Wednesday, January 9, 2013

1) Money can’t buy you love in resource-rich Papua

1) Money can’t buy you love in resource-rich Papua
2) Canberra to build largest embassy in Jakarta


1) Money can’t buy you love in resource-rich Papua

The National Commission on Human Rights (Komnas HAM) recently awarded Indonesia’s mining and plantation companies a “silver medal” for human rights violations due to their poor handling of land disputes and labor issues (The Jakarta Post, Dec. 12, 2012).

The “gold medal” given by Komnas HAM to the National Police persuaded the London-based risk consultancy Maplecroft, when compiling its 2013 Human Rights Atlas, to rank Indonesia in the extreme risk category for human rights violations, alongside countries like Syria, Iraq, Afghanistan, Pakistan and Sudan.

Resource-rich Papua, along with Kalimantan, are the best regions to scrutinize corporate practices (as well malpractice) and predatory plunder. Although Papua offers immense financial rewards and lucrative returns on business investments, companies usually need to first establish a rapport with local communities to foster cultural

This easier said than done: Community engagement has been a significant source of frustration for large companies in Papua.

A few exceptional companies, such as BP Indonesia, which operates in Bintuni Bay, West Papua, have done remarkably well, while others, despite having already operated in Papua for more than decades, continue to be overwhelmed in navigating land disputes, labor strikes and contract renegotiations. Three reasons stand out in explaining corporate failures with local communities in Papua.

First, most companies still view their social responsibility mainly as a cost. Unfortunately, instead of trying to maximize their social impact, profit-oriented corporations tend to reflexively minimize and localize these costs through corporate speak, geography and cultural localization.

Corporate speak is an overemphasis on a corporation’s social contributions, a form of propaganda overkill that utilizes white-washing and media-swarming techniques along with an emphasis on corporate image over tangible social impact. Some also employ this practice to counter criticism from major international news outlets, often times labelling criticism against the company as a smear campaign.

A milder version, often employed in Papua, involves the romanticization and exaggeration of a company’s social contributions.

A company, for example, might boast of its biodiversity programs and the potential increase in land fertility accidentally caused by its tailing disposal — all the while failing to mention the local sago fields destroyed as well as the social disruption it has inflicted on nearby river-based communities.

Geographical localization is almost exclusively practiced by extractive industries claiming themselves to be “geographically embedded” — a code word for limiting company contributions only to their immediate local surroundings. Nearby construction projects of roads, bridges, or port facilities to support company operations are used to inflate the value of a firm’s social contributions that are reported back by the company to the government, the public and the investors.

Cultural localization is the latest corporate attempt to limit responsibility in Papua. Due to the concepts of adat (custom) and tanah ulayat (ancestral land), companies now want to identify who their cultural beneficiaries are. However, as noted by anthropologist Semiarto Aji Purwanto, ethno-cultural maps are fluid and not necessarily geographically bounded.

In fact, mapping such boundaries might actually bring about new forms of competition or conflict between communities that do not have a mutually exclusive notion of territorial ownership.

To make things worse, in Papua, companies often expand their operations by acquiring new plantation fields or discovering new mineral deposits without significantly readjusting the geographic and cultural demarcations of their corporate social responsibility programs in a timely manner.

Second, organized opposition that keeps corporate practices in check are often bought off, weakened or sabotaged. Companies even go as far as buying off local big men and creating new labor unions and cultural associations that are more compliant, less critical and less demanding.

Finally, companies tend to get around the time and effort needed to establish local relationships with money. Company efforts in binding local communities through formal agreements and contracts clash with the amount of haggling that local communities can muster and put forward against the company. Artificial engagement, signed contracts or even videotaped agreements will provide companies with little or no compliance from the local community. Genuine engagement, on the contrary, can mean that a Rp 200 million (US$20,830) customary fine can be settled by a hearty meal alongside a good conversation.

Avoiding the vicious circle of corporate predatory plunder, businesses need to view social responsibility as a form of reinvestment and a dividends-sharing mechanism that positions local communities as both stakeholders as well as shareholders in their business. Furthermore, the tug of war between companies, labor unions and local cultural associations is needed to let everyone know that they are in the same boat and should not be used as a pretext to throw others overboard.

A new deal from the government might be important. But one can also question the total absence of companies from peace initiatives despite the gargantuan amount of resources they command and the massive social impact they engender. This is not to imply that corporations should go into politics.

However, simply by adhering to responsible business ethics, sound corporate practices and by making a “genuine” effort at community engagement, companies can make their own worthwhile contributions toward achieving peace in Papua.

The writer is program director for the Papua Center at the University of Indonesia.

2) Canberra to build largest embassy in Jakarta

Australian Ambassador to Indonesia Greg Moriarty is seeking the support of Jakarta Governor Joko “Jokowi” Widodo for the construction of Canberra’s new embassy in Jakarta, which is poised to be its largest in the world.

The Australian envoy met with the governor at City Hall on Tuesday as members of an Islamic group staged a rally calling on the governor to reject a similar plan by the US Embassy in Jakarta.

“We very much look forward to working with him in the future, including to build a new Australian Embassy in Jakarta, which will be the largest Australian Embassy anywhere in the world,” Moriarty told reporters after the meeting.

The new embassy complex will be built on a 40,500-square-meter site in Patra Kuningan, South Jakarta, one block down from the current Australian Embassy on Jl. HR Rasuna Said. Some of the land was bought from a private company, while the rest was city property the administration had agreed to sell. In September, the embassy announced that a joint venture between Australian-Indonesian firm PT Leighton Contractors Indonesia and construction company PT Total Bangun Persada had won the A$230 million (US$241 million) contract to build the new complex.

Australia, which is trying to play a larger role in Asia, has long planned to move its embassy from its current location, which became the target of a terrorist attack in 2004 when a bomb exploded outside its gates, killing nine Indonesians and injuring more than 180 people.

Moriarty’s meeting with Jokowi was part of a series of courtesy calls made by foreign ambassadors. In the past week, the governor met with Brunei Darussalam Ambassador Dato Paduka Haji Mahmud Bin Haji Saidi, Korean Ambassador Kim Young-sun and Palestinian Ambassador Fariz Mehdawi.

Moriarty said he also talked with the Jakarta governor about the possible contributions the neighboring country might make to the development of the city. “We will be helping with some technical work studies in relation to mass transit. We’re also looking at the possibility of helping with the development of some private-public partnerships in relation to water supply projects in Jakarta in the long-term.”

Also on Tuesday, dozens of members of firebrand group Hizbut Tahrir Indonesia (HTI) staged a rally in front of City Hall, protesting a plan by the US Embassy to build new diplomatic facilities on the existing embassy complex.

HTI said that the new US Embassy building would serve as a symbol of US domination over Indonesia.

“We demand that the administration reject the project because it will be a means of further domination of the US over Indonesia, especially in terms of politics and the economy,” the group said in its statement. It claimed that the new US facilities in Jakarta would be its third-biggest in the world after those in Pakistan and Iraq.

The new US diplomatic facilities, costing $302 million and covering a total of 47,000 square meters, will be built to provide workspace for approximately 1,300 embassy staff members and the US mission to ASEAN, according to the US Embassy website. The new complex will include a 10-story tower for consular and office space, with an attached residence for Marine security guards, as well as a multi-story parking garage.

Governor Jokowi said he did not yet know the details of the US Embassy project, but ensured that the project would go on if it complied with existing regulations.

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