World Council of Churches

A worldwide fellowship of churches seeking unity, a common witness and Christian service

You are here: Home / Resources / Documents / WCC commissions and working groups / Commission of the Churches on International Affairs / Human rights and Impunity / Economic, Social and Cultural Rights: Indonesia-West Papua

Economic, Social and Cultural Rights: Indonesia-West Papua

22 April 2005

Written statement submitted at the UN Commission on Human Rights' 61st Session,
Item 10, 14 March-22 April, 2005

1. The Commission of the Churches on International Affairs (CCIA) of the World
Council of Churches (WCC) submits that one of the purposes and functions
of the Council as enumerated in its Constitution is the breaking down of barriers
between people, promoting one human family in justice and peace, and
upholding the integrity of creation so that all may experience the fullness of
life. The 8th WCC Assembly meeting in Harare, Zimbabwe in 1998 noted:
"the pressing new challenges to human rights of peoples, communities and
individuals resulting from globalization of the economy, culture and means
of communication, including the erosion of the power of the state to defend
the rights of persons and groups under its jurisdiction, and the weakening of
the authority of the United Nations as a guarantor and promoter of collective
approaches to human rights. Globalization threatens the destruction of human
community through economic, social and other forms of exploitation and
repression; and to weaken national sovereignty and peoples' right of self-determination.
It preys especially on the most vulnerable members of society."
Globalization today poses significant challenges to the churches as they approach
their human rights tasks, because there is an intensification of global economic
integration under the neo-liberal commitment to a free market.

2. It is submitted that all power is accountable to God. If economic or political
structures fail to serve life, they need to be reformed. Christians cannot accept
structures and systems created by humans that are powerful and unjust. The
destructive effects of globalization undermine the social fabric of communities,
their livelihoods and, indeed, the very basis of the future life and survival
of humankind and other life forms. Social justice and care of the earth are both
essential dimensions of the economy. Life on earth forms one interrelated web,
the earth community. It is decisive for the future of life on our planet how
societies and international relations are structured politically and economically
and how people relate to each other and to the earth. The goal of life in
a just and loving relationship is an imperative now and for the future. The
World Council of Churches has always called for the full participation of all
people and all communities - especially those marginalized by poverty and
disempowerment - in the economic, social and political decisions that affect
their lives. The aim of economic life is to nurture sustainable, just and participatory
communities. The WCC has applied the vision of just, participatory
and sustainable communities in all its statements before Commissions of
the United Nations on social and sustainable development and in other forums.

3. Through its programmes in 2004, WCC and its members have engaged in
the search for an approach which allows it to express development and economy
in relation to our common vocation to live in right relationship with our
neighbours, with the earth, with our creator. Such an approach includes the
following key affirmations:

- Recognition that real value cannot be expressed in monetary terms and
that life - and that which is essential to sustain it - cannot be commodified.
- Commitment to an economy whose role is to serve the well-being of the
people and the health of the earth.
- Focus on the ultimate aim of economic life to nurture sustainable, just and
participatory communities.
- Responsibility to uphold the right of all people - particularly the diverse
communities of the poor and excluded - to participate in the economic,
social and political decisions which affect them.
- Belief in the inherent dignity of every person, and a priority on creating
the conditions of dignified life.

4. In its work on economic justice, the WCC challenges the current trade practices
that have contributed to global inequality and injustice. The present
neo-liberal ‘free trade' endeavours are driven by the endless search for wealth
and profit. It attempts to regulate the market for the benefit of the owners of
capital; as such it is inherently unjust. It also violates the gospel value of love
of the neighbour, participation and just sharing. It is true that fair trade is an
important step in recognizing trade inequities, but justice requires much
more. Just trade is based on solidarity of exchange of goods locally, national-
ly and internationally. It complements other life-sustaining economic activities
and is a more conducive approach to economic empowerment and justice.
5. The World Council of Churches welcomes the Millennium Development Goals
(MDGs) signed by 190 countries in 2000 that are aimed at reducing poverty
by the year 2015. While the Council appreciates the goals that have been
set, it is of the view that these are not likely to be achieved within the current
economic system. The ecumenical efforts towards economic justice have
focused on four possible methods for realizing the Millennium Development
Goals - improved trade access for poor countries; deep debt cancellation;
increased official development aid; and direct financial investment.

