September 18, 2008 — Indonesia’s two largest Muslim mass-based organizations, Nahdlatul Ulama (NU) and Muhammadiyah, have received a grant from The Asia Foundation to help provide services for the poor. The Asia Foundation received the 3-year GBP 2 million grant from the United Kingdom’s Department for International Development (DFID) to continue the Civil Society Initiative against Poverty (CSIAP) program.
This grant is expected to expand the scope and impact of similar work carried out since 2004, which has helped to make district and city level government policies more responsive to the needs of poor citizens. “Through this initiative, civil society actors have already succeeded in improving access to better health care, basic education, affordable housing, and other services,” said Shan Mitra, the director of DFID in Indonesia. “Over the past three years, we have developed a model that really seems to work, and now we are ready to implement it more widely.”
The main approach of this program is to engage Islamic organizations in advocating for better government services for the poor. “What this initiative does is bring the local knowledge, grassroots connections, and political influence that groups like NU and Muhammadiyah possess into the equation, so that policy change actually takes place and responds to the real needs of communities,” explained Douglas Ramage, the Indonesia Country Representative of The Asia Foundation. “Development organizations like DFID and The Asia Foundation should work with religious groups to alleviate poverty because of their centrality to Indonesian society, their sheer size, and their ability to get things done,” said Dr. Ramage. “Their involvement is crucial in improving lives of Indonesian citizens,” he added.