The design, ratification and implementation of the 2014 Village Law was not a simple process and has been influenced by a range of factors both within and outside of government. The content of the Law was significantly shaped by civil society activist interventions. For example, in 2006, members of the organisation Parade Nusantara convened a discussion forum in Semarang, which included proposing improvements for village governance and government officials to members of Indonesia’s national parliament (Dewan Perwakilan Rakyat, DPR) (Vel et al., 2017). During the same period (2006 – July 2007), the Ministry of Home Affairs conducted research on village governance reform in collaboration with CSOs and international development organisations. In 2010, efforts to advance the drafting of the Village Law led by newly-elected member of the national parliament, Budiman Sudjatmitko, saw it included as a priority in on national legislative agenda (Prolegnas). In December 2013, the national parliament passed the legislation, which was then ratified by President Susilo Bambang Yudhoyono in January 2014 (Vel et al., 2017).
Ministerial authority and oversight
Following the ratification of the 2014 Law, three ministries—the Ministry of Home Affairs, the Ministry of Finance, and the newly-created Ministry of Villages, Disadvantaged Regions Development and Transmigration (herein the Ministry of Villages)—each issued regulations regarding the implementation of the Village Law, including the accompanying budgets, which some argued overlapped and had contradictory stipulations (Vel et al., 2017, 465) or slowed the 2014 Law’s implementation (Antlov et al., 2017, 180). A key provision was the creation of a ‘Village Fund’ (Dana Desa), to which the national government contributes 10% of regional transfer funds. Villages also receive district funding through the village budget allocation (ADD) to the amount of at least 10% of the national transfers to districts (Law No. 6, 2014) (Antlov et al., 2017, 174). These funds are to be transferred annually to Indonesia’s 75,000 villages to be used in accordance with locally-determined priorities. Vel et al. (2017) contend that the key issues requiring clarification across the regulations of the day were: how funds would be managed and distributed between levels of government; the management of village-owned enterprises; the use of the Village Fund; and accountability measures.
Consequently, in a January 2015 cabinet meeting, President Joko Widodo instructed that the implementation of the 2014 Village Law and village governance would be divided between the Ministry of Home Affairs and the Ministry of Villages. Thereafter, administrative matters relating to oversight of civil service employment, that being oversight of village officials receiving civil servant salaries—such as the Village Head and village administration, and the management of Village Consultative Council (Badan Permusyarawatan Desa, BPD members)—would continue to be performed by the Ministry of Home Affairs’ Directorate General for Improving Village Governance (Bina Pemerintahan Desa). The newly-created Ministry for Villages was charged with coordinating, supervising, and empowering village development programs, including through the BPD, under a new directorate general. The division of responsibilities was formalised by Government Regulation No. 47/2015 and the deletion of Clause 14 of Article 1 of Government Regulation No. 43/ 2014, which had previously defined ‘minister’ as ‘the minister who handles villages’ so as to not specify either ministry.
District authority: There continues to be ongoing debate about the extent to which districts have oversight authority for villages. The Ministry of Home Affairs has conceptualised villages as a part of government organisational structures and hierarchies, while at the same time being considered autonomous. The Ministry of Villages envisages the village as an autonomous government unit, not under the authority of districts (Syukri et al., 2017, 14-15). Whereas Ministry of Home Affairs Regulation No. 84/2015, for instance, re-emphasises the role of district and central government supervision of village budget and development plans. These interpretations inform ongoing legal challenges to the division of authority to implement village development plans and for villages to decide to discontinue existing programs or fund new initiatives (World Bank, 2017, 3).
Meanwhile, districts continue to conceptualise villages as existing below subdistricts in a government hierarchy and chain of responsibility. Districts tend to take this view as, under the Village Law, they are obliged to contribute 10 percent of their own produced revenues, revenue sharing grants and transfers to village budgets (Lewis, 2015a; Lewis, 2015b). As well as undertaking the supervisory role stipulated by the Village Law, it is within the interests of districts to retain control of, or influence service provision at the village level, particularly to fulfil their key performance indicators under decentralisation, which is a major portfolio administered by the Ministry of Home Affairs (Lewis 2015a, 350). Further, in February 2019, Government Regulation No. 11/ 2019, sought to improve the quality of village services and governance, including secretaries and other public servants. Accordingly, the wages of Village Heads, Village Secretaries and other officials would be set by the District Head or Mayor (Bupati/Wali Kota).
Village-level decision making, rights of participation and village support
Notably, there continues to be some differences in how each Ministry seeks to implement the 2014 Law, especially in relation to who convenes village decision-making meetings and who can participate in these meetings.
Convening village meetings: The Ministry of Home Affairs Regulation No. 114/2015 states that there are two types of village consultative and deliberation meetings—MusDes convened by the BPD and a Village Development Planning Consultative Meeting (Musrenbangdes) held by the Village Head. In contrast, Ministry of Villages Regulation No. 2/2015 released that same year, specifies that all village meetings should be convened and organised by the BPD.
