11 August 2015 | Marita Swain , Frederik Kok

Indonesia: Concerted efforts needed to find solutions for protracted IDPs

IDMC estimates that as of July 2015 at least 31,400 people are internally displaced as a result of conflict and violence in Indonesia. Nearly all are protracted internally displaced persons (IDPs) who have been living in displacement for more than 15 years. The majority are living in the provinces of East Nusa Tenggara and in Maluku. Others live in North Sulawesi, North Sumatra, East Java and West Nusa Tenggara. Historically, Indonesia has been considered one of the most conflict-prone countries in the Asia-Pacific region. However new displacement has remained relatively infrequent since 2004.

A far greater number, an estimated 943,059 people, were newly displaced as a result of natural hazards and disasters in 2014, with flooding and landslides the main triggers of displacement (IDMC, July 2015). Based on government data, a further 98,400 people were displaced in the first six months of 2015 (BNPB, 9 July 2015).    

In the last decade conflict-related displacement has been triggered by religious intolerance in Lombok, West Java and Sampang, East Java and on-going small-scale armed conflict and human rights violations in the provinces of Papua and West Papua. Compared with turbulent past displacement events, the displacement in Lombok and Sampang has been small-scale, affecting fewer than 500 people. However, it is evidence of religious divides and intolerances that, if left unaddressed, risk destabilising many other communities.

In the wake of a tumultuous transition to democracy from 1998 to 2002, almost all of the three million people who were internally displaced by armed conflict in Aceh, East Timor, and West Papua and Papua and intercommunal violence in Central and Western Kalimantan, Maluku, North Maluku and Central Sulawesi have returned home.

Today, government assistance for those still displaced is ad hoc, inconsistent and often falls short of the needs of IDPs. The 2007 Law on Disaster Management and Law on Social Conflict Management adopted in 2015 form the legal framework which guides Indonesia’s response to internal displacement from disasters, conflict and intercommunal violence. Unfortunately, for those who remain displaced from conflict and intercommunal violence, these instruments have yet to prove their utility and require full implementation at a provincial level.

Considered a middle income country since 2005, the international community has largely left Indonesia to manage its own responses and assistance for victims of conflicts and disasters. It has, however, supported capacity building and development and conflict-prevention projects. The ongoing needs of protracted IDPs should be acknowledged by the government. In particular adequate housing and tenure security for IDPs should be included in future local and national development initiatives.

In this disaster-prone archipelago, the Disaster Management Authority has developed a thorough data collection, monitoring and response mechanism. However, data collection on those displaced by conflict, violence and human rights violations does not include all displacement events, nor cover all regions of the country.


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Indonesia’s transition from the New Order – the name which President Suharto gave to his three-decade long regime – to a democratic and decentralised country which started in 1998 was accompanied by a wave of violence that triggered the displacement of an estimated three million people by 2004.

After Suharto stepped down in 1998, a decentralisation process, by which fiscal and political power was transferred to a district level, gave opportunity for local elites to take power and use state funding and institutions for their own benefit (Brown, Tajima and Hadi, 2005, p.6). Structural inequalities were at the heart of much of the conflict and violence. Uneven development, a decade of Islamisation which had the effect of marginalising minorities, and intensified competition for resources due to migration under government-run transmigration programmes fuelled inter-religious conflict in Central Sulawesi and Maluku and inter-ethnic violence in Central and West Kalimantan provinces (Brown, Tajima and Hadi, 2005, p.xi; Achwan, Nugroho, Prayogo and Hadi, 2005, pp.7-8; Duncan, 2008, p.105).  Violence in Aceh, Papua and Timor was fuelled by separatist movements.

The government run transmigration programme prompted major demographic changes across the country through encouraging people from densely populated islands including Java, Bali and Madura to re-settle in less populated areas. The process fuelled tensions and conflicts as competition for land and resources increased. Transmigration has also contributed to increasing economic disparities.

