Water Privatisation

Water privatisation is a human rights violation, said the Central Jakarta Disctrict Court in their ruling of March 24, 2015.

The court invalidated the contract of PT PAM Lyonnaise Jaya and Aetra and found that the public and private partnership was negligent in respecting and fulfilling the human right to water for Jakarta residents.

This decision is a culmination of years of legal struggles and political resistances involving major human rights organisations, trade unions, and water justice organisations. Complaints include that the water service has been lower and leakages have been increasing since the agreement signed in 2004 following the pressure from the World Bank and the Asian Development Bank. Moreover, Jakarta has the highest water tariff, about four times more than the Indonesian average and ten times more than that of Southeast Asian countries.

Important to note in this decision is that, first, the Court deliberately made a reference to Article 28 I of the Constitution that asserts, among others, the right to life.  They were of the opinion that no violations were found to the aspect of water availability, which is the subject of natural resource management as asserted in Article 33 of the Constitution. However, the Court found evidences on the hindrance of access to water since the implementation of the private and public partnership and therefore considered it as a human rights violation. Second, the court annulled the Law No. 7 of 2004,  which regulates the availability of water in Indonesia. The Law was considered insufficient to provide benchmarks pertaining to what extent private actors can have the authority over the governance of access and availability of water.

Democracy and Human Rights in Southeast Asia

The new issue of Journal of Current Southeast Asian Affairs contains articles addressing the ASEAN human rights bodies, the practice of human rights and the pragmatic and shifting process of democratisation in Southeast Asian countries.

The edition includes the following research papers:

How have human rights reports been responded?

One of the observed tasks of human rights NGOs in protecting and promoting socio-economic rights is executed by writing and submitting reports to international human rights regimes, such as the United Nations.  It is generally perceived that states, as sovereign units, each representing a nation, occupy a unique position. While they have the primary obligation to carry out human rights obligations, they are also recognised as potential perpetrators, which in turn will be less likely to admit any negligences or violations.

Acknowledging the important position of states to realise human rights has crucially contributed to the establishment of the human rights regimes, something that is essential for invoking and exerting the influence of international human rights norms. However as resulted from another character of states, obviously, these regimes cannot merely rely on states to ensure that rights are enforced and realised. They need to turn to other actors for some possible explanations on states´ slothfulness and aversions in fulfilling their obligations. In this regard, we are talking about non-governmental organisations.

Writing reports is part of the chores NGOs need to do to stay in the loop. In cooperation with other NGOs or possibly other social organisations, experiences and grievances are collected. Field research, trainings, interviews etcetera are the common ways of collecting such information. In the reports these experiences and grievances are translated using the human rights language, in order to identify violations and states’ failures in meeting their obligations. Read More …

Upstream Human Rights Activisms in Indonesia

For the past years I have been working on the issue of translating human rights, in which I become fascinated with social processes of connecting grievances into human rights discourses and terms. Middle actors, such as non-governmental organizations or semi governmental bodies play a crucial role.

My latest publication from last year, which I wrote for the special volume on Human Rights and Conflict, published in honour of Professor Bas de Gaay Fortman, addresses the effort done by Indonesian Human Rights Commission to address the negative impacts of development.

Here is the abstract of the article:

The contestation for an implementation of international human rights battling against development hazards is the deficit in legal enforcement at the country level. The inadequacy in law as a check of power and the reception of human rights ideas in cultural and/or politico-economic contexts are identified as the factors contributing to this dynamic. The article draws out this contestation by charting the upstream approach of human rights as a strategy to combat development hazards. Particularly it aims to analyse the negotiation of economic, social and cultural rights in Indonesia in human rights activisms conducted by the Indonesian Legal Aid Foundation and the National Commission in the case of Sidoardjo Mudflow. The article questions whether upstream human rights activism compensate the persistent enforcement deficit.