Unprecedentedly, COVID-19 pandemic has disrupted almost everything and brought normal life to a virtual standsill, while the parallel social and economic adversities have brought favourable conditions conducve for dangerously divisive narratives to prosper. While violent extremists in Indonesia have attempted to feed on the upheaval, government security agencies adapted to the short-term obstacles more efficiently. Again, Civil Society Organisations (CSOs) and grassroots associations engaged with initiatives to prevent and counter violent extremism have also switched activities by distributing humanitarian aid and attempting to bring about programmes online.
Maintaining enthusiasm and engagement by videoconferencing is uneasy; in-person meetings being inavilable will make the confidence-building initiatives fade away and more fragile during the outbreak of COVID-19 pandemic. One pertinent lesson from COVID-19 pandemic is the importance of proactive and inclusive local leadership, which also applies to P/CVE policy. Recent developments indicate renewed enthusiasm from the Indonesian government to collaborate with civil society in prevention efforts. With the government moving forward to restore confidence through locally led initiatives, COVID-19 cautiously yet slowly crept into news headlines at the outset of 2020. In March, the World Health Organisation (WHO) declared a global pandemic, nations throughout the world were closing their borders, and life for many was suddenly unrecognisable as if shrouded in mystery.
Againsta a backdrop of global uncertainty and crippling pressure on government decision-makers, ideologues began to exploit new opportunities to undermine confidence in government authorities. Some sought to cleave social fault lines, while extremists threatened to renew terrorist violence. Addressing such developments was not easy for governments that were exhausted by the challenges of COVID-19 pandemic, although civil society activists made great efforts, but social distancing hindered their efforts.
The Report examines the impact of COVID-19 pandemic on counterterrorism and P/CVE in Indonesia. It has been noted that the Indonesian security agencies have adapted their operations well to such difficult conditions in perfect harmony with prevention measures. Important personal and community engagement programs have been put on hold and have been replaced by videoconferencing applications. Many activities have found limited success with a glimmer of hope to move forward. SCOs involved in countering violent extremism actively organize humanitarian assistance to individuals, allowing them to maintain contact and build goodwill.
Over the past ten years, Indonesia has developed strategies to counter terrorism and prevent violent extremism, but recent developments point to a remarkable and important efforts made by local authorities. Women have been disproportionately affected by COVID-19 pandemic. The majority of frontlne health workers are women. Given that increased numbers of women in Indonesia have become actively involved in jihadi militancy over the past five years, gender perspectives must now be a core feature of P/CVE programming, particularly through the pandemic recovery period.
The Report takes stock of the methods adopted by terrorist organizations and extremists in different parts of the world to advance their goals during the pandemic. It also considers the broad impact of the pandemic on counterterrorism programs, with a special attention attached to the activities of violent extremists in Indonesia at this point. The second section examines the adjustments made by stakeholders in counterterrorism and preventing violent extremism in Indonesia throughout the phases of the upheavals caused by the pandemic, and the associated limitations. This includes updates on law enforcement, criminal justice, and prison systems, modern and ongoing policy development, and community engagement efforts. The concluding discussion highlights the gain of the approaches adopted and provides constructive lessons at this challenging period.
You can read more about this topic in Issue 33 of International Reports.