Following the 2002 independence of Timor-Leste and the 2004 Indian Ocean tsunami, which ceased hostilities and led to a peace agreement in Aceh in 2005, the only active conflicts today are those in Papua and West Papua. In Papua and West Papua the Free Papua Movement – Organisasi Papua Merdeka (OPM) – continues to wage low-level guerrilla warfare. The 2001 Special Autonomy law has done little to address the many socio-economic and political challenges facing indigenous Papuans. The two provinces have the lowest human development indicators in the country despite having considerable natural resources (GoI/UNFPA/ UNDP/OCHA/WFP, 27 November 2014; Jakarta Post, 10 April 2013; USAID, February 2009, p.78). Papuans remain deeply frustrated by the severe limitations imposed on their freedom of expression and the harsh repression of political dissent (AI, 7 May 2015). They also feel they are further marginalised by the high number of Indonesian settlers who now outnumber indigenous Papuans (RNZ, 5 March 2014; Jakarta Post, 10 February 2014).

In June 2015, President Widodo asked the governor of Papua to put an end to transmigration in the region (Tempo, 5 June 2015). This followed pledges by the new president to move from a security-driven to a welfare and development approach and to start dialogue between the government and Papuan society. However, plans to further boost the military presence in the region cast doubts about whether the president’s reform agenda’s chances can succeed in winning the ‘hearts and minds’  of indigenous Papuans after  decades of military abuse and unaddressed human rights violations (The Diplomat, 12 June 2015; Antara News, 22 June 2015).

Causes of displacement

Armed conflict and widespread intercommunal violence between 1998 and 2004 were responsible for thousands of deaths and widespread displacement across the country.  The transition from New Order was a period of major social and political upheaval that led to power struggles in a context of weak state institutions. Since 2004 there has been no large-scale violence of the gravity of that in 1998-2003 following Suharto´s resignation. Small-scale violence remains frequent in post-conflict provinces, however, though rarely leading to fatalities and displacement (WB, July 2014, p.23; Habbie Centre, July 2014 – on file with IDMC). 

Many Indonesians experienced multiple displacement during the period of political transition due to conflict and violence, but also due to natural hazards, particularly the Indian Ocean tsunami in Aceh in 2004 (IOM, August 2008, pp.22-23). 

Intercommunal violence

Tensions simmered during three decades of authoritarian leadership as a result of inequalities and unrest between local/indigenous communities and migrant communities about access to resources and unjust land acquisitions. These tensions took on religious and ethnic tones in a number of provinces between 1998 and 2004 (Wilson, 2005, pp.33-35). Intercommunal conflict mushroomed, and in Maluku and North Maluku, nearly 6,000 people were killed and 700,000 displaced by violence between Christians and Muslims (HRW, 1 June 2000; Brown, Wilson and Hadi, 2005, p.38). In Central Sulawesi, similarly motivated violence between Christians and Muslims killed 700 people and displaced 110,000 people between 1998 and 2001 (Brown, Tajima and Hadi, 2005, p.35). In Central and Western Kalimantan, there were similar grievances along ethnic lines between indigenous Dayaks and Malays and incoming Madurese, which displaced an estimated 200,000, mostly Madurese (Achwan, Nugroho, Prayogo and Hadi, 2005, pp.32-33; Bouvier & Smith, 2008, p.216). 

While clashes have diminished significantly since 2002, religious intolerance remains a catalyst for intercommunal violence (CWS, 14 February 2014; HRW, 28 February 2013). Sporadic intercommunal violence has led to displacement, including of an estimated 10,000 people between 2012 and 2015 in Maluku, West Nusa Tenggara, East Nusa Tenggara, East Kalimantan and Lampung (Sinarharapan, 14 January 2015; Tempo, 18 August 2014; Jakarta Globe, 4 August 2014; Jakarta Post, 25 January 2013; Jakarta Post, 3 November 2012;  Tribune News, 7 November 2013; AF, 22 February 2012; Jakarta Post, 12 February 2012).

In West Lombok, West Java, members of the Ahmadiyya community – a reformist Muslim sect regarded by many orthodox Muslims as heretics – have been displaced since their houses were damaged and destroyed in 2006 (IDMC interviews, May 2015; Jakarta Post, 3 November 2012). Likewise, members of the Shia minority in Sampang have been displaced since December 2011 following violence and burning of houses after Sunni clerics declared a Shiite religious leader to be an infidel (IDMC interviews, May 2015; HRW, 30 June 2013).

