discovered that there is a small office in Jakarta called the Trade Union Rights Centre and I travelled to Jakarta to meet with them in late 2010. Fair For All kicked off soon after. While the site is not country-specific, Indonesia has been covered frequently.

Looking back, you can see how it has gradually sunk in with me that Indonesians can look after their own. Moreover, they should look after their own. To have someone ride in and purport to fix things is problematic on two levels: Firstly, no matter how well-intentioned, that someone will carry their own cultural assumptions which will make the work more difficult than it needs to be. Secondly, the whole purpose of labour rights is empowerment and having someone else do it for you undermines this.

You can see the turning points in hindsight:

  • My very first post was about light manufacturing on Batam Island – drawn largely from the bleak portrait painted in the newsletter of the IMF (now part of IndustriALL)
  • About a year later after I had the opportunity to travel to Batam Island and see it for myself … and it’s not nearly as horrible as I expected. Moreover many of the island’s one million workers belong to the highly active manufacturing union FSPMI which has been winning double digit wage increases.
  • A few months later I learned that Indonesia’s three peak labour organisations – representing divergent ideological approaches – worked together to stage the nation’s May Day rallies. Who am I to lecture them, then? We can barely manage that here in Sydney!
  • Lastly in this post I recognised that Indonesia’s primary market is its own domestic one so, even if foreign multinationals could be forcibly signed on to better labour conditions, it still wouldn’t go a long way in raising overall living standards.

In short: Indonesians have their own thriving movement for progress which doesn’t need my help, not in a direct sense anyway.

  • You can read more on the website of the journal IndoProgress although if you don’t speak Bahasa Indonesia you’ll need to use translation software to follow it.

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