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Sharing Knowledge and Strategies for Dealing with the Past in Indonesia, Timor-Leste, and Germany

The Berlin-based organization, Watch Indonesia!, together with the Jakarta-based organization, Asia Justice and Rights (AJAR), conducted a transnational knowledge exchange project in 2019 focused on memory culture in Indonesia, Timor-Leste, and Germany. All three countries have their own histories of systemic human rights abuses, including communist persecution, military dictatorship, and genocide, which have deeply shaped the families and social structures of these societies. Civil society actors have played a crucial role in the ongoing fight for accountability and a vibrant memory culture, often facing significant resistance.

The project aimed to provide a platform for mutual learning and exchange among civil society actors working on accountability and memory culture for human rights abuses. During the visit to Berlin, six representatives of civil society organizations from Indonesia and Timor-Leste were introduced to German models of dealing with the past and shared their own experiences and insights with their German counterparts. All participants had the opportunity to learn from each other through workshops and visits to memorials and meetings with their organizers and scholars.

The participants expressed that they felt strengthened and inspired to develop new ideas and approaches. One participant said: “The workshops made us aware of the importance and relevance of civil society initiatives for commemoration and remembrance work. Waiting for politics doesn't make any sense. However, it is also important to work together to highlight and address the blind spots in remembrance work. In both Germany and Indonesia, violence against women is still not sufficiently addressed in the culture of remembrance and must be given greater attention.” The participants also identified the need to influence political decisions and to provide technical support and financial assistance to local initiatives as well as the importance of involving both target groups and eyewitnesses in the development of future concepts.

The transnational knowledge exchange was a valuable opportunity for all participants to learn from and exchange ideas with each other. The participating organizations built a strong connection and laid the foundation for further cooperation based on trust. In 2023, AJAR and Watch Indonesia! will conduct a follow-up transnational exchange project now specifically for young human rights defenders that aims to strengthen their skills and knowledge in promoting and safeguarding human rights through peer learning and collaboration on methods of remembrance and reappraisal.

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