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29 June 2010

US puts up $301m for ‘partnership’ with RI

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The Indonesian and U.S. governments have agreed on a US$301 million partnership on environment and climate change, as well as higher education, the White House announced Monday local time, as reported by the Jakarta Post. Ahead of U.S. President Barack Obama’s planned visit to Indonesia, possibly in November, “the two presidents agreed to initiate major initiatives advancing higher education and confronting climate change,” the White House said of the US-Indonesian comprehensive partnership in a press statement.

The US will spend $165 million on the higher education partnership over five years in programs that accommodate exchanges, it said.

The higher education partnership programs will see, among others, an expansion of exchange programs, such as the Fulbright Program, the Community College Initiative, and the State Department’s English-language training and student advisory services.

There will also be a five-year effort launched to improve the quality of higher education in Indonesia through a university partnership program.

The White House also said Obama had committed $136 million over three years for environment and climate change cooperation programs.

The programs include $119 million for the science, oceans, land use, society and innovation (SOLUSI) partnership, $7 million to support the establishment of a climate change center and $10 million for related projects and partnerships, “including public-private partnerships focused on addressing climate-related challenges in Indonesia”.

The SOLUSI programs include a second Tropical Forest Conservation Act, Forestry and Climate Support Project (IFACS), Marine and Climate Support Program (IMACS) and Clean Energy Development (ICED) program, the statement said.

The climate change center will be established to “work closely with national, regional, and local stakeholders in and out of government, linking science to policy on strategic priorities in the climate change area, and focusing initially on emissions from peatlands”, it said. In addition to the US’ climate change aid package, Norway agreed last month to provide U.S.$1 billion for Indonesia to protect its forests.

As part of the Indonesia-US deal, the two governments would look to possibly reducing Indonesia’s debt repayments to the U.S. on the condition that the money saved be spent on environmental preservation, Reuters reported.

In response to the deal, Padjadjaran University international relations expert Teuku Rezasyah said the US had been “generous” to Indonesia under the Obama administration. “Indonesia must not become a passive partner, but has to also take the lead,” he told The Jakarta Post.

“The Indonesian government should now ask itself whether it is capable of managing programs that the U.S. has designed so well,” he said.

Indonesian Forum for the Environment (Walhi) national executive director Berry Nahdian Forqan said the US aid should be regarded as the US’ “responsibility to directly pay its ecological debts it had been piling up as the world’s largest polluter and [a developed country] that had taken resources from developing countries”.

“Indonesia should also remind the U.S. of its responsibility to decrease [greenhouse gas] emissions by 40 percent by 2020,” he said.

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