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UNODC Talk Series: Poverty, corruption and special autonomy in Papua

Jayapura (Indonesia), 1 September 2011 - With protestors at Papua autonomy demonstrations earlier this month questioning the Indonesian Government's commitment to fight corruption and develop Papua, participants at the United Nations on Drugs and Crime (UNODC) Talk Series recently held a lively debate on the question of "special autonomy" for Papua -- the country's poorest and easternmost province -- and whether this had increased corruption and poverty there.

Attended by over two dozen delegates from Papua and the central Government and hosted by the Faculty of Law at Cenderawasih University in Jayapura, Papua, the main goal of the public UNODC Talk Series 'Potential corruption in regional budgets and poverty issues' was to help participants understand the link between special autonomy and corruption in local budgeting.

Participants highlighted the importance of including the local population in regional budgeting, and clearly linked Papua's to the low levels of public participation, regional law enforcement and human resource mechanisms necessary to properly implement and supervise the provincial budget.

"Papua Province has Indonesia's highest poverty rate," said Mr. Laode Salam, of the Indonesia Budget Centre. 'It is important for us to know the regional budget. Otherwise, local citizens' rights to public services are seldom obtained."

The long-running UNODC Talk Series is a monthly public discussion organized by the UNODC Regional Centre for East Asia and the Pacific and UNODC Indonesia to reinforce Indonesia's commitment to fight corruption across the archipelago.

In 2001, the central Government granted special autonomy to Papua Province. Since then, unequal distribution and poor budget management have created opportunities for corrupt practices that leave the regional government ill-equipped to properly manage funds. Participants argued that corruption problems in Papua are the most fundamental reason special autonomy has not had more impact on Papua-and, in fact, perpetuate poverty. Lack of planning and weak rule of law were also cited.

"Unclear boundaries between the political and administrative authority lead to rampant collusion and nepotism," argued Mr. Eddy Way of the Papua Corruption Watch. He also pointed out that Papua's problems were caused in part by an inadequately prepared transition from centralised to decentralised governance. "With weak rule of law, decentralization is a progress backwards," said Mr. Way.

Mr. Yusak Reba, lecturer at the University's Faculty of Law and Programme Coordinator for Papua Institute for Civil Strengthening, said it was important to create local legislation that enhances the participation of indigenous institutions in development planning and budgeting areas.

The discussion concluded with a lively question and answer session involving representatives from Cenderawasih University, non-governmental organisations, civil society groups, the Appeal Chamber of Corruption Court and local media.

UNODC is committed to fighting corruption. The monthly UNODC Talk Series is an initiative of UNODC Indonesia Office made possible through funding by the Government of Norway. At the end of 2011, a publication of discussions from 2009 to the present will be produced and disseminated to university students across Indonesia and to wider audience.