Armed conflict and human rights violations in Aceh, East Timor and Papua

In Aceh the collapse of the New Order after decades of violent state-led repression led to an outpouring of hitherto unaddressed grievances. This provoked an intensification of conflicts, leading to large-scale displacement from 1999. Violence and human rights violations at the hands of security forces, non-state armed groups and militias led to widespread insecurity and contributed to displacement.  Fighting between the armed wing of the Free Aceh Movement (GAM) and government security forces and government-sponsored militias, particularly affected three ethnic groups: the Acehnese, Javanese and Gayonese (MSR, December 2009, p.28; IOM, August 2008, p.22).

While some of the 240,000 people who fled East Timor in the wake of the 1999 UN-sponsored referendum for independence and crossed into neighbouring West Timor fled spontaneously, others were coerced into doing so by anti-independence militias and the Indonesian army (UN, 1 March 2000). First considered as IDPs when they crossed into West Timor in 1999, those 120,000 who remained became refugees following Timor-Leste’s independence in 2002. In 2003, they lost their refugee status and were designated “new residents” of Indonesia (‘warga baru’) (UNHCR, 30 December 2002). They were offered three options: return to Timor-Leste, resettlement within the province of Nusa Tenggara Timur (NTT) or resettlement in other provinces of the country through transmigration programmes (Sunarto, Nathan and Hadi, 2005, p.45). The majority chose to remain in NTT province, and in particular in West Timor. Most benefited from government resettlement programmes but over 20,000 remain in camps as of July 2015.

Displacement in Papua and West Papua is a result of conflict between Indonesian security forces and the Free Papua Movement (OPM). Significant demographic changes due to government-run transmigration programmes and spontaneous voluntary migration have been accompanied by large scale land acquisitions. There has been little consideration of indigenous customary land title. The result has been increased competition for resources, creating wide wealth disparities between communities (RSC, September 2007 pp.32-36; IRIN, 28 March 2014). 

Sweeping military operations by government security forces that do not distinguish between ordinary civilians and OPM sympathisers in regions with high ethnic Papuan populations, including the central highlands and Wasior, have led to frequent displacement. They are often accompanied by torture, human rights violations and the destruction and looting of property  (RSC, September 2007 p.42 and p. 49; The Guardian, 3 February 2014;  WPM, 27 May 2013; ICP, June 2013). In the absence of transport infrastructure, many are forced to flee to forest or jungle areas (RSC, September 2007 p.42). Such violence has continued. In January 2015, several hundred people fled their villages in Timika regency, near the Freeport mine, following a military operation which was accompanied by reports of ill-treatment and burning of houses (RNZ, 16 January 2015).  

Displacement due to natural hazard related disasters

The archipelago includes 17,000 islands and is one of the most disaster-prone countries in the world, regularly affected by a variety of natural hazards, including flooding, landslides, earthquakes, tsunamis and volcanic eruptions. Based on data collected by IDMC, an estimated 943,059 people were displaced as a result of disasters in 2014, with flooding and landslides the main triggers of displacement (IDMC, July 2015). Based on government data, a further 98,400 people were displaced in the first six months of 2015 (BNPB, 9 July 2015). This includes some 10,000 people displaced in June by the eruption of Mount Sinabung (Jakarta Globe, 24 June 2015). Located in North Sumatra, the volcano first erupted in September 2013 forcing thousands of people to leave their homes, many of whom have lived in temporary shelters since (IDMC interviews, 23 April 2015).

Displacement figures

IDMC estimates that as of July 2015 at least 31,400 people are internally displaced in Indonesia. Nearly all are protracted IDPs who have been living in displacement for more than 15 years. The majority of IDPs are living in West Timor in the provinces of East Nusa Tenggara and in Maluku. Others live in North Sulawesi, North Sumatra, East Java and West Nusa Tenggara.    

IDMC’s estimate also includes a smaller number of people displaced between 2006 and 2012 by attacks against religious minorities, including 343 members of the Shia community forcibly resettled in Sidoarjo, East Java and 161 members of the Ahmadiyya community living in Mataram and Praya, West Nusa Tenggara province (IDMC interviews, May 2015).

