At least three million Indonesians have been internally displaced by armed conflict, violence and human rights violations since 1998. Most displacement took place between 1998 and 2004 when Indonesia, still in the early stages of democratic transition and decentralisation, experienced a period of intense social unrest characterised by high levels of inter-communal, inter-faith and separatist violence.
Although the overwhelming majority of Indonesia’s IDPs have long returned home at least 90,000 remain in protracted displacement, over a decade after the end of these conflicts. Many are unable to return due to lack of government assistance to recover lost rights to housing, land and property. In areas affected by inter-communal violence communities have been transformed and segregated along religious or ethnic lines. Unresolved land disputes are rife with former neighbours often unwilling to welcome IDPs back. IDPs who sought to locally integrate in areas where they have been displaced, or who have been relocated by the government, have also struggled to rebuild their lives due to lack of access to land, secure tenure, livelihoods and basic services.
Over the past ten years, new displacement has also continued in several provinces of Indonesia, although at much reduced levels. According to official government figures some 11,500 people were displaced between 2006 and 2014, including 3,000 in 2013 alone. Most displacement has been triggered by clashes linked to unresolved ethnic or religious tensions, land disputes or attacks on religious minorities.
Official IDP statistics do not include civilians displaced in the easternmost provinces of Papua and West Papua due to ongoing armed conflict between the Indonesian Armed Forces and the non-state armed group the Free Papua Movement – Organisasi Papua Merdeka (OPM). Counter-insurgency operations in the central highlands forced several thousand people to flee in 2013 and 2014. Government restrictions on humanitarian access to conflict-affected areas continue to prevent a full assessment of IDP numbers and needs by humanitarian agencies.
The government and the international community have made considerable efforts to assist IDPs in the country, however, serious gaps remain. The 2007 Law on Disaster Management and the 2012 Law on the Handling of Social Conflict have strengthened the legal framework to respond to displacement caused by conflict and natural hazard induced disasters. However, such legislation does not provide a comprehensive legal basis for protecting the rights of IDPs, in particular those displaced by conflict, and the laws are yet to be effectively implemented. The government should amend existing legislation to bring it into line with international standards such as the UN Guiding Principles on Internal displacement so as to ensure IDP’s rights are upheld.
Central and local authorities, with the support of the international community, have since 2005 worked to address the needs of protracted IDPs, returnees and host communities. Between 2010 and 2013, funding of $5 million from the European Union allowed for IDP-specific projects to be implemented in West Timor, Maluku and Central Sulawesi. Most aimed at improving vulnerable populations’ access to basic services, building their livelihood skills and strengthening the capacity of local authorities to address their needs.
In the absence of international funding to continue these programmes, it is important to ensure that IDPs’ outstanding needs, in particular those related to access to land and tenure security, are addressed through local and national development plans. Continued support from international development actors, such as the World Bank and the United Nations Development Programme (UNDP), is also essential.