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Strengthening National-Local Cooperation and the Role of Local Authorities in P/CVE in Indonesia

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— 7 minutes reading time

The Strong Cities Network convened local and national officials and civil society stakeholders from across Indonesia to discuss the role of local authorities in preventing and countering violent extremism (P/CVE) as well as opportunities to strengthen national-local cooperation (NLC) in P/CVE.

On 6-7 December 2022, 38 officials and representatives from national and local government, civil society, religious organisations and academia from across Indonesia gathered for a dialogue on strengthening both NLC in P/CVE and the role of Indonesian local authorities in preventing hate, extremism and polarisation.

The event, held in Surakarta, was organised in collaboration with the Global Center on Cooperative Security (GCCS) and the Indonesian National Counter Terrorism Agency (BNPT). It was generously supported by the Kingdom of the Netherlands and the Australian Department of Foreign Affairs and Trade (DFAT), Among the participants were representatives from the BNPT, the Indonesian Ministry of Home Affairs of the provinces of Central Sulawesi, Central Java, Surabaya, Aceh and Surkarta, the Local Leaders Coordination Forum (FKPD), the Coordination Forum on Terrorism Prevention (FKPT), civil society and religious organisations, as well as the Embassies of Australia and The Netherlands.

The dialogue was part of an ongoing Strong Cities-led project, funded by DFAT, to support the implementation of the Global Counterterrorism Forum’s Memorandum on Good Practices on Strengthening NLC in P/CVE. The SCN Management Unit is currently developing a toolkit to assist cities in adopting these good practices, which will be launched in September 2023.

The session started with an overview of the ever-changing landscape of violent extremism in Indonesia and why local authorities have an important role to play in addressing it. Discussions focused on the challenges posed by individuals returning from the conflict zones in Iraq and Syria. The extent of the challenge was highlighted on the second day of the event, when it was announced that that a suicide bomber had attacked an Indonesian National Police station in Astana Anyar district in Bandung, West Java, killing one and injuring eleven.

Participants discussed the need to support participation of local actors – and indeed all of society – in the prevention of extremism and other forms of political and social violence. Representatives from the BNPT and other organisations emphasised that the workshop is an opportunity for actors from local government and civil society to share their experiences with P/CVE, and their perspectives on how best to strengthen their role and NLC in P/CVE.

Over the course of the two days, this was realised through presentations and interventions from various actors working on P/CVE in Indonesia, including at the national, regional, district, city, and village levels, as well as civil society, religious and educational organisations.

Mohamed Rizki Maulana, Managing Director at Yayasan Prasasti Perdamaian (Institute for International Peacebuilding), presented on the key findings and recommendations from an SCN-commissioned mapping on the progress and challenges with implementing the GCTF NLC Good Practices, as well as opportunities and recommendations to strengthen P/CVE-related NLC in Indonesia.

Representatives of the BNPT and Ministry of Home Affairs provided an overview of Indonesia’s 2021 P/CVE national action plan, including the process by which it was developed, its content, and plans for facilitating its implementation.

Presentations from the Nations and Political Unity Office of the provinces of Surakarta, Aceh and Central Sulawesi focused on the development of local action plans, including progress made, the actors involved and where these provinces require support going forward.

Civil society groups — AMAN Indonesia, Libu Perempuan and Percik Salatiga — outlined their current approaches to P/CVE and how they see civil society playing a key role in NLC efforts more broadly.

Participants exchanged views on how efforts at national, local, and civil society levels can be better coordinated and synergised, the current gaps in the Indonesian national action plan, the need to identify and then cooperate and engage with those who are marginalised and most vulnerable to radicalisation, and more.

