The Institute for Policy Research and Advocacy (ELSAM) was formed on August 14, 1993 by a number of non-government organization (NGO) activists who are members of the International NGO Forum on Indonesian Development (INFID). They are Abdul Hakim Garuda Nusantara, Asmara Nababan, Hadimulyo, Sandra Yati Moniaga, and Agustinus Rumansara.

The formation of ELSAM cannot be separated from the socio-political situation at that time, namely the time when the New Order was actively carrying out development without paying attention to the rights of the affected people. This has encouraged activists, including the founders of ELSAM, to work directly with victims of the development.

Over time, direct advocacy for victims of development is felt to be insufficient. Abdul Hakim Garuda Nusantara (Director of YLBHI) Asmara Nababan (Working Network of Christian Service Institutions), Hadimulyo (Institute for Religious and Philosophical Studies), Sandra Yati Moniaga (Walhi), and Agustinus Rumansara (Secretary of INFID) often discussed and started to think of other strategies in defending victim.

At least there were two things that became their anxiety at that time. First, there are no NGOs that focus on studying policies that have an impact on human rights.

Second, there are no NGOs that have focused on human rights education activities for community groups who are victims of policies that are unfriendly to human rights.

At that time, there were not many, if not none, NGOs advocating a policy to correct the effects of development. This is indeed understandable because at that time a lot of the energy and time of NGO activists was devoted to handling cases.

In order to be able to do policy advocacy, special expertise is needed. At least these skills include the ability to conduct studies, research, and compile them in a concise background paper and policy paper so that they can be used as material for negotiations to make changes to certain policies.

The need for an institution that specializes in policy advocacy studies is acutely felt when dealing with donor countries or representatives of international financial institutions that finance development in Indonesia. Without bringing adequate study results, lobbying in the international community is useless.

ELSAM was then officially established in the form of a foundation. The governing body of the foundation consists of: Hadimulyo (chairman), Asmara Nababan (secretary), Agustinus Rumansara, Abdul Hakim Garuda Nusantara, and Sandra Moniaga (members). Abdul Hakim Garuda Nusantara was then asked to become ELSAM's first Executive Director.

In its founding deed, ELSAM outlines three objectives. First, growing, developing and enhancing community participation in development to create a democratic and socially just society.

Second, growing, developing and increasing respect for human rights as reflected in the 1945 Constitution and the UN General Statement of Human Rights.

Third, seeking legal and policy reforms that are responsive and oriented towards the values of justice and democracy and the interests of society.

To realize that goal, there are at least four things that ELSAM will do. First, conducting an assessment of policies and/or laws, their application and impact on the social, economic and cultural life of the community.

Second, developing alternative ideas and conceptions or policies that are responsive to the needs of society and protect human rights.

Third, advocating in various forms for the fulfillment of the rights, freedoms and needs of the community.

Fourth, disseminating information regarding ideas, conceptions of policies or laws with democracy and justice in mind in the wider community.

ELSAM then conducted many studies and published books for advocacy purposes. To campaign for the study results, the study results are usually brought to international forums. This method was typical for NGOs at that time. This is because the government more often listens to pressure from abroad due to debt dependence.

For domestic advocacy, ELSAM makes extensive use of media publications. Until 1998 the Indonesian press did face a lot of pressure and left only a few gaps for news that was considered negative by the government. It is through gaps in media coverage that some of ELSAM's advocacy missions can be carried out, such as in the campaign for the Kedung Ombo case, the Family Planning Program, and the anti-torture campaign. This includes advocating for structural cases in the regions, such as the LB Dingit case and the Amungme case, Papua.