1. Tell us about yourself and the work of ICEL:
I am a public interest lawyer in the Advocacy and Alternative Dispute Resolution (ADR) Division at ICEL. ICEL was established on 19 July 1993. It is an independent non-governmental organization that specializes on the development of an environment and natural resources regulatory framework, as well as advocacy and empowerment toward good sustainable development governance in environment and natural resources management in Indonesia.
2. What is the Strengthen the Right to Information for People and the Environment (STRIPE) project?
STRIPE is a program to strengthen the people’s right to environmental information so that they are able to advocate their rights to health and environment. STRIPE in Indonesia has four objectives, which are:
a) Promoting the implementation of the Public Information Disclosure Act (PIDA), Environmental Protection and Management Act, and environmental related regulations which regulates public’s right to environmental information;
b) Promoting government’s/public bodies’ proactive release of information to the community/public;
c) Strengthening community’s capacity to understand the importance of access to environmental information and how to utilise it to advocate good environmental quality;
d) Promoting better policy and regulatory changes related to the air and water pollution control through environmental information that is aquired/accessed and analysed under the STRIPE program.
Currently we are working in two pilot projects in Serang, Banten Province and Tubanan, Jepara, Central Java with Friends of the Earth Indonesia- WALHI, and Semarang Legal Aid Foundation, and with members of each community. To reach the objective above we conducted activites such as:
a. Preparation (discussing the indicators and questions with the World Resources Institute, regulatory research on air and water standards);
b. Training the community regarding water pollution control in the pulp and paper industry and air pollution control from the coal power plant, training related to access to information and procedure under the Public Information Disclosure Act;
c. Requesting information from public bodies by members of the community, national and local partners under PIDA’s procedure;
d. Analysing the information acquired based on PIDA to identify the loopholes within PIDA and the Environmental Management and Protection Act regulatory frameworks and their implementation;
e. Analysing information acquired based on PIDA to formulate policy recommendations to improve water and air pollution control and its implementation.
3. Why is the STRIPE project important to the work that you do?
In general, a succcess story from STRIPE would strengthen advocacy to promote public health and better environmental quality, also improving policy and regulatory framework of water and air pollution control. To be specific, STRIPE is important as:
We want to exercise (ensure) the implementation of the Public Information Disclosure Act and the Environmental Protection Management Act (especially regarding the environmental information) so they are not paper tigers;
We want to promote the importance of well informed citizens, as we believe that educated and informed citizens are the heart of a properly functioning environmental democracy. In most environmental problems, the community does not have enough information about problems they face, about the water quality, air quality, the laboratory results taken by government etc. If we have better information, we can express our ideas (and demand improvements) in a constructive way;
We want to promote proactive diclosure by the government and also bridge the gap for what kind of information and format that is important/appropriate for public/community.
4. What were your experiences in completing the STRIPE project?
a. There are gaps in the implementation of PIDA (having PIDA does not mean we have immediate and easy access to information. In the context of Indonesia, there are a lot of things to do in order to make sure PIDA works, such as establishing infrastructure within public bodies, providing public bodies’ internal procedure to deal with information requests and proactive information, capacity building for community and government officials);
b. Based on information obtained through information requests, we have a lot of lessons learned, not only about access to information, but also substantial and technical aspects from water and air pollution control (e.g. we recognise that we don’t have enough standards for pulp and paper industry discharge. In terms of issuing permits the government does not inform and involve the community that will be directly impacted, there is a problem in the format of the permit, etc);
c. STRIPE helps us to bridge the understanding between government, civil society, and community regarding to the importance of information. The process and results of STRIPE may provide common ground among us to understand the importance of public access to environmental information.
5. What are you hoping to gain from the US study tour?
a. Learning from international experiences (Thailand and US);
b. Better understanding of the use of environmental information for campaigns and advocacy for a better environment;
c. More knowledge on regulatory framework and its implementation (standards on water and air pollution control regulatory frameworks, official responses, promoting the effective implementation of PIDA and proactive release of information);
d. The study tour will involve civil society and government officials, I hope that these activities can bridge the understanding between civil society and government, and we can work together to follow up with STRIPE’s recommendations.