During break-out discussions, participants debated ways to enhance the role of local authorities in P/CVE and, more broadly, to strengthen P/CVE-related NLC. Below are some of the themes highlighted:

  1. Harmonisation is important. Indonesia is a multi-ethnic, multi-lingual, and multi-religious country, and the Indonesian national anthem emphasises the importance of unity in its lyrics. Schools, religious institutions and media should be used as agents of religious tolerance to improve understanding of different groups and instil a spirit of ‘oneness’ and harmony, while still celebrating diversity, be it religious, ethnic, or otherwise. The involvement of education actors in P/CVE is essential to achieve this, with some participants advocating for revised curricula that place more emphasis on critical thinking, media literacy and more holistic religious teachings. Participants highlighted how this needs to start at a young age and carry through to adulthood, which means schools ranging from primary to university have a role in P/CVE.
  2. Increase budgets, specifically for P/CVE efforts, particularly at the local government level. Most Indonesian cities do not have a dedicated P/CVE budget, since many are already stretched across existing priorities, or they lack awareness of their role. Moreover, many local authorities and actors need permission from national government regarding funding, which often saps momentum and a feeling of local ownership.
  3. Deepen the involvement of religious organisations such as Nahdlatul Ulama and Muhammadiyah in P/CVE efforts. The reach of these organisations extends to all parts of Indonesian society, serving as vital providers of social services, and enjoy high levels of trust. However, they are currently under-utilised in P/CVE and can be employed not only as implementing partners but to vet religious teachers and ensure that curricula in religious boarding schools and facilities are encouraging peaceful interpretations of religion, critical thinking, and condemning violence.
  4. Take the role of women in violent extremism more seriously. Since 2016 there has been a growing trend of women playing active roles in extremist groups, which was described by a participant as a ‘paradigm shift’ in the Indonesian extremist landscape. However, participants noted that Indonesian prevention efforts have yet to take this shift into account. Current approaches need to be adjusted to include women as vital facilitators and mediators in P/CVE efforts.
  5. Involve and educate the broader Indonesian public in violent extremism threats and P/CVE efforts. In some cases, there is still denialism that violent extremism poses a threat in Indonesia. In others, there is a lack of understanding around what efforts to prevent the threat look like, and what role communities can play in this. This is due, in part, to the historically centralised and securitised framing of and approach to P/CVE in Indonesia, making local actors in particular hesitant to get involved. There needs to a conscious effort to de-securitise P/CVE, and to raise awareness of P/CVE as one of many approaches to social and community wellbeing and safety, thus giving it more familiar framing for local actors.
  6. Identify and map relevant prevention actors at the grassroots level to understand their expertise and capacities, to champion those who are doing good work, and share existing approaches and learnings to minimise duplicative or overlapping efforts. This should also apply to achievements that, although many, are not always widely known or shared.
  7. Improve P/CVE-related monitoring and evaluation efforts, which need to be systematised and synergised across all sectors and among all actors so that the implementation of programmes and initiatives is measured against a common baseline. Similarly, analysis and mappings of local community resilience to violent extremism and radicalisation should be undertaken to better understand the nature of the threat and inform responses.
  8. Formalise partnerships between national and local governments and civil society, building upon existing relations established through regular gatherings such as the Local Leaders Coordination Forum and the Coordination Forum on Terrorism Prevention. This can help to build up trust between actors, which is a critical prerequisite to P/CVE-related NLC.
  9. Encourage and share local action planning efforts and successes. While some provinces have begun work on or completed a local action plan relating to P/CVE, this has not yet become mainstream. Knowledge of violent extremism and the role of local authorities in preventing it are low compared to national government and civil society. This should be increased not only to improve local ownership of P/CVE, but also to engage and advise national government in its P/CVE efforts.
  10. Encourage information-sharing on P/CVE issues. While fears around the handling of sensitive information among actors may be justified in some instances, the lack of data is negatively impacting P/CVE efforts. By coordinating and synergising the sharing of relevant information among select actors, for example through trusted forums, initiatives and programmes can be tailored to specific contexts and adjusted based on up-to-date information.

Participants emphasised the importance of multi-actor dialogues to enhance P/CVE-related NLC and P/CVE efforts more broadly and help operationalise a sustainable whole-of-society approach to prevention in Indonesia. As one participant stated succinctly, when it comes to preventing hate, polarisation and extremism “no one should be left behind.”