History of ELSAM

The Institute for Policy Research and Advocacy, ELSAM, was established in 1993 in the spirit to encourage the development of a democratic political order, by means of strengthening civil society through advocacy and the promotion of human rights in Indonesia. Having worked for more than six years to promote accountability mechanisms for gross human rights violations, particularly violation against civil and political rights, in the next few years, ELSAM will initiate more advocacy works to encourage the development of accountability mechanisms for violations against economic social and cultural rights. This was deliberately decided with regard to indivisibility and interdependence of the two categories.

The reform period began with the downfall of the Soeharto’s regime in 1998. During this period, many human rights defender organizations and civil society organization were encouraged to reveal gross human rights violations occurred during the authoritarian regime. Among these efforts are: the establishment of an ad hoc human rights court for cases regarding human rights violations perpetrated in East Timor, as well as for Tanjung Priok case, the promotion of the establishment of a Truth Commission and Reconciliation, the establishment of an independent inquiry team for Trisakti and Semanggi cases in 1999. The development of the aforementioned accountability mechanisms could put an end to impunity. However, the latest development showed that those instruments were likely to be used to maintain impunity instead. Thus, in the next few years, the struggle to fights against impunity will still be our main focus of work to guarantee a better enjoyment of human rights, particularly for the victims. To this end, revealing the truth about gross human rights violations occurred in the past would provide a significant measure to bring human rights perpetrators to justice and provide reparations for the victims.

Moreover, many changes in political structure have also taken place during this period. The implementation of the autonomy policy has created important changes in terms of the relationship between the central government and local governments. On one side, this has encouraged human rights organizations to work for a better enjoyment of human rights, but on the other side, this has lead to the spread of gross human rights violation patterns throughout the regions. The escalating of violence caused by conflicts over natural resources management has obviously indicated this symptom.

The question of justice comes along this line, as well as poverty, low quality of education and health, mainly in remote areas, disparity of welfare between central and peripheral areas are the main problems today. Considering this situation the challenge to reveal gross violations against economic, social and cultural rights cannot be undermined. The enjoyment of these rights will strongly encourage better enjoyment of human rights as a whole.

Responding to these situations, internally, the spirit to encourage the development of democratic organization has motivated ELSAM to change its form from a foundation to the a more constituent-based organization, namely an Association. This particular change was also coincided with the effort to respond to the government’s tendency to control NGOs through the adoption of the Foundation Act in 2002. This change is expected to provide strong supports to its works in the future.

ELSAM held a strategic planning meeting on 9-12 May, 2006 to formulate its mission and advocacy strategies. Through this meeting, the Institute for research policy and Advocacy (ELSAM) has deliberately decided to continue its works on the settlement of gross human rights violations occurred during the new order era, as well as the development of accountability mechanisms for gross human rights violations to fights against impunity and delivering justice to the victims. ELSAM will also take the effort to reveal violations against economic, social and cultural rights.