The access to justice activities discussed in this article took place in the context of Indonesia's democratization process. When in May 1998 the Suharto regime in Indonesia collapsed, a new political era emerged in which democratization, decentralization and human rights were considered central to legal change. During the 32 years of Suharto's authoritarian regime the population suffered many forms of social injustice. The core fundamental freedoms--of speech and political organization--were limited. As a result, the very few outlets for the exercise of political activity were in the form of show case elections which always resulted in the victory of the regime's own political party, Golkar. The modes of injustice also extended to the state appropriation of millions of hectares of land that had belonged to local populations for centuries. Weak or non-existent remedial mechanisms meant that labourers had no freedom and the means with which to organize themselves to agitate for redress. Given the profound effects of what was a highly restrictive political and social order, change was not only imperative, but also inevitable.
Increasing demands for reform that had resulted in the 1998 regime change included constitutional reform to provide a legal framework for establishing a democratic state and its institutions, more authority to local and regional governments, checks and balances to enhance the accountability of the government, legal action against perpetrators of human rights violations and corruption in the past, and withdrawal of the military from politics and civil service (Crawford and Hermawan, 2002:205-12). Many international donors enthusiastically responded to the calls of the reform movement and subsequently provided funds for some of the key reform programs. With the financial support from donor agencies and multilateral partners, a door was opened that allowed these entities to extend their intervention in Indonesian state affairs by influencing and shaping policies some of which had an underlining western mindset. Elaborate legal reforms emerged in the aftermath of the 1998 regime change. For instance hundreds of new statutes and regulations were enacted and dozens of major new institutions have since been established. Some of these include a network of human rights courts, anti-corruption tribunals, a judicial service commission, antimonopoly commission as well as local and national ombudsman commissions. These reforms have been adopted within the frame of key constitutional amendments that include the adoption of a bill of rights aligned to the foundational ethos of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights (Lindsey 2006). The effort to shape a national strategy for access to justice was part of these reforms that aim at fostering people-oriented development and justice. However, building a legal system of laws, institutions and processes alone is not sufficient guarantee that these legal reforms will be beneficial to its users. Facilitating people's access to this justice system as well as to non-formal justice systems is required for realizing access to justice. Policy makers and jurists have mostly focused on the former, although there is increasing recognition of the latter as one of the components of the rule of law (Golub, S. 2003). In a broader sense, access to justice refers to the ability of seeking remedy for incidences of social injustices, and in a more narrow sense, it refers to access to the dispute resolution institutions of the judiciary. (3) The question worth exploring, then, is how might the existing barriers for access to justice that Indonesians experience--in particular the poor and disadvantaged--be overcome?
In 2007, a joint program on the theme Building Demandfor Legal and Judicial Reform 20072010: Strengthening Access to Justice was initiated to address the institutional and normative limitations to access to justice in Indonesia. The …