The Jakarta Post
President Joko “Jokowi” Widodo is to address the United Nations General Assembly (UNGA) in a video message early on Wednesday from Jakarta – the first time he will speak at the multilateral forum since entering office in 2014. Ahead of his maiden speech at the UNGA, The Jakarta Post’s Dian Septiari speaks with Foreign Minister Retno LP Marsudi to touch on the key messages that the President is to raise, as well as Indonesia’s views on the UN as it celebrates its 75th anniversary.
Question: What key issues does Indonesia want to highlight at the UNGA?
Answer: There are several clusters in the President’s messages. First, the President wants to remind us all why the United Nations was established. The UN was established after the war with the goal to prevent another war from happening again, and to create [...] a more peaceful, stable and prosperous world.
Second, the President wants to convey a message to all of us to see where we are now in terms of [a review]. Have all the dreams that the world’s nations held on to when they founded the UN been fulfilled? The answer is of course no; because this is an ongoing process, because we still see a lot of conflict, poverty, hunger and the negligence of international law, including respect for sovereignty and territorial integrity.
The President will convey concerns that these problems are increasingly becoming more apparent, at a time when the world faces difficulties with COVID-19, where in fact we really need unity but instead see deepening division.
If this division continues, our dream will become more difficult to attain. The aspirations of establishing the UN to create a world that is peaceful and prosperous will be further removed from reality.
Therefore, the President plans to convey Indonesia's commitment to consistently contributing and being part of the solution to the world’s problems. Indonesia wants to continue to play the role of a bridge builder in the midst of differences that are increasingly widening.
The President will reiterate the importance of cooperation, emphasize equality and the relevance of the values that were imbibed in the Bandung Conference in 1955.
The President will also convey Indonesia's commitment to maintaining our neighboring region of Southeast Asia as a peaceful and stable region, including in the larger regional context of the Indo-Pacific.
The President will convey his support for Palestine, among others, and suggest how the UN as an organization can deliver [on its promises].
What does Indonesia want to hear from leaders of superpowers in this time of crisis? What are the messages that need to be amplified in this forum?
If we talk about what we want to hear, of course it goes back to the President’s message about the purpose of the organization that was established after the war.
For that, all countries must participate. Therefore, I am sure that all of us, not only Indonesia, want to hear from all countries and their leaders reiterating their commitments.
This is a very appropriate time for the commemoration of the UN’s 75th anniversary; we want to hear the commitments of all countries, especially the major players, outsized countries, who of course give color to the world.
We really need global collective leadership, because without it, it will be very difficult for us to create a world we dreamed of when the UN was born 75 years ago.
How does Indonesia see the role the UN has played thus far? What changes does the UN need to undertake to ensure its continued effectiveness?
We’ve tried to see how far the UN has come in the last 75 years, what the results are, and I think the results are many. The fact that in 75 years there have been no major wars, no nuclear war and so on is a very big achievement. It’s not easy but it can be achieved in the 75 years of the UN’s existence.
We now have Sustainable Development Goals [SDGs], previously we had Millennium Development Goals, through which the UN played a big role in reducing poverty. For instance, I just read that 2.6 billion people have now got access to drinking water, then there is a figure that shows that HIV infection has decreased by 40 percent. These figures show that the UN has come far and that it has accomplished a lot.
It is now time to see where we are at again. UN Secretary-General [António] Guterres just made a statement where he mentioned the enormous suffering of people caught in conflict, as is the case in Syria, Libya, Yemen and Afghanistan, where peace, in his terms, is overdue.
He is also concerned about the growing mistrust among countries and about the rise of populism and an increase in the zero-sum approach.
I think it actually reflects the concerns of almost all countries in the world, therefore, what we need to acknowledge are the results and the weaknesses, and then assess what we can do together. The UN will be able to function if it is supported by its member countries.
When we talk about the UN, it is not about the headquarters in New York, but the philosophy of cooperation; the most important thing is that there are values that came into existence at the time the UN was established.
We have to keep nurturing these values, because those values – including cooperation, equality and inclusivity – adopted 75 years ago are not only still relevant; they are even more relevant [today].