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Jakarta Post

Bali Democracy Forum: Why it matters even more

  • Reza Adenan

    The Jakarta Post

Jakarta   /   Wed, December 9, 2015   /  04:54 pm

Amid the recent deadly terror attacks in Paris, Beirut and Lagos, setbacks in the Middle East democratization process and increasing tension in the South China Sea, Indonesia is set to host the eighth Bali Democracy Forum (BDF) from Dec. 10-11.

This year'€™s BDF will take place one day after the country'€™s simultaneous regional elections, in nine provinces, 36 municipalities and 224 regencies. With the nation having successfully elected new legislators and its president last year, the regional elections underline the reality that Indonesia'€™s democratic success has to be built, earned and improvised continuously, every step of the way.

Indeed, elections are just one of the tools of democracy, and building a mature democracy takes a lot more than just holding elections.

Countries are urged to respond to global changes through increasing democratic participation of the people. Democratic successes will certainly be challenged with democratic deficits. Democracy is dynamic as it can improve, stagnate, decay or fail. The process of solidifying democratic values and states'€™ readiness to respond to democratic voices is, for many, a constant work in progress, including for Indonesia.

In Southeast Asia, we witnessed the election in Myanmar and the country is now advancing in its political transition as part of its roadmap to full-fledged democracy.

The shape of our democracy will depend on the posture and stability of our neighbors.

The positive development in Myanmar demonstrates that democratic consolidation can flourish as long as there is a strong commitment from a government to embark on political change.

In the Middle East and North Africa, the results achieved are more difficult to analyze and understand because what was once a localized protest and wave of democratization evolved into a full-scale conflict, and civil wars threatened international security.

The consolidation of democracy in Tunisia, Egypt, Libya and other countries in the region will no doubt require the full support of the international community.

In other regions where democracy has become deeply rooted, democratic successes have been challenged. The fallout of the financial crisis is causing a great burden for governments and peoples.

In the developed world one may be shaken on the conviction that democracy brings prosperity, as democracy is challenged by radical ideologies supported by disenchanted mobs.

As the aspirations of the people are more confined to greater political freedom and participation, political upheaval has emerged on a greater scale and a rapid turnover of governments has become common. This is exacerbated when basic needs are not fulfilled. Such disturbances often lead to social unrest and if not managed properly often result in democratic deficits.

In balancing democracy, prosperity and stability, every government needs to work closely and in partnership with one other. The BDF remains important because governments need to always be adaptive and proactive.

With Indonesia serving as an example of political and societal maturation, democracy in Indonesia is irreversible and a daily fact of life. While we are consolidating our democracy, we are glad that democracy has provided the country with a high degree of political stability and rapid economic growth.

But such a situation should never be taken for granted, because the shape of our democracy is dependent and will depend on the posture and stability of our neighbors.

On top of securing a conducive environment for Indonesia'€™s democracy to flourish, the continuation of the BDF must strive to secure the following benefits for people. First, the forum must be in line with a democracy that continuously delivers tangible outcomes. The government must '€œwalk the talk'€, which includes the delivery of economic benefits, political rights and shared ownership in governance.

Second, the forum must continue to serve as a platform to address fair and equal participation at the regional and global levels to ensure a democratic, transparent and representative world order. Global governance must ensure that the decision-making process of international institutions is conducted in an inclusive manner.

Third, the BDF must continue to promote the Indonesian values of enhancing dialogue, engagement and participation. It must reiterate our value of '€œhomegrown democracy'€, political aspirations that come from within, not imposed from outside, as each country has its own respective political history, democratic experiences as well as sociocultural values.

And the key to a democracy that delivers is none other than to strengthen the rule of law and good governance, because both directly correlate with the democratic dividends for the people. There is always room to improve for Indonesia and other countries to have working and successful democracies.

In the last eight years, the forum has become a premier forum for countries in the region to share constructive views, ideas and lessons of democracy '€” without judgment or imposition. It provides room for everyone to participate without the burden of pretense.

Let us hope that this year'€™s BDF will recalibrate Indonesia'€™s international posture and deliver tangible outcomes domestically.

The writer graduated from the School of Government and Public Policy Indonesia, and is a junior
diplomat at the Foreign Ministry. The views expressed are his own.