The Law on Advancement of Culture is the way to achieve Indonesia’s aspirations: becoming a culturally civilized, economically independent, and politically sovereign nation.

FOR THE FIRST TIME IN HISTORY, Indonesia passed a law on national culture. On April 27, 2017, Law Number 5 of 2017 on Advancement of Culture was enacted by the Government of Indonesia, serving as the first legal-formal basis for managing Indonesia’s vast culture.

The term “cultural advancement” did not come out of thin air. The term had been included by the founding fathers in the Constitution of Indonesia Article 32, which stipulated that “the government advances Indonesia’s national culture,” and it aimed to emphasize that culture is one of the nation’s pillars. When the Constitution of Indonesia was amended in the beginning of the reform era, cultural advancement was still the priority and was further reinforced. Article 32 of the Constitution of Indonesia was amended to, “The state advances Indonesia’s national culture amid world civilization by ensuring the nation’s freedom to preserve and develop the values of their culture.”

The Law on Advancement of Culture has enabled the aspiration of the founding fathers of Indonesia, i.e. to become a culturally civilized, economically independent, and politically sovereign nation, to be achieved.

Advancing Culture, Cultivating Diversity

THE LAW ON ADVANCEMENT OF CULTURE acknowledges and embraces the cultural diversity of Indonesian people. There are more than 700 ethnic groups and languages, each with their own traditions, constituting the whole nation. This diversity has formed the basis of our national culture. As a result, a perspective which allows us to see our culture in a fair and unstereotypical manner is required. Every element of culture should be considered to be protected, managed, and strengthened. That is why this law utilized the most neutral, inclusive, and open definition—”everything that people invent, sense, intend, and create.” Accordingly, the national culture is then defined as “the whole process and outcome of interaction between cultures that thrive and grow across Indonesia.”

Notice how the words “process” and “outcome” are laid out in the same sentence. This means that not only does the Law on Advancement of Culture discuss the tangible elements of culture—for example, tools and structures—but it also takes into account the process that people perform in order to invent cultural products and practices. People have always established relationships in order to fulfill their personal needs, their groups, and their communities. When people’s needs change, so will the pattern of their relationship with their products and cultural practices. Culture will never stop creating. It is always in the process of making it.

Society Is the Owner and the Driving Force of Culture

CULTURAL DEVELOPMENT and community advancement are inseparable. the Law on Advancement of Culture positions the society as the owner and the driving force of the national culture. The society, who serves as an active cultural actor, from the community level to the industry level, is the one who understands and is accustomed the most to the needs and challenges in advancing the cultural ecosystem.

It is therefore very important to engage the society in the implementation of the Law on Advancement of Culture. Serving as the guidelines for informing the direction of the advancement of the national culture, the Law on Advancement of Culture stipulates the development of Culture White Papers—problem statement documents containing the description of conditions and real problems faced by each region as well as the proposed solutions. The Culture White Papers are developed by the society. Otherwise, the documents will not be approved by the state. These papers are first developed by the community at district/city level, then it is processed at provincial level. The documents collected from each province are then compiled at national level, and the compiled document will serve as a material for consideration in the development of the Cultural Strategy and the Cultural Advancement Master Plan by the central government.

During the whole process, the state will mostly play a role as a facilitator to accompany the community. The state will act as a regulator which facilitates participation of and accommodates aspirations of all stakeholders. Based on this plan, the state in collaboration with the community will foster the cultural advancement, at local level all the way up to national level.

Objectives of the Cultural Advancement

THE LAW ON ADVANCEMENT OF CULTURE positions the culture as the guidelines for the national development. Because it encompasses the whole social system in Indonesia, culture should be positioned as the main element of the society. Culture should not be considered to be one of the areas of development; it should be regarded as the end goal of all areas of development instead.

In addition to becoming the goal, culture serves as the foundation of national development. Culture fosters national development by forming the mindset of the society and increasing their knowledge, which are needed in order to boost economic growth. Culture also supports national development because it can bring about actions and perspectives which prioritize harmony between humans and their environment. Actions and perspectives that are based upon the awareness of culture will prevent unethical practices in the national development, such as complete exploitation of natural resources or clearance of disadvantaged people for economic growth to benefit only a few people.

In short, the advancement of national culture will make an impact on many sectors. It will affect national values, resilience, peace, and welfare. Thus, during the development of the law, it was agreed to include ten guiding principles, which are now set forth in Article 4 of the Law on Advancement of Culture, so that the culture advancement will not prompt any disagreement and oppression, jeopardizing the diversity of the nation, which is Indonesia’s national identity.