Dutch Minister Has Fond Memories of Indonesia

Minister Ben Klapen visited Indonesia to discuss more about the bilateral partnership

Senin, 11 Juli 2011, 12:48 Renne R.A Kawilarang
Ben Knapen, Dutch Minister for European Affairs and International Cooperation
Ben Knapen, Dutch Minister for European Affairs and International Cooperation (Dutch Embassy / Dorine Wytema)

VIVAnews - Jakarta is no unknown city for Ben Knapen, Minister for European Affairs and International Cooperation. He once lived in Kemang, South Jakarta for quite some time and had fond memories of living in this city, including its macet.

Knapen visited Indonesia, 4-7 July 2011, in an effort to discuss more about the bilateral partnership on development sector in line with the policies issued by the new Dutch government. Knapen is the first Dutch high-level official under Prime Minister Mark Rutte's administration coming to Indonesia. 

The following is an interview between VIVAnews  and Minister Knapen on 4th of July, 2011, at a hotel in Jakarta.

You are visiting Indonesia under the new administration of PM Mark Rutter. Do we expect some fundamental changes in the development partnership between the two countries under the new Dutch administration?

Yes, to some extent it does. Our government decided to change a couple of things in the development of policy. First of all, we've put more emphasis on investing in economic growth and in self reliance.

Secondly, we focus our programs to only four sectors. One is food security; the other is water management (water infrastructure, water sanitation); the third one is security rule of law; and the fourth one is everything that has to do with one of the MDGs that has to do with reproductive health, maternal and child mortality.

Why do we choose the four issues? We believe that these are four issues where we have a unique sort of experience to make sure that you can make a difference.

We call for donor coordination or good division tasks among donor countries and for countries to focus on their own expertise and experiences

I learned some Dutch news reports saying that the Dutch government would reduce its international development assistance. I would like to have your clarification about whether or not those reports are correct, and how will it affect the existing cooperation between Netherlands and Indonesia?

That's correct. The international standard for development cooperation is 0.7 percent of GNP. The Netherlands used to spend more on ODA, last year it was 0,8. This year we go back to 0.7 percent, which is the international standard.

To be quite honest, there are only five countries in the world who apply the standards. All the others are down, or less. We want to be internationally reliable.

So, we said in the past we wanted to commit to this international standards. And that's what we are going to continue.

The second part, to what extent does it affect Indonesia, it does not really affect Indonesia that much because at the same time we reduce the number of countries where we will be active in our bilateral economic development policy.

We used to be active in 33 countries and we are reducing these to 15, which means that in the countries where will be active in the future we are able to spend more because we are reducing in the others. That means, and since Indonesia will be part of those countries where will continue to stay, we have some room.

You are also about to observe the existing bilateral cooperation in a range of issues, such as security, trade, environment and human rights. Do we expect both governments, during your visit, to set up new bilateral projects in the respected issues? 

We had discussions on a couple of programs that are running that have to do with capacity building, training of legal experts, training of young lawyers, and we are looking into prossibilities to improve these programs, to enhance the programs and to see how we can stimulate elements of the rule of law where there are needs in this country where the Indonesian government wants us to be active. So, we are looking to that.

Before your visit, over the last few years the visiting Dutch high-level officials have made commitments to assist our country in terms of several projects, such as sanitation, flood management in Jakarta, and environmental preservation in Kalimantan and other area. Do you see a significant progress over those projects?

As far as the project in Kalimantan is concerned, I will have a closer look on Wednesday. What I learned is that it's on track but I'd love to see it my own eyes. As far as water management projects are concerned, we are only in the first phase now.

We helped Jakarta just after the flooding, especially the flooding of 2007, and now we are working on an action plan to see how we can find a more structural solution to this issue.

One of the things we all learned is that the risk of flooding coming more from the sea than it is from the land. Because its bottom is going down here every year a little bit.

We are developing plans together with our Indonesian friends to see how we can address this in a more structural way. We hope that we can start action phases step by step we hope that we can create something that combine safety with economic growth in the regions where these projects will be run.

World Bank and some economists recently acknowledged the increasing number of middle class people in Indonesia. Do you think such an achievement has something to do with the ongoing development partnership between Indonesia and its partner countries, including the Netherlands?

First of all, I think that this is something that the Indonesian people is doing themselves. Secondly, the economic vitality of Asia of course has the positive spill-over effect in many countries in Southeast Asia. You see economic growth in Vietnam. You see it in Indonesia. You see it especially also in Malaysia.

That's not something which is confined to just one region or one country. So it's something Indonesia's doing themselves. Something where they have the economic growth in the region. And then, probably what other countries are doing in terms of development cooperation also has positive influence.

But, development cooperations as such can never do the trick. It can only be helpful, it can be stimulating, it can be a little bit of pushing to the right direction, but it has to come from the people here.

Are you also going to pay courtesy call to President Yudhoyono at the end of your visit and to convey an invitation to President to visit country which was cancelled last year?

No. I'm not. We don't have discussions on next state visits. It was unfortunate that it was cancelled. But, on the other hand, we have to respect considerations of the president and we have to respect the sovereignty of Indonesia.

But, far from that, the president conveyed that he's very much interested in seeing the relationship between the Netherlands and Indonesia as a comprehensive and complete relationship. And there's no doubt whatsoever that everyone here and everyone in my country is committed to stimulate and enhance this relationship not just development aid relationship but also cultural, economic, intellectual, trade, broad spectrum of activities and relationship; and also relationship among people.

There are many people in my country who have fond memories of this country. I lived in Kemang. I have fond memories of Kemang, of Indonesia. I love the people...

Including its macet (traffic jam)?

Including the macet. I see that they're trying to reduce the traffic jam, build new ways and highways. These things happen when you have fast economic growth.

Does your government also have a program to assist Indonesia to overcome the traffic jam in Jakarta?

No, not in particular. But we will make contributions at the end when we have seacoast defensive project because you can use this also for tollroad. So, you can combine things.

Do you set the deadline of the seacoast defensive project?

The study will be published rather soon I think. It's still on the discussions.

What issues are you going to raise during your scheduled meeting with Indonesian officials and NGOs?

If you talk with NGOs you just want to know how civil society works. How is the relationship between official authority and civil society, whether or not they will need any assistance. This is the sort of discussion that I'm going to have.

I will especially focus on the environment because I go to Kalimantan which of course is a climate issue, peatlands.

Are you going to convey an official concern to Indonesian Government over some recent intolerance cases against minority groups? 

I don't have to convey official concern because the Indonesian government shares the concerns. Whenever thing like this happen, they are not happy. But this is a big country. You cannot decided everything from an office in Jakarta.

They are committed to be democratic and secular society. Of course they have to cope with small groups of people that have radical opinions and attitudes and that's not always easy. But the government is committed to address these issues as far as they can.


Translated by Bonardo Maulana Wahono

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