Making Indonesia-EU Partnership as the Core of ASEAN-EU Cooperation in Human Rights Issues

Creative Friday #8.
By  Dewi R Kartonegoro, Edy Wardoyo, Faizal Chery Sidharta, Khatira Museyibova,  Ri Thae Song, Simione Rokolaga, Sulaiman Syarif, Yuni Suryati.


Indonesia is considered to have achieved a relative success in its democratic transformation since the Reformasi (reform movement) of 1998. Since then, the promotion of human rights, governance and rule of law have become parts of Indonesia’s foreign policy, particularly in ASEAN. This is evident in Indonesia’s position towards the establishment of the ASEAN Political-Security Community, the ASEAN Inter-governmental Commission on Human Rights (AICHR) and ASEAN Commission on the Promotion and Protection of the Rights of Women and Children (ACWC).

The European Union (EU) has been a partner of Indonesia in human rights issues. Both parties have a strong commitment to promote human rights, democracy and rule of law. The EU is also actively support the development of human rights in ASEAN. The Bandar Seri Begawan Plan of Action to Strengthen the ASEAN-EU Enhanced Partnership (2013-2017) includes activities to strengthen ASEAN’s human rights mechanisms.

This article explores how cooperation between Indonesia and the EU on human rights can become the core of regional human rights norms and standard development. Through partnership between Indonesian and the EU at the regional level, the close relations between the two can also gain benefit by becoming stronger.

Development of Indonesia-EU cooperation on human rights issues

Indonesia and the EU share ideals and values, respect for human rights and pluralism, rule of law and social progress for their peoples. Cooperation on human rights between the two parties is stipulated in Article 2 and Article 26 of the Partnership and Comprehensive Agreement (PCA) between Indonesia and the EU (2014). Article 2 on Aims of Cooperation stated the establishment cooperation on human rights and legal affairs. Furthermore, Article 26 on Human Rights stated that:

  1. The Parties agree to cooperate in the promotion and protection of human rights.
  2. Such cooperation may include, inter alia:

(a)   supporting the implementation of the Indonesian National Plan of Action of Human Rights;
(b)   human rights promotion and education;
(c)   strengthening of human rights-related institutions;

  1. The Parties agree that a dialogue between them on this matter would be beneficial.

As an implementation, both parties have conducted six bilateral dialogues on human rights. This dialogues focuses mainly on bilateral issues such as cooperation projects in countering of violent extremism, the rights of migrants, business and human rights, or the rights of persons with disabilities, as well as persons belonging to minorities and vulnerable groups.

The sixth session of the EU-Indonesia Human Rights Dialogue was held on 28 June 2016 in Brussels. Major new projects were discussed and agreed, such as trade and investments talks or cooperation on security, environment and climate change. However, cooperation on regional human rights issues remain separated from this bilateral dialogues, and discussion only within the context of ASEAN-EU. Indonesian and EU partnership is yet to be the driver of ASEAN-EU relations on regional human rights norms and standard setting.

Policy Options

In order to realize the objective of making Indonesia-EU partnership as the driver of regional human rights norms and standards development, there are two options that can be considered by Indonesia:

  1. Indonesia could propose activities to implement the Bandar Seri Begawan Plan of Action to Strengthen the ASEAN-EU Enhanced Partnership (2013-2017) on human rights cooperation. This can be done through hosting regional dialogues, seminars, awareness raising activities, exchange of best practices and other capacity building initiatives aimed at enhancing the promotion and protection of human rights through technical cooperation programmes in cooperation with the EU.
  1. The other possibility is to show Indonesia’s support for strengthened ASEAN human rights mechanisms, namely AICHR and ACWC, in cooperation with the EU. This approach will strengthen ASEAN’s norms and standard development capabilities.

Policy Recommendations

As the promotion of democracy and democratic process based on human rights and rule of law, have become components of Indonesia’s foreign policy, it can work in partnership with the EU to strengthen AICHR. In this regard, Indonesia can take the policy option number two. Areas of activities for AICHR that can be proposed to be developed in partnership with EU, such as:

  1. Election observations missions and electoral assistance.

The EU has long and extensive experience in election observations. The purpose is to assist by analyzing the electoral process and providing an impartial and informed assessment of the elections.

As Indonesia’s elections are considered democratic, free and fair by international standards, Indonesia could partner with the EU in developing the AICHR in developing this role.

  1. Annual report on human rights and democracy

The EU has published such annual report since 1999. The report catalogues EU work across the whole range of thematic issues. This report is adopted annually by the European Council.

Indonesia could support the development of ASEAN annual report on human rights and democracy, based on the EU model. Such report to be adopted by the ASEAN Ministerial Meeting.


The democratic dividend of Indonesia can be used as a best practice for ASEAN. One way to achieve this is through the development of regional human rights norms and standards. In this regard, the convergence of interest between Indonesia and EU on the promotion of democracy abroad could serve as the foundation for their collaboration on the issues at the regional level. In turn this collaboration at the ASEAN, will give benefit for the bilateral partnership between Indonesia and the EU.

Jakarta, 15 October 2016.

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