In the absence of credible data on IDP numbers in Papua and West Papua provinces, these are not included in the IDMC estimate.

There are no accurate figures of IDPs in Aceh. It is estimated that up to 600,000 people fled the conflict (MSR, December 2009, p.29).  As of 2006, 65 per cent had returned home. In 2008, it was reported 18,905 households remained hosted in Aceh, with a further 17,729 households hosted elsewhere in Indonesia (IOM, August 2008, p.22). In the absence of recent and credible data, IDP numbers from Aceh are also not included in IDMC’s estimate.


Location: Province & Regency

Number  Displaced

Year Displaced


North Sumatra, Langkat



(Medan Bisnis, 10 February 2015)

Maluku, Ambon and Seram


Early 2000s

(IDMC interviews, May 2015)

North Sulawesi, Bitung



(Habitat for Humanity, interview, 6 May 2015)

East Nusa Tengarra, Kupang and Belu



(Jakarta Post, 17 January 2014)

West Nusa Tengarra, West Lombok


December 2011

(IDMC interviews, May 2015)

East Java, Sidoarjo



(IDMC interviews, May 2015)






According to official government figures published in 2015, conflict and violence displaced 11,979 people between 2006 and 2015, including 505 in 2014, with no displacement reported in 2015 (BNPB, July 2015). This figure is likely to significantly under-estimate total displacement. For it does not take into account either on-going new displacement in Papua and West Papua provinces or a number of displacements in recent years caused by religious and intercommunal violence, including in Maluku, Lampung or East Nusa Tenggara provinces (Sinarharapan, 14 January 2015; Tempo, 18 August 2014; Jakarta Post, 3 November 2012;  ICG, 13 February 2012, p.1).

At least 943,060 were newly displaced in 2014 by natural hazard related disasters in 2014. Very few, however, remained in displacement as of July 2015. A continuous mud flow in Sidoarjo that started in 2006 remains the major exception. Failure to conclude outstanding compensation claims made by 13,000 people have left at least 5,000 of them unable to integrate locally or resettle elsewhere (IDMC, 21 July 2015, pp. 56-57).

Patterns of displacement 

Of the estimated 104,000 people who chose to locally integrate in West Timor after fleeing in 1999 from what was then East Timor, some 22,000 continue to live in camps in and around the city of Kupang and in Belu regency near the Timor-Leste border. In Maluku, as of May 2015 there were still some 5,400 individuals, displaced in the early 2000s living with host families and temporary settlements in four sub-districts (Buru, South Buru, central Maluku and West Seram) (IDMC interviews, May 2015).  An estimated 540 people who fled violence in North Maluku have remained living in camps in Bitung city, North Sulawesi (IDMC interview, 6 May 2015). In Langkat regency, North Sumatra, some 3,000 people are living in Sei Lepan camp (Medan Bisnis, 10 February 2015).

In Papua, the armed conflict has mainly displaced people living in remote rural areas. Between 1984 and 1986, an estimated 12,000 Papuans fled towards neighbouring Papua New Guinea, settling in camps on both sides of the border. In 2013, the Jesuit Refugee Service estimated that around 4,500 remain displaced in these camps, though there were no indications of how many are located on the Indonesian side (JRS, 22 July 2013). The number of people still displaced in Papua and West Papua as a result of more recent military operations is unknown. 

Gaps in IDP data

IDMC’s estimate is based on data obtained from various sources, including government agencies, international NGOs, UN agencies, media and interviews with IDP communities.  Due to a lack of comprehensive national monitoring, up-to-date information on the number, whereabouts and needs of IDPs, as well as returnees and those who have settled elsewhere but still not found solutions, is not widely available.

This is the case for example for Aceh, North Maluku, Central Sulawesi and Central and West Kalimantan where sizeable number of people displaced by conflict between 1998 and 2003 are likely to continue to be facing recovery challenges and may not have achieved durable solutions. Here no reliable figures have been available since 2006, with IDPs assimilated into the category of “poor” (Duncan, 4 October 2013; Jakarta Post, 12 November 2011; MSR, 2009, p.28-29; p.28; SIDA, 2004; IDMC interviews, May 2015).

