H.E. Ngurah Swajaya, Indonesia Ministry of Foreign Affairs’ Director-General of American and European Affairs and former Indonesian ambassador to Singapore shares his views on Indonesia as the first ever developing country to lead the grouping

NO one expected full scale war broke out in Ukraine, in the middle of Europe. It happened when Indonesia is in the helm of the G20. Indonesia’s Presidency this year was an exchange with India due to Indonesia’s ASEAN Chairmanship in 2023. It is Indonesia’s destiny to be in charge to navigate the complex situation as the Presidency of the world’s most prestigious mechanism on economic and finance.

Historically, Indonesia has been successful in hosting and chairing many historic, prestigious international meetings, from Bandung’s Asia-Africa Conference, Bogor’s APEC Summit, Bali’s Climate conference and numerous ASEAN’s landmark agreements contributing to regional peace, stability and prosperity, including the launching of RCEP, the world’s largest trade agreement when Chairing ASEAN in 2011. These are few highlights of Indonesia’s leadership and consistency in its foreign policy to navigate complex issues. Contributing to world’s peace, security, friendship and partnership is Indonesia’s foreign policy DNA.

The G20 was established as the world’s primary inclusive global economic and financial platform to bring together, all parties from developed and new emerging economies, with their diverse views, to deliberate and adopt global policy measures. As a trillion economy and 16th world’s largest economy, Indonesia’s membership comes with responsibilities, as a country emerging from 1998 devastated financial crisis, catapulted to this prestigious status and fundamentally transformed becoming 3rd world’s largest democracy. Affected by 2008 financial crisis, Indonesia recovered stronger and envisioned becoming the 7th world’s largest economy by 2030 and remains committed promoting democracy, human rights, sustainable development and multilateralism.

Presidency’s theme, recover together, recover stronger, represents Indonesia’s responsibility to embrace all, to recover stronger from the pandemic. It adopted 3 concrete deliverables priorities, which are not only Indonesia’s interests, but also a common global priority, health, energy transition and digital transformation. The theme clearly represents the leadership to ensuring the G20 relevance for everyone.

First, the pandemic Covid-19 teaches us all crucial lessons on how unprepared we all are, developing and developed countries, and how divisive the narratives, when unity is urgently needed. Pandemic and geo-political tension forms a perfect storm when distrusts grow while unity non-existence. Divisive rhetoric and exchanges of accusations were dominance narratives instead of collaboration. Galvanizing global solidarity, therefore, consistent narrative of President Jokowi, whom often says “no one should be left behind”, on vaccination and access to medications.

As emerging economy and non-producing country of vaccine, Indonesia managed to secure and vaccinated 70 percent of its whole population in slightly over a year. Despite progress, Indonesia continues forging global solidarity to achieve WHO vaccination target to 70 percent of world’s population this year. As the G20 Presidency, President Jokowi will make sure Pandemic is addressed, economy is recovered and the world should be in a much better position of pandemic preparedness.

Second, it was not long ago, when all worlds’ leaders pressured the emerging economies like Indonesia to be more ambitious to curb its emission to net zero by 2050. Despite lack of implementation on their part, developed countries again, reaffirmed their Paris Commitment to provide US$ 100 billion financing annually. Many now worried, as the devastated geo-political conflict will replace the financing to address climate crisis to a narrative of financing the war as it could be prolonged. We should not allow this to happen and should stick to our collective strive addressing the climate crisis for all, including our future generations.

Therefore, energy transition is Indonesia’s G20 priorities, despite it will be costly undertakings, especially for Indonesia, a country blessed with coal and fossil fuel resources. Indonesia’s leading by example announced by President Jokowi at Glasgow Climate Summit, was a solid evident of Indonesia’s walking the talk. To illustrate how costly it is, US$ 3,8 billon is needed only to compensate Indonesia’s transition of 5,4 gigawatt coal power. Indonesia understands it, however, remains committed to move forward. Indonesia’s success to significantly slashed deforestation rate in the past years, has improved its confidence to launch Net FOLU Sink by 2030. Ambitious peatland and mangrove restoration progressed significantly and will place Indonesia as the potentials carbon sequestration and market.

Third priority is digital transformation. We remember when digitalization disrupts many things, it has brought anxiety and distress, but thanks to Indonesia’s democratic environment and vibrant young demographic, digital transformation grew vast and produced many digital unicorns and decacorn. Democracy and freedom are conducive precondition for creativity and innovation to flourish. We also understand it’s challenges, and potentially a threat to peace and security, when it relates to hoaxes, disinformation and cyber-crimes. Therefore, G20 deliberation on this should ensure digital transformation relevance and beneficial to all.

Thus, Indonesia’s firm and consistent approach to “recover together, recover stronger” is testament to make G20 remains credible and relevant for all. It should remain working in a spirit of multilateralism to promote dialogue and inclusiveness. The Geo-political conflict is devastating, therefore, conducive environment should be created to put the conflict to an end. Putting significant pressure to Indonesia simply unfair when it is trying to be responsible salvaging the G20 and its relevance to all, particularly developing countries. Many understand this stance, but some failed. Pressuring and even bullying this stance is misrepresentation. The Presidency does not have the prerogative to invite or disinvite G20 members. It should be a collective decision of all membership. But Indonesia has the right to invite guest of the Presidency, and therefore, President Jokowi invited President of Ukraine. Indonesia thanked and encouraged by many supports for the successful Presidency. The success certainly does not only for Indonesia, but for all international community, particularly developing countries. On the military conflict, President Jokowi and Minister Retno have repeatedly called for an immediate stop of the war and upholding territorial integrity. Negotiation and diplomacy should be given their primacy. Finally, only history will tell that Indonesia took a right decision to salvage dialogue over conflict, partnership over hostility and diplomacy over war mongering.  

Above appears by permission of the author and the article first appeared in The Jakarta Post on 17th May 2022