Oct 13, 2012

Indonesia - We have to create secure, peaceful neighborhood: FM

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More than 100 heads of state or government and ministers participated in the 67th UN General Assembly’s general debate last week, conveying messages on pressing issues, such as UN reform, intolerance and insecurity.

To understand more about what challenges are ahead for Indonesia, The Jakarta Post’s Yohanna Ririhena spoke with Foreign Minister Marty Natalegawa. Below are the excerpts:

Question: At the General Assembly’s general debate, leaders underscored the need for UN reform. How far has the world body been responding to this call?

Answer: UN reform is a process. Reform is not an event, but a continuing process that comprises several elements. Attention for UN reform should be put mainly to the Security Council (UNSC), that doesn’t reflect today’s world constellation. There has been much criticism to the UN body.

Besides UNSC, reform should also be addressed to the General Assembly and ECOSOC (the Economic and Social Council).

The General Assembly should revitalize its working method, addressing how to make the assembly more effective and efficient in responding to global development, since it is the moral voice of the UN. While ECOSOC has to be optimized to take the role as “security council” in social economy. Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon also generated the need to reform the UN secretariat. So, reform is a continuing and sustaining theme.

How has Indonesia contributed to the UN as a multilateral institution?

Multilateralism is the DNA of Indonesian foreign policy. From the early years of its independence, Indonesia was brave enough to conduct a multilateral forum, namely the Asia-Africa Conference in 1955. Now, Indonesia’s presence has been seen at every UN level, from high-level panels, environment, nuclear non-proliferation, nuclear terrorism to sustainable development. We are firing on all cylinders, making every possible effort, including the delivery of our message on religion blasphemy. Our proposal, to call on UN member states to adopt an international instrument to prevent such “blasphemous acts” from reoccurring, will be made concrete.

How can Indonesia reach out to countries differing with its stance?

Although initiatives are undertaken by states at the UN and other forums, the debate failed to produce a result because the issue has been polarized into two extreme positions; freedom of expression and religion blasphemy.

Indonesia would like to present an approach that is not choosing an option, but to come up with a unity that can be synchronized with our point of view, bringing together polarized mind-sets.

In the short term, we will see responses from other countries, review the results and prepare a road map.

Through diplomatic efforts, we are applying a bridge-building approach. Instead of sharpening or widening differences, it would be better to change from within.

Given the efforts that have been made, do you see RI’s posture increasing globally?

Our international standing has increased. But, it is not taken for granted, we have achieved this through hard-work. You see evident in the general debate that we, all 193 UN members, feel important. However, our role and contribution are not merely proclaimed or delivered through speeches. Our presence should be noticeable through intellectual leadership, galvanizing our ability to raise a smart and enlightened vision, in line with our ability to reach consensus. We have to find the common ground, overlapping interests with other nations, and that is about partnership.

There are host of problems besetting the world from food insecurity to wars in Syria and Palestine, what is needed for Indonesia to step ahead?

Certain basic approaches should be applied in seeking solutions to whatever conflicts the world faces. Conflict resolution talks on diplomacy, not the use of force. In a precarious world, with Palestine and the Middle East, problems still persist but then comes another problem, like Syria. We are faced with the task of how to unravel the web.

Our first responsibility is in our immediate region. We have to ensure our region is clean, peaceful and secure. It is a mammoth task, as we need to think simultaneously, how do we clean up domestic problems while seeking solutions for regional and global issues?

We have to maintain regional and global efforts so it will not threaten our domestic interests. It needs a convergence of our national, regional and global interests.

In our meeting with the UN secretary-general, how ASEAN has been a key contributor to world peace and security was discussed. ASEAN is not absent from problems but ASEAN comes up with its own solutions, highlighting that the region is not a burden for international community.

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