Thursday, April 06, 2006

Indonesian Diplomats Need to Uploading Local Content

By Perry Pada

Globalization has come to gradually shape domestic policies and programs and increasingly positioning these policies into conformity with a set of international standard and requirements. This in way implies or should imply an abandonment of our national values. We are experiencing a clear synergy, that as international pressure increases, and domestic circumstances worsen, national policy adjustment must be undertaken to respond collectively to this new reality. Hence, domestic and international conditions are always dynamically interactive and relatively inseparable. The precise dimensions of their entanglement always require an ever refining strategic concept which permits a proper blending of the two factors. This requires a sensitive attitude of our diplomatic corps whose responsibility is at least in part to act as a filter.

A related reality is that in this era of democracy there are demands that foreign policy should be based upon as wide of a national consensus as possible. This suggests that that diplomacy will be most effective when supported by significant sectors of society, while retaining for government the role of key player. It is consequently important to encourage the creation of potential constituencies and social networks associated with specific issues. These coalitions, certainly, may be fluid depending on the issues.

A coalition construction strategy

The working of foreign relations should reflect the dynamic domestic needs and preferences as well as fundamental values of the nation. Therefore the ability to comprehend the important link between domestic and international affairs is critical for effective diplomacy particularly in this age of globalization. Developing a seamless link between domestic policy and international affairs is among the central issues of foreign policy making and should in turn enhance our capacity to act.

Domestic constituencies and preferences have to be taken seriously in the construction of a meaningful foreign policy. Therefore the effort to involve the society such as civil society, the business sector, the NGOs, the mass media, the academe is gaining domestic support for the formation and implementation of foreign policy is an important one. Moreover, domestic politics give expression to what preferences are, how they are aggregated and how the national interest is constructed. In addition domestic politics can help explain the strategies states adopt to realize their goals. Moreover, foreign policy of a country should be able to address domestic issue while adjusting those to reasonable international standards with the definite clear goal that foreign policy can be advantageous to domestic interests. We must further increase our voice in the setting of these international standards.

It is a necessity that Indonesian diplomats, and all potential sectors associated in the field of foreign relations think and act within an international and domestic (intermestic) framework. This would lead them to see the opportunities and challenges while linking the priorities to domestic needs in conducting diplomacy. A set of domestic priorities and an accompanying consensus agenda should be clearly explored in public discourse prior to the arriving at a public policy consensus.

The strategy of assigning Indonesian diplomats to serve at domestic regional level offices is clearly implementing this intermestic approach. Indonesian diplomats should be intimately familiar with local issues. The basic idea is to create a multi-track reciprocal diplomacy which encourages the potential local actors to be international players or “local diplomats”. They should be as professional as possible at the regional level, expressing a regional perspective within the unity of the nation.

There are a series of benefits gained from the “local assignment program’ which are preparing a highly professional mission oriented diplomat. First is to upgrade the competence of Indonesian diplomats particularly having in-depth knowledge and a good nuanced understanding of the regional potentials or local content that can be promoted abroad. Secondly is to create effective and efficient policy coordination between regional agencies and the Department of Foreign Affairs since the Department remains the upholder of the one door policy. Thirdly, while enhancing local diplomacy, emphasis will be placed on expertise. Fourthly is to implement public diplomacy such as communicating the progress of national foreign relations to the people while educating regional government and receiving their feedback. In this way, we will be implementing a good governance foreign policy. At the same time, we are creating many diplomatic engines extending to provincial and regional levels simultaneously to respond to the global challenges and opportunities. This concept is eventually paving a way for an in depth and united diplomacy approach in the future.

Further more, in the era of transparency, the active involvement of Indonesian diplomats in regional and international groupings should be always clearly evaluated, calculated and directed to its end goal which is attaining a more complete national interest – within its blue print foreign relations strategy – otherwise we are merely squandering people’s tax money by playing with unclear circles.

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