Arie Ruhyanto

Statebuilding through Territorial Reform: Pemekaran and State-Society Relation in Papua Indonesia. 

Supervisors: Nicolas Lemay-Hebert & Jonathan Fisher

This research investigates the dynamic of state-society relations in the newly established local governments, resulting from territorial reform in Papua, Indonesia. The territorial reform which is known as pemekaran (the creation of new local government) has become the prominent feature of statebuilding in Indonesia since its transition to democracy in 1998. While for almost three decades the number of local governments in Indonesia has been frozen, during 2002-2014 the number has increased dramatically, from 298 LGs in 1998 to 508 in 2016. Among other regions, Papua is the region in which the pemekaran has exuberantly demonstrated. Until 1996 there were only one province and 10 districts in the region, by 2015 the region has been split into two provinces and 42 districts, which means more than 75 percent of districts in are a result of pemekaran.

Territorial reform essentially aimed to put local government functions on a territorially more viable basis. Besides resizing the government territory, territorial reform has become common strategy for resolving prolonged conflicts and accommodating communities that are politically, economically, and ethnically marginalized. Territorial reform through pemekaran in Papua can be seen first and foremost from this reason. In this regard, territorial reform is seen by national and local elites as a way to moderate the demand for independence by allowing people to have their own autonomous local governments with a directly elected leader. However, after more than 15 years of implementation, this approach seems to create more unintended outcomes rather than the intended one. While the state institutional capacity has increased very slowly, a number of new problems have arisen such as rampant corruption, widened economic gap, tension among settlers and local, and conflict among local elites to control the local government.  

Building upon this background, this research investigates the process of statebuilding through territorial reform in Papua through answering the questions: How does statebuilding through pemekaran shape, and how is it in turn shaped by, the relations within and between State and Society? To what extent does the dynamic of statebuilding contribute to the state’s legitimacy?  


Arie completed an undergraduate degree in Faculty of Social and Political Science, Gadjah Mada University Indonesia in 2002. In 2007 he received a scholarship award from British Council to pursue his master degree in International Politics at the University of Glasgow. With his master degree he returned to his almamater in Gadjah Mada as a researcher and finally appointed as a lecturer at the Department of Politics and Government in 2014. During 2009-2014 he has participated in many research projects particularly in the area of local development, state-society relations, public service, governance innovation, and conflict management. He also serves as senior trainer and facilitator at the Center for Capacity and Cooperation Development GMU which provide training and capacity building for Indonesian government officers.  In 2015 Arie received a doctoral scholarship from the Indonesian Endowment for Education (LPDP) and join the doctoral researcher at the International Development Department, University of Birmingham. 


  • MSc in International Politics (Glasgow University)
  • BA in International Relations (Gadjah Mada University, Indonesia)

Research interests

  • Conflict, security and development
  • Peacebuilding and State building
  • Post conflict Reconstruction
  • Decentralization
  • Hybridity
  • Political Sociology 


Journal Articles:

Ruhyanto, A., 2016. The Perils of Prosperity Approach in Papua. Peace Review, 28(4), pp.490–498.

Conference Papers:

‘Education in The Highland: a Story of Guru Penggerak in Puncak Regency Papua’, presented at the ISIC-Papua Conference, Warwick University, July 2017.

‘Statebuilding through Pemekaran in Papua’, presented at the Workshop on “Development, Citizenship, and Inequality in Papua”, University of Warwick 20 July 2017.

'The Perils of Prosperity Approach in Papua’, presented at the seminar on Papua Update, Faculty of Social and Political Science, Gadjah Mada University, December 2016.

‘Legitimacy as Daily Experience: Improving State-Society Relations in Papua’, presented at the seminar on “Papua and Humanism Development”, Imperial College London, July 2016. 

‘Pemekaran and the Agenda of Statebuilding in West Papua’, presented at the ICOC, Deakin University, Australia, July 2015.  

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