Indonesia’s position in global discourse on corruption

In the 2017 Corruption Perception Index (CPI) recently released by Transparency International, Indonesia is ranked 96th out of 180 countries. With CPI score of 36 Indonesia, unfortunately,  is still perceived as corrupt. Among G20 countries, for example, Indonesia is ranked 16th together with Brazil. Only two G20 countries – Russia and Mexico – whose scores are worse than that of Indonesia and Brazil. Meanwhile in ASEAN Indonesia is ranked 4th after Singapore, Brunei Darussalam, and Malaysia.

We must admit that Indonesia’s CPI score, like it or not, reflects the big picture of corruption as serious problem in the country. This is an alarming situation because in the last 15 years Indonesia has been taking various efforts to eradicate corruption both at the domestic and global levels. Circumstances cited above lead to questions about Indonesia’s stance in the global discourse on corruption. Should Indonesia adjust its approach in the global discourse on corruption? What issues can Indonesia now bring to global discussions on corruption eradication?

In early 2000s, when Indonesia was in the initial stage of its political reform era, the democratically elected government started to put corruption eradication as a matter of priority. In 1999 the law on the eradication of corruption was adopted. In 2002 the government founded the Eradication Corruption Commission (KPK) and Financial Transaction Reports and Analysis Centre (PPTAK). The establishment of those two institutions underlined government’s strong determination in eradicating corruption and other related crimes.

This development enhanced Indonesia’s self-confidence in taking a leading role in the global discourse on corruption. Indonesia, for example, actively involved in the negotiation of United Nations Convention against Corruption (UNCAC) in 2002-2003. Indonesia signed the Convention shortly after its adoption and became state party to the Convention in 2006. To further show its strong commitment in global campaign against corruption, in 2008 Indonesia hosted the Second Session of the Conference of States Parties of UNCAC. As member of G20 Indonesia also actively participated in various G20 and OECD anti-corruption initiatives.

During this period Indonesia confidently brought its experiences in radically shifting domestic anti-corruption policies to global audience. In many occasions Indonesia shared its ‘success stories’ in eradicating corruption and handed over lessons learned from such stories to other countries. Indonesia also emphasized the importance of technical assistance from developed countries and international organizations to developing countries. The message was clear that developing countries required technical assistance to solve the problem of corruption.

Two decades after political reform Indonesia still faces tough tasks in achieving goals of its anti-corruption policies. Recent data from KPK shows that the number of corruption cases in the country is still high. According to the last annual reports published by KPK the corruption cases investigated by this institution increased from 99 cases in 2016 to 118 cases in 2017. To make this data more miserable, most corruption cases occurred in public sectors.

Corruption is indeed a global problem and all members of international community should work together to eradicate this crime. Despite of the distressing situation at the domestic level, Indonesia should continue its active participation in the global discourse on corruption. In my opinion, however, Indonesia has to adapt this new development by alternating its approaches. It is irrelevant for the country at this stage to bring to global audience similar themes as it brought in 2000s.  Indonesia can no longer share its success stories in eradicating corruption to global audience. Indonesia also cannot assert its experiences at the domestic level as ‘good lessons learned.’ We must acknowledge that despite of various efforts and technical assistance, Indonesia still faces corruption as one of the most serious problems to overcome.

Considering dynamics at the domestic level I would like to recommend the following aspects to be conveyed by Indonesia at global discourse on corruption. First, Indonesia has to deliver strong message to underscore its commitment and determination in eradicating corruption. Indonesia, for example, should persuade global audience to put recent high number of corruption cases investigated by KPK in the context of government’s firmness in combating this crime. Indonesia must also emphasize that this high number should not be perceived as a sign of lack of commitment in eradicating corruption.

Second, Indonesia has to inform global audience its ongoing and upcoming programs and projects aimed to eradicate corruption. It is important to reassure the global community that the government does not work alone in eradicating corruption but with support and involvement of non-governmental elements such as private sectors and civil society.

Third, Indonesia has to emphasize the importance of members of the international society to continue their collaborative works in eradicating corruption. Governments, international organizations, and civil society should work together in finding most suitable solution to combat this crime by examining its context. Indonesia should underline its readiness to work together with other parties in the areas of prevention and law enforcement at bilateral, regional and multilateral levels. Indonesia should also reaffirm its view on the importance of technical assistance for developing countries, particularly in the area of capacity building.

The reality of high number of corruption cases despite of all efforts have been taken has put Indonesia in a difficult situation. Being perceived as a corrupt state leads to the damage of Indonesia’s image as the third largest democracy. No doubt that government and people of Indonesia are bearing the highest responsibility in solving the problem of corruption in their home. Indonesia, however, cannot solve the problem alone. It needs assistance from other members of international society. Indonesia’s active role in the global discourse on corruption, above all, should be aimed to support its efforts in achieving its anti-corruption policy goals at the domestic level.