Reform is the oft-repeated word in the region in the context of the still on-going crises in several Asian countries. The recent developments in Indonesia remind us of what reform must mean.
Real, substantive reform is not confined to the economic system; it extends to the social and political systems as well. It also does not occur overnight, or with the simple change of leaders. Rather true reform can mean an overhaul of the whole societal structure that shows adverse effects on people who are the most vulnerable to political, social and economic crises.
The International Monetary Fund has also called for reform in the countries suffering from the crisis. But is that call aimed at preventing the ordinary members of society from shouldering the deleterious impact of a certain type of economic reform or is it meant to assure that trade and investment interests are protected at all costs?
There are many roads to reform, but the long and arduous task of undertaking reform needs to be guided by principles that promote the interests of the least protected people in society. Guiding principles derived from human rights standards ought to figure prominently in this task. To be meaningful, reform must be able to improve the conditions that support the realization of human rights, prevent their violations, and provide redress of grievances.
Therefore, to begin the process of reform, the voices of people whose rights were violated through the years should be heard and taken into serious account. From there, concrete actions toward human rights-guided reform can take place.
* Reformasi is the Indonesian version of the word reform