In some instances IDMC visits to IDP camps in June 2015 revealed apparent discrepancies in IDP figures between those cited by UN agencies and the media and the situation on the ground. This is, for example, the case in Kupang and Belu regencies, West Timor, which continue to host IDPs from 1998.

A key challenge in collecting data on people displaced by conflict and violence is the fact that the records of the National Board for Disaster Management (BNPB) do not cover all regions of the country or all displacements events. Data on protracted displacement is not publicly available.  Mandated to collect data, BNPB relies upon information provided by provincial and district-level disaster agencies and by the media. The police and the Ministry of Social Affairs have a specific responsibility to provide data on displacement caused by “social conflicts.” It appears, however, that this is not systematically transmitted to BNPB (IDMC interview, May 2015). In Papua and West Papua restricted humanitarian access is a further impediment to data collection.

Government officials also often contest reports of displacement and fail to recognise people fleeing violence as IDPs (TJ, 8 February 2014; Jakarta Post, 30 May 2013; RSC, September 2007, p.11). 

The only data in West Timor upon which there is consensus among all stakeholders is that resulting from a joint government, NGO and UN-Habitat data collection exercise in 2013 which covered the Kupang regency (IDMC interviews, May 2015). However, 2011 government data showed that the vast majority of IDPs were located in the Belu regency (some 70,000 of 100,000 at the time) where no such comprehensive data collection exercise has taken place due to lack of funding and political will (GoI, on file with IDMC, 26 October 2011). 

Protection concerns 

Threats to life and freedom of movement

Physical protection concerns have been most acute in Papua and West Papua due to the on-going armed conflict and human rights violations (The Diplomat, 15 January 2015; HRW, 27 May 2015; ICP, June 2013, p.50). Limited information on the threats faced by civilians fleeing counter-insurgency operations against the OPM is, however, available.   

Papuan IDPs and Shiite IDPs living in Sidoarjo have reportedly been subject to restrictions on their freedom of movement.  Some Papuan IDPs have only been allowed to return home by security forces once they sign a declaration of non-support for the OPM (FI, June 2013 p.52). IDPs wishing to travel to Sampang to visit family, attend funerals and check assets are required to obtain permission from authorities and travel with police escorts. Shiite IDPs also reported constant surveillance and intrusions if family members were suspected to be absent, as well as a heightened degree of monitoring when international visitors were present (IDMC interviews, May 2015).  

Access to basic needs

Following sweeping raids by security forces  targeting OPM guerrillas many IDPs have sought shelter in forest areas where access to food, water, shelter and healthcare is non-existent or minimal (ICP, 7 February 2014; RNI, 15 December 2011; ABC, 6 December 2011; HRW, 5 July 2007, p.3).

Following their forced relocation by military escort from a sports hall to apartments in Sidoarjo in June 2013, Shiite IDPs who were displaced from Sampang in August 2012 report that they have struggled to access livelihood opportunities and healthcare, in particular as a result of limited freedom of movement and on-going religious discrimination (IDMC interviews, May 2015).

Most IDPs from Sampang receive a monthly allowance from the East Java Province Bureau of Public Welfare but it is insufficient to cover daily expenses (IDMC interviews, May 2015).  Shiite IDPs also report that delays and costly administrative procedures to obtain ID cards limit their access to healthcare and education (Jakarta Globe, 21 June 2015).

In West Timor, many of the estimated 22,000 IDPs who are still living in camps are without access to adequate housing.  In Tuapukan camp in Kupang regency and Haliwen camp in Belu regency most IDPs live in dilapidated shelters without sanitation facilities. Many also lack access to clean water for washing and cooking (IDMC interviews, May 2015). Ahmadiyya IDPs in Lombok have now been residing for over nine years in an overcrowded shelter originally designed to accommodate people for three days during transit as part of transmigration programmes (IDMC interviews, May 2015; Jakarta Post, 3 November 2012).

Durable solutions

Almost all conflict IDPs are in a situation of protracted displacement, most having been displaced for over 15 years. There is a lack of data on protracted IDPs and absence of clear programming and policies to facilitate durable solutions. Long-term displacement in Indonesia has created additional complexities, particularly concerning housing, land and property rights. It is also a development challenge with many IDPs living in poverty.

