Diplomacy for the People: A Travelogue
It takes almost 30 hours of trip to go to Jakarta by bus from Jember, a small township on the eastern part of JavaIsland. Comparing that amount of time and energy that we should spend on the road with the relative time and energy that we need if we choose the aviation route, it will definitely seems so unworthy. However, there are things from by bus-trip that I think I cannot get from the air trip. The sense of communality and togetherness that colored the bus trip are the irreplaceable things. We don’t travel like a busy individual with a hectic schedule, we travel like one big family who mostly has the same reasons to come to the big city, namely to reach our dreams of a better living.
On this trip I have a rather special fellow traveller. She is a woman on my age, married, with one son and an irresponsible husband. She comes from a rural part of my town with a big dream in her mind to give a better life to her son, a dream that must be paid dearly even with the risks that compromising her own safety. She is an illegal migrant worker on her road to Oman, with no capability to speak Arabic, no knowledge about the immigration process, and the worse part is, with no information nor awareness about consular service and her rights as an Indonesian who would be working soon in overseas.
At the time I am writing this article she might be on her way to Oman, still bearing a grave probability that she might not make it to return home. She is not a ‘special case’ in the tangled web of Indonesian immigrant workers’ cases. Comes from the weakest component of the society (women, uneducated, poor, and live in rural area), she constituted a very vulnerable victim for the human trafficking syndicates. On the other sides, the government indeed has been working hard – though not hard enough – to put an end to the human trafficking and migrant workers’ rights abuse.
In the case of my fellow traveller and in relation with my concerns to the diplomatic world, I was so consumed by the probability that a large part of Indonesian migrant workers – particularly the illegal ones – might not have known about their rights as Indonesians who works abroad. The fact is, there are many initiatives that’s being directed to handle the issues on the intergovernmental level – such as the Bali Process, or a temporary solution such as the moratorium. The benefits of those initiatives is undeniable, and of course the intergovernmental networks is one of the most important thing that we need to tackle this issue. However, it’s not the only one thing that’s needed to solve the problems.
Since the issue comes out of the intertwined dynamics of the social, political, and economic contexts of Indonesia as one of the primary sender of migrant workers, intergovernmental initiatives won’t be enough to solve the problems because it’s only related with the political dimension of the problems. Government, the related ministries, and corporates might have been doing what they suppose to do in protecting the rights of the migrant workers, but it wouldn’t be enough until they also expand the steps taken to the society level. By ‘the society level’ I mean the smallest group of communities (families) who is being vulnerable to be the victims of human trafficking in any of its forms.
Thus, diplomacy could also comes up as a ‘diplomacy for the people’. Ministry of Foreign Affairs could initiate a public outreach to those vulnerable groups directly about Indonesians’ rights and protection in overseas, as the function of ‘protecting’ will have a better shot if it’s begin at home (there are five main functions of the diplomats, they are: Representing, Protecting, Negotiating, Ascertaining, and Promoting).
This view was actually reflected on the points of agreement of the Bali Process, particularly on the fourth point about the public awareness of the irregular migrations issue and on the seventh point about the handling of the issue from its root. However, the nature of those statements as a part of multilateral agreement undermine the effectivity of its application on the ground since it will be no more than normative suggestions. Not to mention that the focus of multilateral cooperation in the Bali Process is oriented to be a curative answer – rather than preventive – to the problems. After all, It would never be a mistake for the MoFA to take a closer look to and do such a preventive action for the vulnerable groups which are also a part of the nation that they should represent in the international stage.