The Jakarta Post
With Indonesia celebrating 75 years of independence on Monday and the United Nations commemorating 75 years of its establishment next month, Foreign Minister Retno Marsudi has called on members of the UN Security Council to maintain peace in the midst of the COVID-19 pandemic.
The minister also called for a critical reflection on the organization’s role as the world faces unprecedented challenges caused by the coronavirus.
Indonesia believes it is time to improve and strengthen the organization, at a time when confidence in globalization is in decline and multilateral values are being increasingly questioned, Retno said on Thursday.
“The UN must be able to manage and respond to the demands of the world. The UN system must deliver and rhetoric is not an option. The UN’s work must be oriented toward concrete results and the real benefits that can be felt by the international community,” she said during a webinar.
With a constitutional mandate to contribute to world peace, Indonesia has relied on the international rules-based system embodied by the UN and its agencies to avail itself of global efforts to maintain peace and security.
But the COVID-19 pandemic has exacerbated tensions in a world where globalization and multilateralism are increasingly being questioned, with nation states increasingly looking inward to become self-reliant.
As president of the UNSC this month, Indonesia held a high-level open debate on peace and the pandemic on Wednesday. The meeting was attended by all council members and UN Secretary-General Antonio Guterres, former secretary-general Ban Ki-Moon and the director of the Center on International Cooperation at New York University, Sarah Cliffe.
The open debate was the first time that council members comprehensively discussed the issue of the pandemic and peace, Retno said.
“Bringing the pandemic issue to the UN Security Council was not easy because of the dynamics and differing perspectives among members of the Security Council on this issue,” she told the press on Thursday.
The differences were evident when the council discussed draft resolutions relating to the pandemic and a call for a pause in conflict worldwide, which took four months of negotiations before it was adopted on July 1, the minister said.
Observers have pointed out how tensions between the United States and China have been slowing down the negotiation process, as Washington sought to blame Beijing for the disease and referred to COVID-19 as the “Wuhan virus”, which was vehemently opposed by Chinese officials.
Retno instead sought to underscore how the pandemic had greatly impacted international peace and security.
“It is feared that this pandemic could bring countries that have just taken themselves out of a conflict situation [...] back to the brink of a crisis, and that countries still in conflict will fall even further,” the minister said.
The pandemic also complicated the work of UN peacekeeping forces and efforts for mediation in the field, which would jeopardize years of successful peace efforts.
Retno said that from Indonesia's perspective, building and sustaining peace must be part of a comprehensive response in handling a pandemic.
“Sustaining peace requires synergy between the work of all UN systems. In this regard, the UN should integrate a conflict-sensitive approach into its pandemic response. A general cessation of hostilities and a humanitarian pause would enable timely delivery of aid and COVID-19 treatment to civilians in conflicts,” she said at the virtual open debate on Wednesday.
Citing the latest UN report, Retno said there was also growing concern for the decline in assistance for peacebuilding in conflict-affected countries, which would force countries to make the hard choice between spending on health infrastructure or peacebuilding.
“Innovative funding for peacebuilding through the South-South and Triangular Cooperation, as well as philanthropic institutions is essential in helping with this situation,” she said.