Little is known about the number of people who remain in displacement following earlier disasters. In Sidoarjo, East Java, however, some 5,000 IDPs remain displaced by a mudflow which started in 2006 as they lack the means to acquire secure tenure in the absence of adequate compensation (Jakarta Post, 12 September 2014).

Settlement choices

Nearly all those displaced by intercommunal and separatist violence between 1998 and 2004 have long since chosen to return and rebuild their homes, generally with support from the government, neighbours or aid agencies.  Most returned in the weeks following their displacement, while others awaited the signing of peace accords which ended the religious conflicts in Central Sulawesi and Maluku in December 2001 or the Aceh conflict in August 2005 (Guardian, 27 January 2014; WB, 26 December 2012).

In Central Sulawesi around 75 per cent of IDPs had returned within two years of the signing of the Malino Declaration (Aragon, 2008, p.178). In Aceh province, returnees often had to start from scratch and struggled for several years before being able to restore livelihoods, rebuild homes, and access education and healthcare (IOM, August 2008, p.xii; MSR, December 2009, p.1).

For many, however, the trauma of the violence and increased religious or ethnic segregation following conflict meant that return was not an option. While many have opted to integrate locally in provinces where they had fled to, such as North or Southeast Sulawesi, others voluntarily moved to resettlement sites or settled elsewhere in major cities such as Jakarta. This has also been the case for IDPs from provinces where no formal peace agreement has been reached, such as Central and West Kalimantan (Bouvier & Smith, 2008, p.246).  

In West Timor an estimated 126,000 of the 240,000 people who had fled violence surrounding independence in 1999 returned to what is now East Timor within three months (UNHCR, February 2004, p.1). Returns have diminished considerably since 2000. Nowadays around 50 people return each year at their own expense, receiving NGO assistance with the lengthy and administratively burdensome repatriation process (ANU, August 2014 pp.12-13; IDMC interview, May 2015).

IDPs often face significant challenges in acquiring formal land title due to high costs linked to land registration, lack of documents or lack of access to assistance to navigate the complex land tenure system (OHCHR, 26 December 2013, p.12). Other important obstacles to solutions are inadequate housing and lack of compensation for damaged or destroyed property.

While the majority of IDPs living in West Timor have been resettled by the government since 1999, not all have found permanent solutions to their displacement. Some 22,000 remain in camps as they have either not benefited from a resettlement programme or have returned to camps as resettlement sites were inadequate. An unknown number of those resettled continue to face significant challenges as a result of lack of livelihood opportunities and poor access to basic services (IDMC, July 2015). 

Lack of consultation with the displaced has been a major shortcoming of the resettlement programme and the land acquisition process (IDMC, July 2015). Resettlement sites have not always adequately met IDPs’ needs for housing and livelihoods (IDMC interviews, May 2015; Sianipar, on file with IDMC, 2014; UN-Habitat, October 2011). Key challenges reported over the years in often remote resettlement sites include the poor quality of housing, lack of infrastructure and limited access to basic services and livelihood opportunities (UN-Habitat, January 2014, p.7; JRS, March 2011; The Age, 2009; La'o Hamutuk, November 2003). Some houses were also constructed on adat (customary) or contested land. Thus returnees have little or no security of tenure, leaving them at risk of being evicted (Jakarta Post, 4 September 2014; UN-Habitat, January 2014, p.7).

In East Java, the government has failed to protect the right to return of around 350 Shiite IDPs. Local authorities and clerics are reported to have restricted physical return by requiring Shiite IDPs to convert to Sunni Islam (Jakarta Globe, 21 June 2015; IDMC interviews, May 2015). Ahmadiyya IDPs in Lombok are also unwilling to return without government guarantees for their security and have been offered no assistance to resettle or access secure tenure (IDMC interviews, May 2015). At the end of 2014, President Widodo pledged to promote and strengthen inter-faith tolerance. A bill which the government says will better protect religious minorities is currently being drafted (Jakarta Post, 16 June 2015).

