A seat on the United Nations Security Council will give Indonesia an opportunity to participate in promoting global peace and stability more actively than usual.
Starting January 1, 2019 and for the following two years, Indonesia will join 14 other countries in the UN’s most powerful body to help defuse wars, conflicts and tensions in all corners of the world.
Indonesia secured the seat by gaining more votes than the Maldives in the election at the General Assembly on Friday. The victory came after a long and hard campaign by our diplomats, led by Foreign Minister Retno L Marsudi, to convince other UN members of Indonesia’s suitability for the role.
This will be the fourth time that Indonesia has joined the Security Council, having served in the 1970s, 1990s, and the last time in 2007-2008. Track records are important, but this coming tour of duty will still be challenging.
But it is a mandate that Indonesia should be well prepared to act on. The preamble to the nation’s constitution instructs the government to participate in “establishing a world order based on freedom, eternal peace and social justice”. Indonesia’s “active and independent” foreign policy doctrine will be put to the hardest test as it deals with 14 other members.
Indonesia will find the Security Council polarised, with the five big powers using the stage increasingly to flex their muscles in the contest for hegemony, particularly among the United States, Russia and China. They will not hesitate to use their exclusive veto rights to deny victory to the others.
Indonesia will find it a struggle to live up to the “true partner for world peace” slogan used during the campaign to win the council seat. Indonesia comes with many credentials to help its diplomats negotiate their way on the council.
They include being the third largest democracy in the world, the country with the world’s largest Muslim population and a growing economy that places it 16th largest in the world. Indonesia is a rising Asian power, with more clout and influence than it has ever had in the past.
While recognising the limitations of the council’s non-permanent members, Indonesia goes to New York in January not without leverage. A lot of expectations are placed on Indonesia by people at home and abroad, including by those who voted for us.
The Middle East is burning, Africa remains roiled in bloody conflicts that further impoverish nations, and tension is rising here in Asia. While the Security Council has dealt with Africa more than other regions in the world, Indonesia should use its seat to raise issues important to our national interests. Palestine remains a task in hand that does not get any easier. The tension on the Korean peninsula looks to be easing, but the South China Sea is boiling. And the Security Council has been impotent in protecting and saving the Rohingya people in Myanmar.
The hard work for the campaign has paid off. Now the bigger and more challenging work is just beginning.