Human Rights and Sustainable Development
One Mayor in Indonesia is Setting the Example of Good Governance
Before he was mayor of Bojonegoro, Indonesia, Dr. Suyoto Ngartep Mustajab — known as Kang Yoto — wore many hats.
He was a professor of sociology at the University of Kebomas, a published poet in Indonesian and English, and a singer — he even graced the attendees of Indonesia’s Human Rights Festival with a song he wrote, welcoming hundreds of Indonesians and foreigners to Bojonegoro.
The government of Indonesia designated Bojonegoro as one of five Human Rights Cities in Indonesia in 2014, selected for its political will to enshrine human rights protections in its district charter and establish mechanisms to remediate human rights transgressions.
A local NGO and the Bojonegoro District Government sponsored the Human Rights Festival, held in late November, an important accomplishment for Kang Yoto, who began his political career during Indonesia’s democratic transition from President Suharto, an authoritarian ruler who arrested activists and journalists by the dozens.
Unlike the previous era, when human rights were sacrificed for development and stability, Kang Yoto welcomed the opportunity for citizen discussions at the festival on how to address some of the country’s human rights challenges — including religion, gender and sexual orientation. This included voices from the public and private sectors, government and academia.
Similarly, Kang Yoto has worked to build the public trust of the nearly 1.5 million citizens of Bojonegoro — most of whom are farmers and farm workers — through weekly public forums that have allowed him to tap into his constituents’ ideas on how to make the government more inclusive, democratic and effective.
Rooted in the shared historical experience of living under authoritarian regimes — the festival was also valuable for creating a growing pan-Asian regional community committed to the protection and promotion of human rights. Indonesia held its first human rights festival three years ago in Bandung, joining the ranks of other countries like South Korea and Sweden that hold annual festivals.
Demonstrating President Joko Widodo’s strong support for the protection of human rights in Indonesia, this year he sent two deputy chiefs of staff to the Bojonegoro festival.
Promoting Local Transparency
In 2016, under Kang Yoto’s leadership, Bojonegoro started participating in the Open Government Partnership (OGP) sub-national Pilot Program, which is designed to identify and involve more people in open government efforts around the world. Embracing the principles of the OGP platform of transparency, empowering citizens, fighting corruption, and harnessing new technologies to strengthen governance, Kang Yoto has used the OGP to advance his vision for Bojonegoro’s growth.
The goal of the program is to apply these concepts to other regions of Indonesia and other countries in Southeast Asia.
“What we have been doing in Bojonegoro is an example of problem-solving, and as we create milestones in Bojonegoro, it is possible to inspire and replicate in other places,” said Kang Yoto.
Kang Yoto is now trying to expand his commitment to the village level, in line with the national trend to decentralize governance. He has determined that despite wide-held beliefs, village leaders are not corrupt but lack budgeting expertise. Therefore, he issued regulations on village-level governance, and facilitated training for village leaders on effective resource planning and management and use of open data platforms.
Building Global Open Societies and Governments
Earlier this month, thousands of government leaders and civil society representatives gathered for the 2016 OGP Global Summit in Paris, including Kang Yoto — who shared his district’s example about the benefits governments can see when they embrace transparency, accountability and credibility.
In 2011, President Obama joined the leaders of seven other nations to launch the OGP — a global partnership between governments and civil society organizations. Indonesia is one of the founding members. Under OGP pilot , Since then, the partnership has grown into a platform for reformers in 74 countries, who have pledged to lead by example — four new countries joined during the Summit.
During the U.N. General Assembly in September, USAID Administrator Gayle Smith announced the celebration of the fifth anniversary of the OGP and the intention of the U.S. Government to commit $4 million to strengthen the OGP Support Unit and enhance its work with member countries and civil society over the next four years.
Following the lead of Kang Yoto, who has demonstrated that when you start addressing global challenges on a small scale in a village or district, you can make a big impact — USAID will continue to bring the global community together in the fight against corruption, and to promote good governance worldwide.
About the Authors
Amanda Conklin is the Acting USAID Desk Officer for Indonesia and Timor-Leste, and Luthfi Ashari is a Senior Governance Advisor at USAID/Indonesia.