Meeting participants: According to Ministry of Home Affairs Regulation No. 114/2015, community participation in village consultative meetings is only permitted if an individual has received official invitation from the BPD and if the individual has registered with the Council. This regulation also stipulates that registered participants/voters have the right to participate in the formulation of village budgets and development plans. Meanwhile, Ministry of Villages Regulation No. 2/2015 stipulates all villagers have the right to attend these ‘open and not secretive’ events by registering with the head of the BPD seven days prior to a MusDes (Article 23). While also maintaining the importance of being invited, invitees, according to (Paragraph 7, Article 20), are ‘they who are not village residents who attend the village consultative meeting upon the invitation of the head of the BPD’. Moreover, villagers who attend but have not registered prior to the meeting retain their right to attend the MusDes, however cannot cast votes. Therefore, on the one hand, Ministry of Home Affairs regulation requires individuals to receive an invitation to attend MusDes whilst, on the other, Ministry of Villages regulation requires registration in order to attend and cast votes but not an invitation to attend. These overlapping regulations reflect differing conceptualisations of authority that have been reported to cause confusion in villages (Syukri et al., 2018, 29).
Support for villages: In order to implement their empowerment and village capacity-building portfolio, in its division of responsibilities with Home Affairs, the Ministry of Villages has prioritised the employment of village assistants (pendamping desa). These assistants function under the Ministry of Villages and work to empower villagers and village governments to form and implement their development plans and to increase employment and investment opportunities in a village. The role of these assistants was initially defined by the Village Law as also having the right to attend village consultative forums. Under subsequent regulations and policies issued by the Ministry of Villages, they represent the link between central government and the community, facilitate village meetings and participative development, and increase social solidarity. By the end of 2016, 27,441 village assistants had been recruited (Zakaria & Vel 2017). This number has rapidly increased. According to the 2018 national Village Potential Statistics report, 66,128 people were classified as ‘active’ and ‘available’ village assistants (BPS-Statistics Indonesia 2018, 165). The Ministry of Villages reports there to be approximately 75,000 village assistants currently working. However, in many field sites it was evident that the focus of these assistants has been to provide administrative support to the village government, and their empowerment function of providing support to communities was less evident.
Learning from implementation lessons over time, two important new regulations were issued by the Ministry of Villages about the implementation of the Village Law in late 2019. These regulations were introduced subsequent to the data collection for this study and, as such, this study forms a mid-point investigation into the ways civil society to date has influenced the implementation of the Village Law, but also forms a baseline for future studies that investigate how these regulations have addressed earlier critiques of the implementation of the Village Law, particularly in relation to attention to gender inclusion and women’s influence on village development under the new Law.
First, in September, the Ministry of Villages specified the use of the 2020 Village Fund allocation through Regulation No. 11/2019. This regulation significantly emphasised the provision of social services to village communities (often a priority for women), defined as the procurement, construction, and development of facilities and infrastructure to meet residential, transportation, energy, communication, information and other social needs (Article 8). Accordingly, Village Fund use should prioritise programs and activities which ‘must give the greatest possible benefit to the village community.’ Particular priorities include: the creation of ongoing employment, increasing livelihood options for poor families (Article 6.2); updating data collection on poverty, providing capital and training to the unemployed, and the prevention of stunting and malnutrition (Article 6.3); and home industry and small-scale agriculture. In terms of implementation, the regulation also states that Village Fund spending priorities will be decided in a participative and self-managed way through the formulation of the Village Government Work Plan (Rencana Kerja Pemerintah Desa, RKPDesa) in an annual MusDes (Article 14). The outcome of village consultative meetings must be published by the village government in a publicly accessible space, provisions reflected in the draft guidelines outlined in Box 37.
Second, in October, in Regulation No. 17/2019 the Ministry of Villages issued general directives on village community development and empowerment. Importantly, for civil society participation in village planning, the Regulation also clarifies who are unsur masyarakat, or ‘village community elements’ and their role. Article 9 states that these unsur masyarakat individuals and groups participate in all stages of village development planning, express suggestions and opinions, organise for individual and collective interests, support development activities, and develop community values. Notably, in the second section concerning Village Medium-Term Development Plans, the regulation specifies that ‘community elements’ include: women’s organisations and groups, forums for the protection and care of children, health cadres, representatives of special needs and the disabled, representatives of poor communities, farmers and fishing groups, craft groups, young people and student groups, environmental activists, and other social organisations (Article 13). These groups, including women’s groups, are also identified as the actors who implement village empowerment programs and activities (Article 75), including education, and undertake village participation, resilience and cooperation strengthening, upholding of rights, and policy advocacy (Article 76). Box 37 outlines the draft guidelines for integrating gender concerns to village development planning and implementation.
Box 37: The 2019 Draft Guidelines for Village Gender Integration at the Village-Level in Village Medium-Term Development Plans, Work Plans and Budgets
These draft guidelines have been formulated by Misbah Hasan from the Ministry of Villages as a guide for village governments. Divided into steps and template documents, it is envisaged these guidelines will assist village governments in better gender-responsive planning (understood as processes and outcomes which ‘considers aspirations, needs, and problems which are different between men and women’); and, gender-responsive budgeting, in which village resources are allocated to ‘increase gender equality, women’s empowerment, the protection of children, and fulfilling the needs of persons with disabilities and other vulnerable groups.’
Reflecting this study’s focus on relationships between districts and villages, these guidelines specify how to align village and district gender inclusive and responsive policy priorities, particularly how village programs should implement district policies. For instance, the guidelines suggest that villages should record data about poor female-headed families, the elderly, and people with disabilities, to better ensure the implementation of social protection programs (such as Conditional Cash Transfers Programs – Program Keluarga Harapan, and rice welfare – Beras Kesejahteraan). The main mechanism outlined in these guidelines is a step-by-step guide for creating a report on village social and economic conditions, which includes conducting two types of consultative forums (musyawarah), one hamlet-level forum and one with groups based on employment, gender, age, and disability.