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Hashim Djojohadikusumo Headshot

Human Rights in Indonesia: The Foundation of Our Future

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Indonesia and America share a common belief in fighting for the basic human rights of our citizens - life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness. These fundamental rights must be vigorously protected by every government in every country. Indonesia is no exception.

Ensuring every citizen's basic rights is not only a moral imperative and constitutional obligation but it also provides the foundation upon which functioning societies are built and on which families and children depend to prosper and grow. Indonesia has many challenges, from economic to environmental and from governmental to societal, none of which can be sufficiently met until the basic human rights of our citizens have been fully protected.

Today, hundreds of thousands of women and children have had their right to liberty taken from them by international or domestic human trafficking rings. Millions of our citizens are malnourished and go to sleep hungry because food is scarce or too expensive in our rural areas. And too many of our children are dying from curable diseases because of insufficient medical care in our rural and poor communities. Not only can many of these challenges be met through broad-based economic development but, as proven in the United States, successfully securing these basic rights can unleash the enormous entrepreneurial and economic potential of a society. Admittedly, simply embracing democratic reforms alone is not a panacea for hunger and malnutrition - the world's two largest democracies, India and the U.S., still struggle with poverty alleviation and hunger - but broadening economic participation to the rural poor is the most effective approach to fighting hunger and disease. As we move closer to a historic election in Indonesia, this effort must be our top priority.

My country is facing a human trafficking crisis and the government is doing little to stop this heinous crime against an individual's personal freedom and dignity. Over two million women and children have become victims of human trafficking in Indonesia with another 100,000 added each year. Additionally, as a source country many Indonesian victims, such as the case of Milfrida Soik in Malaysia in which my brother, Prabowo Subianto, actively engaged, become enslaved overseas and forced to work in horrid conditions under the constant threat of physical violence. Others are traded like a commodity and forced to sell their bodies to pay off fictitious and insurmountable debt. Many unwittingly fall prey to traffickers as they desperately search for work due to severe financial hardship. The Indonesian government has failed to crack down on this crime despite the heavy toll on our most vulnerable fellow citizens.

To stem the tide of human trafficking in Indonesia, the government must provide greater support to indigenous non-governmental organizations (NGO) while better collaborating with foreign governments to identify and protect Indonesian victims. The long term solution is clear that to address the root cause of human trafficking we must strengthen and expand our economy to include these vulnerable populations and provide better income alternatives for rural and poor families. We must not leave our disadvantaged citizens behind as Indonesia development continues to advance.

Expanding economic opportunities to all Indonesians, not just those living in Jakarta or other major cities, is the most effective way to stem the tide of human trafficking. An inclusive economy enabling rural participation will ensure our population is properly fed and our children do not go hungry. Almost half of the Indonesian population lives on less than $2 a day making it nearly impossible to secure proper nutrition, clothing, or shelter. Our stagnating economy and agricultural mismanagement threaten the gains we have made since our democratic transition 16 years ago.

Prabowo and I continue to express concern that the country's food supply has not kept pace with our exploding population resulting in severe food shortages threatening instability and domestic insecurity. Every Indonesia citizen has the right to basic nutrition yet corruption, illegal deforestation, and gross income inequality resulting in severe poverty is threatening the lives of our children, thus threatening our future livelihood. Indonesia needs to open up two million acres of new land for food production, build new fertilizer plants for farmers, and rehabilitate water resource infrastructure currently in disrepair. We must increase the protein intake of our children. Our "white revolution" initiative will provide milk to schoolchildren through cow and goat farm support programs. We must also invest in energy production capacity to power our agricultural industries and open new lands for cultivating bioethanol raw materials.

These investments in our future will ensure sufficient production levels and pricing stability that will benefit both producers and consumers. With a commitment to investing in food, energy, and water security, we can produce the food we need to properly feed our families, power our economy, and create the jobs needed for all to prosper.

Finally, our Constitution guarantees the right of every citizen to quality health services. However, more than half of the health facilities outside of our major cities do not even have a medical doctor. There are approximately 2 health workers per 1000 citizens, mostly working in major urban areas leaving the rural population without any professional medical care. Over 90% of mothers do not receive proper care and as a result, infant mortality rates remain high in rural areas. Rural and poor Indonesians are simply not getting the medical care they need to generate a healthy society. We must invest in modern hospitals and health care centers outside of the urban areas, require new doctors to serve in disadvantaged communities, and support family welfare programs for our citizens throughout the country. A healthier society and will be a happier and more productive society and we must make a greater commitment to delivering this constitutionally protected right to all Indonesians.

America's democracy was built on the foundation that everyone has an opportunity to succeed if the most basic elements of life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness are secured and protected. Indonesia has made great strides since we embraced the democratic system in 1998 and I believe, despite great challenges, we have a bright future ahead of us. To realize our nation's promise, however, we must first protect the fundamental rights of our people. To date, we have not shown the political will to live up to our human rights obligations - but this must change for us to realize the tremendous potential of an Indonesia emerging as a regional and global leader.