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Abstract

ABSTRACT

In Indonesia, the Reformasi in 1998 and the decentralization from 2001 have increased the expectations of many citizens for improved access to local decisionmaking processes. The emergence of civic associations known as Forum Warga (Citizen Forums) is one of the manifestations of this increasing demand for participation. However, while Reformasi and decentralization may affect the chances of improving participation, they can by no means guarantee it. The experiences of Citizen Forums provide a rich opportunity for investigating the processes by which citizens are attempting to play a more active role in the practice of governance in a post-authoritarian society which is continuing to reform itself. This thesis explored and analysed the experience of two Citizen Forums in two localities to provide a qualitative illustration of evolving citizen participation in Indonesia. To analyse the Citizen Forums participation, two approaches were used. The first approach looked at the urban problems, the existing local governance practices and the civic culture as structural factors affecting the formation and the early life of the Forums. The second approach examined the Citizen Forums institutionalization process, their internal governance, their actions and their problems as factors affecting their capacity to transform the existing political culture and governance practices. Both approaches were integrated to examine the roles of structure and of human agency, how they interact and how they shape the nature of these examples of new participation in Indonesia. The findings of the study identified two distinct types of Citizen Forums: localitybased and sectoral-based. Both types faced their own dilemmas and trade offs, for example of being pro-poor and being capable. The evidence from the two case studies suggests that, the Citizen Forums have initially shown their potential as democratic and civic-minded institutions which were both inclusive and deliberative.

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Abstract

The Citizen Forums instigated, organized and implemented various forms of participation. They took steps to open new space for citizen participation in local governance and to develop the local participatory culture. However, this study also found that the Citizen Forums effectiveness and transformative capacities were limited by a number of constraints. This led to the Citizen Forums failure to exercise greater influence on local governance due to at least three factors: (1) cultural restraints and leadership challenges in maintaining group unity, inclusiveness, and organizational accountability; (2) ambivalent and patronage relationships between the Citizen Forums and their supporting institutions, which led to goal displacement; (3) unsympathetic responses to the Citizen Forums actions from the bureaucracies and legislatures of local government, which created distrust and discouraged further participation. These issues are discussed in detail in this thesis. If the obstacles are not managed, the locality-based and sectoral-based Citizen Forums risk losing their democratic and advocacy potentials. The future of Citizen Forums in Indonesia, as the case studies demonstrated, depends on how successfully they respond to their internal governance problems such as those relating to leadership, accountability, representation and participation of different social groups (including women and younger generation), and how successfully they adjust their external relationships with their supporting institutions (NGOs, universities and donors) from patronage to more equal partnerships. This study revealed dynamics of citizen actions and associational activities in the Reformasi era in Indonesia. It suggests that the citizens activism has reinforced or weakened some cultures, produced certain new cultures, and replaced some old cultures, and these attempts for change are countered by everyday norms, as well as by broader political and social activities. This raised for us a question about political culture change in the locality. This study demonstrated that local democratic action in the form of Citizen Forums did not necessarily result in drastic changes. Political culture changes are shaped slowly by an accumulation process, which involved habits, belief and power balance.