Posted by: Hendra Siry | 12 March, 2009

Green Issues Not ‘Sexy’ Enough For Political Parties: Activists

Despite widespread claims that environmental issues featured prominently in their respective campaigns, political parties contesting the upcoming elections were more hot air than substance, an interparty dialogue in Jakarta was told on Wednesday.

“Parties say that environmental issues are important but these are just political talk only; there’s still a lack of political will to back up the words,” said Dr. Dodik Ridho Nurrochmat from the Forestry Department at the Bogor Agricultural University, or IPB.

Only nine of the 38 political parties invited to attend the WWF-organized dialogue on food security and water and energy supply attended the event, though all the major parties were represented.

Dodik, who specializes in forest policy and economics, said all political parties voiced the same opinions about the environment but they never showed the courage to come out with new strategies.

“If you go to Germany, we can distinguish which programs belong to which parties,” he said. “But here, it is very difficult to link parties to programs.” He said there were plenty of politicians who claimed to have taken environmental stances but at the end of the day their policies did not reflect those claims.

“How can they say that they support the environment while the law allows rampant mining,” he said. Arya Hadi Dharmawan, from the Center for Agricultural and Rural Development Studies at IPB, said there were few parties that even discussed environmental issues in their campaigns.

“There is still little attention given to environment issues; it’s not considered ‘sexy’ enough,” he said.  “There is one party [the National Awakening Party, or PKB] that has declared itself a ‘green party’ but that is still debatable.”

He said future legislators would need to consider reforming the current state management, which has only led to ecological and ethical crises. “The next group of DPR [House of Representatives] members need to treat our natural resources and environment with more respect.”

PKB chairman Muhaimin Iskandar said the green party slogan was difficult to sell to voters who were more interested in employment and other social issues. “We have to realize that people don’t really relate to environmental issues,” he said. “It makes you think twice about campaigning on such issues.”

However, he said PKB was still committed to green issues, because while every party acknowledged the problems none were so far willing to do anything about them. “Look at Jakarta’s annual floods for example,” he said. “We go through this problem every year but there are still no solutions in place.”

Rully Chairul Azwal, from the Indonesian Democratic Party of Struggle, or PDI-P, said environmental issues were not considered as “sexy” by parties because such issues were seen as long term, and thus lose out to far more short-term plans.

“Politics is often about preserving the party for another five years but that doesn’t mean we don’t know what’s going on,” he said. “We need a road map that includes both the long-term and short-term plans.”

He said academics should also think about putting together five-year environmental programs instead of just stressing the long term effects of neglect. Dodik said when talking to the lay people about environmental issues, it was important to use down-to-earth terms they could understand. “Ordinary people don’t want to hear about things like ‘clean development mechanism,’ it makes no sense to them,” he said.

“But if we can connect the recent floods, forest fires or landslides to human activities, then people might more readily understand the importance of caring for the environment.”

In attendance were the Golkar Party, People’s Conscience Party, PKB, Prosperous Justice Party, Indonesia Youth Party, United Development Party, Democratic Party, PDI-P and the Indonesian Democratic Vanguard Party.

Source: The Jakarta Globe – March 12, 2009
Article by Fidelis E. Satriastanti


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