6. At the 60th Session of the United Nations Commission on Human Rights,
CCIA made a written submission with regard to the situation in Indonesia,
with particular reference to the violations of social, economic and cultural
rights of the people of Papua. These violations are a result of the discriminatory
and unfair policies and practices of the Indonesian government. The
Council has repeatedly drawn the attention of the government to the denial
of social, economic and cultural rights of the Papuan people and has urged it
to resolve the grievances of the Papuan people through equitable sharing of
economic resources, fair and honest implementation of the autonomy law. The
way forward for the government is to ensure the implementation of National
Dialogue as the people of Papua are committed to peace through a process of
consultation and multilateral decision-making. It is regrettable that the special
Autonomy Law passed by the House of Representatives in 2001 that provided
hope for the realization of social, economic and cultural rights of the
Papuan people, was never seriously implemented. In 2001, the troubled
province of Papua was granted around Rp.1.2 trillion for implementation of
the above law, but the life of the people remains unchanged and impoverished.
Presently, instead of concentrating on the implementation of the Autonomy
Law the government has insisted on pursuing its controversial plans to divide
Papua into three provinces. As a result, economic development of the province
has suffered a setback because of unrest amongst the people.

7. Since June 2004, the government policies of dividing the province have been
challenged in court. In the ensuing legal battle more controversy and conflicts
have been created. This has once again set back the fulfillment of the aspirations
of the Papuan people. On 11th November, 2004, the Constitutional
Court in its ruling on the application for judicial review of Law number 45-
1999 declared that the Law was unconstitutional and therefore invalid. However,
in its judgment that was based on legal consideration, the Court's verdict was
that the province of West Irian Jaya (established under law 44 of 1999) and
the corresponding implementing legislation were valid. This most recent decision
of the Court has divided the people of Papua - many Papuans have lost
faith in the government. This state of affairs has resulted in tension and conflict
and has divided the communities in Papua. All this has contributed to
confusion and chaos. According to the Moderator of GKI (Christian Church)
Rev. Herman Saud, the ruling of the Court was based on political considerations
rather than legal arguments. Rev. Saud said the Constitutional Court
must re-merge West Irian Jaya into Papuan Province and any move to split
up the province must be based on Law number 21/2001 on Special Autonomy
for Papua. The uncertainty created by the ruling of the Court has resulted in
an increase in frustration that there is greater likelihood of people becoming
agitated and which in turn may lead to greater repressive measures by the
government.

8. The Indonesian government must provide economic justice to the people of
Papua if a lasting peace is to prevail in the Province. To do this, the government
must reverse its discriminatory practices and policies towards the people
of Papua and ensure due protection and promotion of their social, economic
and cultural rights. Papua is a rich province from which the Central
Government in Indonesia collects considerable revenue. This revenue earning
should be used for the upliftment of the Papuan people's education, health
care, transportation and communications.

9. It is submitted that the Commission should urge the government of Indonesia
that its present measures to divide the provinces against the wishes of the people
can only lead to anger, frustration and loss, factors that are not conducive
to productivity of the people. Such highhanded actions can lead to further
denial of the socio-economic and cultural rights of the people.

10. The World Council of Churches is deeply disturbed by these most recent
developments in Indonesia that have divided the people and are most likely
to lead to unrest as a result of which the economic progress of West Papua
will suffer. The Council is of the considered view that the only solution to the
Papuan problem is a serious effort by the Indonesian government to implement
the Autonomy law in consultation with the representatives of the Papuan
people. If this is not done, the situation of confrontation and conflict is likely
to further deteriorate resulting in serious human rights violations. The problems
in Papua are basically economic and are a result of the failure of the government
development policies in the area. The Council therefore requests the
Commission to urge the Indonesian government to take serious steps to ensure
that the province of Papua gets a just share of the proceeds earned from the
exploitation of its abundant natural resources, and also that the rights of the
Papuan people are duly recognized and economic justice ensured.