IDPs are, in principle, entitled to compensation for destroyed or damaged property during “social conflicts” from the Ministry of Social Affairs. This can only be provided following a request made by local governments (IDMC interviews, May 2015).  In many provinces, assistance has been insufficient and has not reached all IDP groups. As of mid-2015, tens of thousands of former IDPs in several provinces  (including East Java, Lombok, Maluku, North Maluku, Southeast Sulawesi and West Timor) continue to claim they have not received assistance and compensation promised by the government (IDMC Interviews, May 2015).

IDP associations in these provinces have asked both national and local authorities to explain how funds intended for IDP assistance and recovery were used and to ensure that those who have not received anything or insufficient amounts be properly compensated (Penanews, 2 May 2015; Antara news, 11 November 2014; Tribune News, 23 August 2013; Jakarta Post, 21 May 2011).

Access to livelihoods

The lack of tenure and access to agricultural land is a major barrier to IDPs access to employment and livelihood security. Shiite IDPs relocated in Sidoarjo who used to be farmers in their home in Sampang are now without access to arable land (IDMC interviews, May 2015; Jakarta Globe, 21 June 2015). The apartment compound, where they have been residing since June 2013, does not have any land suitable for cultivation and IDPs are unable to return to their land without permission and police escort. Limited freedom of movement for IDPs restricts their ability to pursue alternative employment activities in the wider community. Some IDPs have resorted to coconut peeling for a private contractor inside their apartments in order to make ends meet (IDMC interviews, May 2015).

In Lombok, displaced Ahmadiyya, also from a farming background, have been forced to take up other trades – as market vendors, handicraft manufacturers, motorcycle taxi driving and bricklayers (IDMC interviews, May 2015). Such activities provide only sufficient income for day-to-day living. In the absence of compensation for their destroyed land and property and having received no government assistance, most IDPs living in Wisma Transito site in Mataram City do not have access to sustainable livelihoods. Similar predicaments exist for IDPs in West Timor, both in camps and in some resettlement sites. After 15 years in displacement, despite having taken up other trades, IDPs report difficulties achieving self-reliance in the absence of secure access to land (IDMC interviews, May 2015; IDMC, July 2015).

National response

Over the past fifteen years, the government has made considerable efforts to address the needs of IDPs. It has generally provided effective protection and assistance to victims of both conflict (officially termed “social conflict”) and natural hazard-related disasters through a robust and well-coordinated emergency response system. In regions where capacity is limited, however, efforts to assist the displaced may not go beyond temporary relief assistance lasting a few weeks.

At the national level, BNPB is responsible for people displaced both by natural disasters and “social conflicts.” The Ministry of Social Affairs is mandated to provide relief during emergencies (GoI, 2012, p.83; Cordaid, January 2012, p.7). The Ministry of Human Development and Culture is also involved indirectly in internal displacement through “social conflict” mapping and its work on conflict prevention and conflict recovery (SNPK, 2014; NVMS, 2014).

National response to internal displacement is governed by a 2007 Law on Disaster Management and 2012 Law on the Handling of Social Conflict. The 2007 legislation that established the BNPB states that IDPs and communities affected by natural and human-made disasters are entitled to protection and the fulfilment of their rights at all stages of their displacement (IFRC, March 2009 Art. 1,3). Law No.7/2012 on the Handling of Social Conflict defines IDPs, specifies actions during an emergency to protect them and provides for mediation, return and the recovery of assets (GoI translation, on file with IDMC, Art. 1, 32, 38). It came into force in February 2015 following presidential signature of a government regulation. However, as of July 2015, it had yet to take effect in most provinces (Kompas, 12 February 2015; IDMC interviews, May 2015).

While the Ministry of Social Affairs is in charge of responding to the humanitarian and social needs of IDPs, the law grants local authorities powers to deal with social unrest and strengthens the military’s involvement in conflict resolution (Jakarta Post, 18 May 2012). This raises concerns because local authorities’ decisions are often the cause of conflict, in particular in cases of land conflicts between local communities and private companies (IDMC interviews, May 2015).

The government’s response has relied heavily on the capacity of its armed forces but also on local governments (Cordaid, January 2012, p.8; IDMC interviews, May 2015). The significant autonomy enjoyed by local governments, in line with Indonesia’s decentralisation process, means that responses to the needs of IDPs have often been entirely dependent on the political will and resources of local authorities. This also means that the response is not always consistent and in line with central government regulations.

