Inspired by Estonia, Indonesia organises an opinion festival

At the end of October this year, Indonesia held an opinion festival attended by nearly 4,000 people, inspired by Estonia.

Citizen OS, a non-profit organisation that started in Estonia but has gained international reach, has had a legally registered branch in Indonesia since 2022. The NGO organises various democracy-related projects throughout the country, including the nationwide opinion festival.

The idea of organising the festival to promote a better and more democratic culture of discussion came to Agustina Iskandar Crombach during a visit to Estonia, where she learned about the concept of democracy festivals and met several leaders involved in organising the Estonian Opinion Festival (Arvamusfestival) – an annual event held in the Estonian town of Paide since 2013.

Indonesia Opinion Festival 2023, with Agustina Iskandar Crombach sitting in the middle. Photo by Meelika Hirmo.

“In 2020, Indonesia’s democracy index dropped and several studies showed that people’s courage to express their opinions had decreased. I attended the Arvamusfestival in Estonia thanks to its web broadcast, and it really touched me,” Crombach said.

“I realised that, as citizens, we need to be part of creating a space where people can express their opinions, where there is a good and safe discussion culture and where there is no need to fear sanctions or harassment for expressing a different or more critical opinion,” she added.

Young people the main target group

The main target group of the Indonesia Opinion Festival is young people, as Crombach and her team have noticed that young people are excluded from political life and decision-making processes.

Indonesia Opinion Festival 2023. Photo by Meelika Hirmo.
Indonesia Opinion Festival 2023. Photo by Meelika Hirmo.

This year’s event covered topics such as youth and the upcoming 2024 elections, women in politics, critical thinking and artificial intelligence, financial and social capital, empathy, freedom of speech and the impact of lifestyles on climate change.

The Indonesia Opinion Festival took place from 24 to 29 October in Bali, Java, Aceh and online. The event was attended by government officials and leaders, institutions, civil society activists, young people and representatives of local communities; more than 200 volunteers were involved in organising the event.

Indonesia Opinion Festival 2023. Photo by Meelika Hirmo.

The opinion festival isn’t the only Estonian-inspired event Agustina Iskandar Crombach has helped organise in Indonesia – she is also one of the local leaders of World Cleanup Day, which has its roots in Estonia.

Citizen OS is a non-profit organisation that was founded in Estonia in 2019 but has gained international reach. The mission of Citizen OS is to increase people’s interest and ability to participate in decision-making processes with the support of new technologies. Citizen OS organises training and development programmes on democracy and provides a free, open-source e-participation and decision-making platform to improve public discussion and decision-making culture around the world.

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