Of course, we all know how serious a problem corruption has become within the country’s legal institutions (here’s my last post on the subject). USAID already has a Justice Sector Reform Program, but I’ve heard many complaints from both within the agency and without that it simply isn’t enough. So, what to do?
One soft power priority could be assistance in reforming the judiciary. Dishonest judges, police and prosecutors are not only a source of distrust of government among Indonesians, but also discourage the foreign investment Indonesia needs to build modern infrastructure and realize its vast economic potential.
On the one hand, this seems to make sense – it’s certainly an issue that both the U.S. and Indonesian governments would like to tackle. On the other, many in the development community see judicial reform as a thankless morass. Unlike building roads or schools, which often produces clear, immediate outcomes, judicial reform involves change political cultures and confronting elite interests. Placing judicial reform at the center of U.S.-Indonesia relations would be risky and ambitious, but rewarding if it succeeds. In fact, the inclusion of judicial reform could be an indicator of how confident Obama and Yudhoyono feel in their relationship.
I’ll post more thoughts on the Comprehensive Partnership and its implications for the rule of law in Indonesia when it’s unveiled next week. [Obama has delayed his trip to Indonesia yet again. It may not happen until June, if at all].