The government’s response to protracted displacement reflects a limited understanding of internal displacement and what constitutes a durable solution (SIDA, 2004, p.3; IDMC interviews, May 2015). Following the wave of intercommunal violence from 1998 to 2002 the government adopted an IDP policy which provided for return, local integration or settlement elsewhere. However, it was discontinued in 2004 (Duncan, May 2003; SIDA, 2004, p.3). The Bahasa Indonesian word for refugee and IDP is the same (pengungsi) and is used interchangeably, further complicating common understanding of the specific needs of IDPs.

The government has tended to label IDPs in protracted displacement as “poor” rather than “IDPs” and provided assistance for them within development programmes (SIDA, 2004, p.3). Such an approach has fallen short of addressing their displacement-specific needs, including their lack of tenure security, as well as access to identification documentation (SIDA, 2004, p.3). The government’s 2010-2014 National Medium Term Development Plan does not distinguish between IDPs and other conflict-affected populations (GoI, 2010, p.49 and p.56). The 2015-2019 National Medium Term Development Plan does not prioritise post-conflict areas or those in protracted displacement and is consistent with the official government position that displacement has been solved (IDMC interviews, May 2015).

In the absence of assistance by national authorities, NGOs provide assistance to protracted IDPs, including with livelihoods, healthcare, tenure security and advocacy (IDMC interviews, May 2015).

International response

From 2001 to 2004, when IDP numbers were at their highest following the conflict, $81 million of international assistance was directed to projects in Indonesia (SIDA, 2004). Since 2005 with the return of relative peace and stability, international organisations have no longer been involved in responding to the humanitarian needs of people displaced by conflict and violence. International support for IDPs has shifted to recovery and development needs in post-conflict areas. These have mainly been addressed through community-level reintegration and development projects supported by the World Bank, the UN Development Programme (UNDP) and UN-Habitat. They have sought to improve livelihoods and economic opportunities for the most vulnerable, including – but not specifically addressing - the needs of IDPs (UN-Habitat, January 2014; UNDP, 2013, Patrick Barron, 16 July 2010, p.9.)

Recognising the potential for renewed violence in post-conflict areas such as Maluku, Aceh, Central Sulawesi and West Timor, as well as the high number of violent conflicts, including land and election-related conflicts, elsewhere in the country, UNDP has developed a framework for continued support to the government for conflict prevention and management and peace-building (UNDP, Accessed 2 August 2015). 

In 2012, UNDP and BAPPENAS, the national development agency, launched a five-year Peace Through Development in Disadvantaged Areas programme, aimed at supporting the government to establish a policy and institutional framework for conflict prevention and management  and help local governments and communities in conflict and disaster-prone provinces increase their resilience to crises (UNDP, Accessed 2 August 2015; UNDP, 27 March 2012). However, severe funding shortages have constrained the operationalisation of the programme in former conflict-affected provinces. The initiative has been limited to capacity building and institutional arrangements with national authorities (IDMC interviews, May 2015).

After 2010, a number of INGOs and UN agencies continued to run projects to assist IDPs in Maluku, West Timor and Central Sulawesi (EU, 15 June 2010). For example, the UN-Habitat programme implemented between 2012 and 2013 aimed at building the capacity of local government and elected officials to deliver assistance to protracted IDPs, in particular women and children, and ensure their sustainable integration in West Timor (UN-Habitat, January 2014). However by 2014, shifting European Union priorities and scaling back of aid to middle-income countries such as Indonesia, meant funding for their Aid to Uprooted People programme – aimed at socio-economic recovery for those displaced by conflict – was not extended (Devex, 20 January 2014; IDMC interviews, May 2015).

As these programmes have now ended it is important to ensure that the needs of protracted IDPs, in particular those related to access to land and tenure security, are reflected in local and national development initiatives. Effective solutions for those living in protracted displacement require full implementation of Indonesia’s legal framework on social conflicts at a provincial level.

The international development community has a role to play in promoting and mainstreaming into national policy international standards for the rights of IDPs and in particular to advocate for application of the Guiding Principles on Internal Displacement and the Inter Agency Standing Committee Framework on Durable Solutions.