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Helping Indonesia Build a Strong Legal System

17 May 2023
Meet the Expert | Adriaan Bedner

Meet Adriaan Bedner, professor of Law and Society in Indonesia at the Van Vollenhoven Institute (VVI), and honorary fellow of the Royal Netherlands Institute of Southeast Asian and Caribbean Studies (KITLV). He is also Head of Department of the VVI, as well as (Co-) Chair of the Board of the International Institute of Asian Studies (IIAS). What is more, he supervises more than 10 PhD-students, teaches courses at Leiden Law School and Leiden University College, and is a member of the Working Group on Legal Co-operation Indonesia-Netherlands.

It all started when Adriaan Bedner was a law student in Amsterdam, where he met his wife who intended to go to Indonesia for her doctoral studies. He decided he wanted to join her; however, in Amsterdam there was nothing to be studied in terms of law in Indonesia. That is why he came to Leiden to take a large variety of courses on law and governance in developing countries, including one on Indonesia. The subject appealed to him so much, that he decided to apply for a PhD-position in Leiden to study administrative courts in Indonesian and to later become a postdoc in the field of environmental law at the Van Vollenhoven Institute. It eventually led to his current position as professor and head of department, with additional focus on family law, land law, legal reasoning, and access to justice.

Frequently Adriaan engages in projects aimed at improving Indonesia’s legal education and the functioning of its legal institutions. He argues that these projects are important because of the dogmatic nature and remaining authoritarian features of Indonesia’s legal practice, an issue he has written about extensively in his scholarly articles. In these projects, it often is his task to assess the relevance and feasibility of Dutch legal forms and practices for the Indonesian context. According to him such projects have often been fruitful and produce relevant results given the willingness of Indonesian experts to engage with their Dutch peers and Dutch law, despite the colonial past. In fact, it is exactly because of the shared colonial history that Indonesian experts consider their Dutch colleagues as having a better understanding of the Indonesian judicial system than many jurists from other countries.

Unfortunately, Adriaan currently sees a trend in Indonesia of back-sliding towards authoritarianism. Another issue is that the funds available for Dutch-Indonesian legal projects have been decreasing. Yet, he remains committed to continue such projects.

Right now Adriaan is completing a research programme concerning the topic of marriage and divorce in Indonesia, about which he intends to co-write a bookwith 7 PhD candidates who worked with him on this subject. A future project he would like to work on is a book about Indonesian legal thinking and the way in which Indonesian actors make use of the judicial system, including legal education. After all, his ultimate goal is contributing to a resilient legal system in Indonesia, with good legal education at its core.

Interview by LeidenGlobal intern Nina
Spring 2023

^ Adriaan Bedner with amongst others the Dean of Leiden Law at the Indonesian Supreme Court

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