Views from the field: Q&A with Franck Viault, former EU Head of Cooperation in Indonesia
In recent years, Indonesia has graduated out of bilateral EU development assistance, but the EU Delegation to the country maintains a significant development portfolio. Franck Viault, who recently finished his post as the Delegation’s Head of Cooperation, explains the different projects and programmes and how they’ve been affected by the country’s graduation.
Capacity4dev.eu (C4D): How is the European Union engaging with Indonesia?
Franck Viault (FV): Indonesia is a graduated country. Since 2014 we haven’t had any major new bilateral commitments, but we still have a huge portfolio, with the focus primarily on educational reform, climate change and forestry, as well as good governance and technical assistance.
Indonesia is a huge country with more than 60 million children in education and 250,000 schools. This makes education our first sector of focus. And we are quite glad to work with a country where the law dictates that 20% of the national budget be dedicated to education.
When it comes to climate change and forestry, Indonesia houses one of the largest tropical forests still remaining. We are working with the authorities and local stakeholders on that in some provinces.
Support to good governance is done in two ways: reform of the justice system – where we are working with the Supreme Court of the Republic of Indonesia – and Public Finance Management where we are working through a pooled fund mechanism. The latter is a trust fund managed with the World Bank where we are the lead donor on public finance management reform both at the central level and at the decentralised level.
Watch this video for more information on the trust fund managed with the World Bank:
Then there is trade-related technical assistance, since Indonesia is not achieving very well in terms of external trade exports. They are well below their potential, especially for their SMEs. The national market is very inward looking, so it’s quite an interesting area of work where we plan to commit a new programme this year.
C4D: Talking about forestry, can you tell us a bit about FLEGT [Forest Law Enforcement, Governance and Trade] in Indonesia as this is the first country to send timber to Europe with the FLEGT label? How did you manage this success?
FV: It was a long process that concluded successfully last November (2016), with the first shipment of FLEGT licensed timber products from Indonesia to Europe. There were several initial shipments to Belgium and the UK, and everyone was very proud of that.
How did we manage this? I think our success comes down to three things. The first is strong commitments from colleagues in the country’s Ministry of Environment and Forestry. We have a group of colleagues that were – and in fact still are – very committed to putting in place the most efficient system possible for timber legality and traceability. This took a long time and it’s called SVLK: Sistem Verifikasi Legalitas Kayu, which means verification system for timber legality in Indonesian.
The second reason is political commitment at the highest level. This process was unlocked by the President of the Republic of Indonesia himself when he came to Brussels in April 2016. He decided 'OK I’m convinced I want this system for my country to work', so the last remaining obstacles in terms of legislation, for instance, were lifted to pave the way for FLEGT licensing.
And the third point – it’s a bit strange to say now at the time of Brexit – is a very close collaboration with the Member States, especially the UK. Since an old EU programme ended, the bulk of the support over the last four or five years was provided by DFID, and we have been working extremely closely with them as an 'EU block'.
C4D: Do you have any advice for a country that is thinking of engaging in a FLEGT voluntary partnership agreement? And do you think new processes will also take 10 years, or can we learn from Indonesia’s example to shorten this?
FV: The lesson is you have to adapt. From the very beginning you [delegation colleagues] need to brainstorm with colleagues from DG DEVCO and DG Environment; your interlocutors. Then they need to come to the country, and you need to discuss and adapt to the local situation: are the timber products exported by big companies, or by SMEs? Who harvests the forest? What kind of forest is it? Is it large logging companies or more small producers?
There are a number of prerequisites to get FLEGT-licensing. The idea is to make it simple and – from what I understand of the Indonesian case – everything lies in transparency. You need to be transparent on the data and on the licences provided, and you need independent monitoring. If that happens then maybe it can take less than 10 years.
C4D: The EU Delegation to Indonesia was a pilot delegation for communication and visibility. How did that happen?
FV: We were a pilot country, and the colleagues at that time had the idea of pooling the funds from different Commission decisions (projects), which had a budget line for visibility and communication; and the using them to contract a company to work on the visibility of our development cooperation actions.
This is what we have in place today for the visibility of our development cooperation actions with Indonesia and ASEAN; now, it is already on the second tender, the second phase. We have a specific framework contract to assist the delegation and cooperation team to organise public events, or produce publications such as our Blue Book.
Watch this video to find out more about the Blue Book:
It’s quite efficient, and over the last two years the terms of reference for our framework contract, were shared with around 30 delegations. Almost every few months, I have an email from a delegation asking how we are doing that, and telling us that they want to do the same. And some of them have – Brazil, for example, has also produced a Blue Book using the same format, because it’s a very friendly one.
Maybe one message to share with delegations is that public relations companies will not do everything. They may help you on some aspects, but you, your team, the colleagues, the programme managers, they have to prepare the key messages. If you want to communicate, then you need strong involvement from all the team.
In terms of workload, even with our pooled funds framework contract, it requires strong involvement and time. For instance, this takes up two thirds of the time of one of the four contract agents that I have in my team.
C4D: Do you work with the EU Delegations to neighbouring countries?
FV: Yes, I have been coordinating quite closely with my colleagues in Myanmar, Laos, Thailand, Cambodia, Vietnam and the Philippines. For non-DEVCO colleagues, we have been also working with colleagues in Malaysia, for example.
We know each other very well, which enables us to do a lot of things together. This year, for instance, is the 50th anniversary of ASEAN and the 40th anniversary of the EU-ASEAN relations. We have a long list of events that we have been preparing jointly with the other delegations.
Last year, we also produced the EU Blue Book for development cooperation between the EU and its Member States and ASEAN. It’s an interesting product that allows us to show the public that regional cooperation is by nature more complicated than bilateral cooperation. That’s why we’ve also tried to avoid too much bureaucratic language. I am proud that the 2017 Blue Book on EU-ASEAN development cooperation has now been published before I left officially my post in Jakarta.
C4D: What about your cooperation with Timor-Leste? The country shares a border with Indonesia.
FV: That’s right, and, historically, it was for some time a province of Indonesia. Since it gained independence [in 2002], the two countries had a protracted war, but that’s long over. Today, the relations between Timor-Leste and Indonesia are quite good. I’ve heard that 80% of the goods that you find in the market in Timor-Leste come from Indonesia – the two countries obviously have strong economic and cultural relations.
We are coordinating quite well with our Timor-Leste delegation. We also have some similar projects on both sides of the border, and in the future we’d like to coordinate more, because we may be able to learn from each other. In June, we produced a booklet on EU projects and programmes in the province. NTT is one of the poorest provinces of Indonesia where per-capita revenue is less than in Timor-Leste itself; so we can reflect on that.
Download the booklet here
C4D: You joined the delegation around the time of the Indonesia’s graduation. Do you have any advice for delegation colleagues working in countries that are going through a graduation process?
FV: The first thing was more internal. From headquarters, you still have the commitments, you still have the programmes to implement, but your staff gets cut. You there have to reallocate the work among the remaining colleagues.
The key thing is to have a clear organisational structure, clear instructions to the colleagues, to work as a team and to be transparent on who is doing what, otherwise you can have a bit of a messy situation. We need to organise ourselves very well and also work very closely with our geographic directorate within DEVCO if we have specific problems to solve with them.
And of course graduation doesn’t happen overnight, so you may no longer have bilateral programming, but in Indonesia, we still have the partnership and cooperation agreement under which we do a lot of things, and my team and I, we have been working closely with our FPI [Foreign Policy Instrument] colleagues in developing their new projects.