Although the right to a clean and healthy environment has been guaranteed by our Constitution, countless people in various regions in Indonesia must fight hard to obtain it. Very often, the citizens along with human rights defenders face intimidation, threat of criminalization and violence. Many of these years-long-struggles, unfortunately, have not yet succeeded. To strengthen the capacity of the grassroots human rights defenders and their community in facing these challenges, KEMITRAAN collaborated with the Indonesian Society for Social Transformation (INSIST) to organize a Short Course on human rights and environment in Yogyakarta in February 2021.
“This short course helped the human rights defenders to reflect on the progress of their advocacy and actions, whether they are in line with their objectives, and whether the strategy and tactics are effective,” said Ririn Sefsani, Team Leader at KEMITRAAN for Protecting Human Rights Defenders in Environmental Sector for Sustainable Development in Indonesia Program.
Ririn stated that the course also aimed to improve the capacity of the human rights defenders in advocating and organizing their community. “They learned to map out opportunities and obstacles which they might face. They also learned to identify key stakeholders with whom they have chances to form a coalition,” she added.
The course was unlike an ordinary training. At the beginning of the program, participants were not immediately given various theories on human rights and advocacy. Quite on the contrary, they were first asked to share the background of their lives and the cases they were facing in detail, including their strategies that have been implemented, as well as the objectives of their advocacy. They were also encouraged to reflect on their struggles. Afterwards, they learned about the theories relevant to their cases, studied advocacy strategies, and learned how to build opinions and raise mass support.
“In conclusion, this Short Course helped participants to contextualize the theories they learned into their daily struggle. Thus they are more useful and applicable when the participants return to their communities,” told Ririn.
The Human Rights and Environment Short Course was held on February 5-14, 2021 and attended by 16 participants from seven provinces, namely: West Sumatra, South Sumatra, Central Java, East Java, East Kalimantan, North Sulawesi and Central Sulawesi. All Participants were grassroots human rights defenders and were invited to join this program as they are actively involved in carrying out advocacy together with KEMITRAAN’s local partners. They are currently fighting to defend the environment, and their sources of livelihood from environmental destruction and pollution around them.
Cherly Tatia, of Paputungan Village, North Minahasa, North Sulawesi stated that her involvement in this Short Course was a brand-new experience. She had never participated in any human rights related training before despite having been involved in advocacy for years. Cherly and her community from three villages – Paputungan, Jayakarta and Tanah Putih – have been defending their territory and the source of their livelihood from land grabbing by tourism developing companies.
“This is a new experience for me, meeting fellow friends who are also working for the same cause. Hopefully, what I have learned here is going to help our fights back home, ” she said.
M. Syukrie, a human rights defender of Jerambah Rengas Village, Ogan Komering Ilir Regency, South Sumatra, shares the enthusiasm. He said that his experience this time was interesting and different from any other trainings he has already attended: “The learning method is not like we are given a fish, but rather a bait. We are encouraged and guided to think more critically, using strategies that fit our situations, ” said Syukrie.
He also said that his involvement in this Short Course was vital. The learning process has deepened his understanding of human rights, including the rights of citizens when dealing with corporations as well as the right to have a voice and to participate in decision making. Syukrie is committed to using his newly advanced knowledge to strengthen the community in his village against palm oil companies that have been threatened the local people’s economic resources and food security in the past five years.
At the end of the program, Syukrie, Cherly, and the other fourteen human rights defenders in the environmental sector arranged a follow-up advocacy plan. KEMITRAAN hopes that this action plan can later be implemented by the respective communities. Therefore, reinforcing the capacity of the human rights defenders through this Short Course can create a strong impetus for the nation to comply with its obligations to respect, protect, and fulfill the rights of its citizens. (ER)
The Human Rights and Environment Short Course was run cautiously by implementing strict health protocols. Participants, organizers, and facilitators constantly applied the 3M protocol (using masks, maintaining physical distance, and washing hands regularly). Furthermore, this event was conducted in a semi-outdoor space with sufficient ventilation and lighting. All parties involved had also undergone a negative antigen swab test before departing from their area of origin. On the 5th day of the activity, KEMITRAAN facilitated another round of antigen swab tests to ensure the safety and health of all participants.