By Carole Excell and Cait O’Donnell
A special thanks to: Ariana Alisjahbana (WRI) for translating the many steps of JATAM’s right to information (RTI) request.
The Indonesian province of East Kalimantan has experienced a mining boom in the last decade. This boom has been decidedly pronounced in Samarinda, its capital, where more than 70% of the area has been allocated to mining concessions. Mining pits have been excavated near residential communities and then abandoned without reclamation and without proper environmental and safety control. As a result, two children were found dead in a mining pit in the outskirts of Samarinda, East Kalimantan in 2011.
JATAM (the Mining Advocacy Network), responded to these fatalities by using Indonesia Public Disclosure Act or Freedom of Information Act (FOIA) as an advocacy tool. JATAM is a network of non-governmental organizations and community-based organizations working on a number of interconnected issues including human rights, gender, the environment, indigenous peoples, and social justice in relation to the mining, oil, and gas industries. JATAM requested environmental impact assessments (EIA), also referred to as the AMDAL process in Indonesia, for all of the coal mining companies operating throughout East Kalimantan (approximately sixty).The organization hoped that obtaining these assessments—which they are legally guaranteed access to through FOIA —could shed light on local coal mines’ contaminants, the mitigation of impacts from mining activities, the monitoring of mining concessions, and other health and safety concerns.
Though it is widely accepted that more transparency in our governments equates to more openness and fairness, some have begun to view Freedom of Information laws more as a tool for negative media coverage rather than increased transparency. Many who once advocated for laws that increase citizens’ access to information have realized that transparency not only opens the doors to information for citizens, but to criticism by the media.
The Open Government Partnership (OGP) Summit will be held in London October 30 - November 1. OGP was created 2 years ago and strives to encourage transparency throughout the world through government reform. Representatives from civil society organization, businesses, and governments will meet to discuss the successes, issues, and future agenda of OGP. The London summit will also serve to welcome new countries, announce new themes, new multilateral partnerships, and a prize competition. Among the policy issues to be discussed: