A Mental Revolution Washing Ashore With The Tide
This article was published in The Jakarta Post paper edition, April 11th 2017, written by FIHRRST Co-founder, H.S. Dillon.
The International Conference on
Human Rights Protection in the Fishery Industry hosted by the Maritime Affairs
and Fisheries Ministry on March 27 provided an opportunity for Minister Susi
Pudjiastuti to lay out the thinking behind the new regulations she has introduced.
horrific reality and practice of modern day slavery in Benjina and Ambon that
the Associated Press laid bare two years ago had to be addressed, of course,
but not a knee-jerk reaction to appear to be taking action. The whole process
of exploitation of fishery resources in Indonesian waters needs to be carefully
examined and weaknesses in prevailing regulations addressed in light of the
demands of current times.
the complexities of the whole situation, the minister brought on board experts
respected for their integrity and competence to solidify her bureaucracy. The
first step was to regain control of the fisheries industry in Indonesia, which
was accomplished through an initial moratorium and relicensing of vessels
permitted to operate in its waters. That Indonesia would no longer tolerate
illegal fishing was publicly demonstrated by the arrest and ultimate
destruction of unlicensed fishing vessels operating within Indonesian
territorial waters. This was no mean feat, as she was confronting deeply
entrenched interests, with far reaching tentacles.
strong resolve boosted the morale of the ministry’s senior officials, who in
turn convinced their staff that mediocrity would no longer be tolerated. In
hindsight, this provided enough impetus to greatly enhance delivery at all
levels, laying the foundation for a process of mindset shift, engendering a
“mental revolution” in the real sense.
a different line of approach was taken to address the issues affecting those
actually working in the industry, for part of the heightened consciousness was
to acknowledge that they too have certain rights that must be recognized. In
this, the ministry was assisted from a technical standpoint by the Foundation
for International Human Rights Reporting Standards (FIHRRST) and the support of
the Belgian foreign ministry.
was to prove a lengthy process for while it is easy enough to say that
fishermen’s human rights should be respected, exactly what that means and the
practicalities of how this can be achieved is another matter. For a start,
fishing is not a standard nine to five job, nor by its very nature is it free
from physical hazards.
of course, one has to ensure the livelihoods of the many communities of
fisherfolk who to date have been least served by the nation’s economic
while certification is necessary to ensure standards on larger fishing vessels,
this must not come at the expense of smaller fishermen who have already suffered
most from the ravages of illegal, unreported and unregulated fishing (IUUF).
conference, therefore, was a testament to the fortitude of the minister and her
team that such things could be achieved at all, for there was no template to
work from. No other ministry, indeed no other nation in the world had ever
introduced mandatory human rights certification as a prerequisite to obtaining
a license to operate. Now, not only has the theoretical groundwork been laid
but its practicalities successfully demonstrated with the carrying out of field
tests of the certification process, fittingly on a stateowned enterprise.
praising his fellow minister for introducing such a revolutionary approach,
Manpower Minister Hanif Dhakiri stated that it showed the commitment of the
government to respect the human rights of all stakeholders in the fishing
industry. However, he also acknowledged that not all companies had complied
with international human rights principles and his and other ministries still
had much work to do.
as elsewhere, much of this can be put down to ignorance, for the concept of
human rights in the context of fisheries is novel indeed. Moreover, being a
traditional occupation largely passed on from one generation to the next very
little has actually been written down in the shape of best practices or rules
and regulations. So from top to bottom of the whole industry, this will require
the adoption of a totally new mindset.
will be the key as it is essential that everyone, from boat owner to deckhand,
harbormaster to dock police comes on board for what will be a voyage to shape
the future of Indonesia’s fishing industry. As with any “creative destruction”
there will be casualties, of course; in the case of the venal practices of the
past that saw a few line their pockets while strangling the just aspirations of
the many; few tears will be shed. The mental revolution that Minister Susi is
spearheading provides the opportunity to snap the chains to the bad old days
and embark upon a more equitable future.
is also important to point out that this is not just an exercise in morality,
for there is sound economic rationale for adopting these measures. Indonesia is
a major exporter of fishery products wherein consumers are increasingly playing
the role of the ultimate regulator in voting with their wallets. While this is
reflected in stricter governmental requirements on imports, governments only
follow the demands of their citizens and there is a growing groundswell for
fishery products that are not tainted by any suspicion of slavery. Would a
product marked “certified human rights compliant” not attract premium prices?
is there any reason that this should stop with the fishing industry in
Indonesia; indeed this should just be a start. For as Minister Susi has pointed
out: “We’ve made it safe for your nationals operating in Indonesia waters; who
is going to protect the rights of Indonesians working on fishing boats in your
leadership is a mental revolution coming in with the tide. Let the resolve to
protect fishing crews through mandatory human rights certification wash upon
the shores of other maritime powers, and with the receding tide bring greater
sustainability, equity, and dignity to the high seas.
Source: The Jakarta Post