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14 Feb 2016

Responding to Democratisation and Globalisation: NGOs Influence on Indonesia’s Policies on Labour Migration

Sylvia Yazid, July 2010
Monash University

This thesis investigates the work of two Indonesian non-governmental organisations (NGOs) concerned with Indonesian women who work overseas in the informal sector, mostly as domestic workers. It concentrates on examining the efforts made by a women‟s NGO, Solidaritas Perempuan and a migrant workers NGO, Migrant CARE, in influencing a domestic policy, Law No. 39/2004 and a foreign policy, the 2006 MoU between the governments of Indonesia and Malaysia. The research is sited in  the changing context of Indonesia‟s Reformasi Era, a period dominated by democratisation and globalisation processes.

This research demonstrates how the NGOs have been able to put the issue of women migrant workers on the policy agenda and to a certain  degree become involved in the initial stage of the policy making process. It also shows that the NGOs have not been able to significantly influence the policy products. Nevertheless, as the research progresses, it becomes more obvious that with Indonesia‟s democratisation  still at its early stage, the more significant matter is whether the NGOs have been able to adapt and adjust to the new policy context, determine their role within the labour migration system, build their capacities, and formulate a comprehensive strategy: all these are needed for their activism to excel.

Furthermore, for the NGOs researched, the challenge has also been how to find alternative channels and ways to significantly influence policies on labour migration. Parts of this thesis  illustrate this effort, which includes engaging accommodative state entities, expanding partnerships and networks, and using other related policies and regional and international instruments. Since it is unlikely that there will be a significant policy change in the near future, the search is likely to continue.

This research starts with the hypothesis that the NGOs can actually negotiate and expand their political space. My investigation shows that the expansion of their space is determined not only by their own efforts but also by changes in the environment, allowance from other actors, and changes on the part of key actors, particularly the government.

The thesis also argues that both the government and the NGOs have gone through a process of learning  how to interact with each other within the new policy environment which involves negotiations and adjustments on both sides. Through this learning process, the NGOs have also come to realize that some initiatives, such as transnational activism, which appeared to be a promising alternative, may not bring the initially expected result.

In understanding NGOs‟ responses to democratisation and globalisation in Indonesia, this thesis critically assesses the efforts made by two NGOs to significantly influence Indonesia‟s domestic and foreign policies on labour migration. It argues that changes in the policy context and within state institutions, more accommodative attitudes from key stakeholders and the NGOs‟ efforts to adapt to the changes around them have gained them wider political space to conduct their activism. 

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