Tuesday, July 04, 2006

It’s Time to Show Ambition (Why not Indonesia Run for UNSG Office)

By Perry PADA*

With the approaching end of 2006 discussions have begun to heat up over the issue of the next Secretary General of the U.N. Who would make the ‘ideal’ candidate? As a fixed yet informal rule of geographical rotation, this is the year for Asia. The U.S.A opposes this rotation tradition, and to date has not indicated its preference. Should the US not get its way, it is easily to predict that it will cast its support for a candidate from among its Asian friends or allies or at least from a country not ill disposed to US global policy. On the other hand, China is clearly insisting that the next Secretary General be an Asian.

Measuring the possibilities of an Asian candidate

There is an unwritten understandings among the big 5 countries or the permanent member of UNSC namely, USA, Russia, China, United Kingdom and France that there are some preconditions for a successful candidate: country profile and ability to stand firm in balancing and seeking a solution to the current global key issues such as globalization, terrorism, Weapons of Mass Destruction, social and global change, poverty eradication, global and human security, human trafficking, human rights and other key issues such as UN reform. Apart from those traditional preconditions, however, the most important precondition is obvious; ability to reflect issues as seen by members of the Security Council. In this sense, the clear support or blessing from USA is absolutely essential. Who are the potential UNSG candidates from Asia who can gain the recommendation of the Security Council to the General Assembly? Is Indonesia as the largest Asian country after India and China among the contenders? It does not seem to be. Why not is an interesting question?

To date there are only three Asian candidates: Thailand, South Korea and Sri Lanka. Other Asian countries, presumably, are playing a wait and see strategy while calculating the possible support from UNSC permanent members and the largest General Assembly groupings. The support for the three candidates remains fluid and may change at any time.

According to many sources within the UN diplomatic corps the above three Asian candidates have failed to garner clear support from the “Big 5” countries. These candidates apparently are distanced from the key global issues and the key countries. Among them the Deputy Prime Minister of Thailand claims to have the support of the nine ASEAN members, however, Thailand’s role within the global context is too limited. The reason is clear and simple, in the eyes of European and American countries; Thailand is not able to handle global issues given its insignificant contribution to those key issues. South Korea’s as well has a deficiency, as the Korean peninsula issue remains a big hurdle for the Korean candidate. It is unlikely that the Korean candidate will gain enough support from the European countries or China. The same comment can be made of the Sri Lankan candidate given its global profile and its alienation from the key issues at this point. If we assess the three candidates based on their global profile and their relations with the key countries, they do not display a strong and convincing prospect for success.

Other potential Asian candidates who are not yet in the running are India, Afghanistan and maybe Japan. Politically, India is not an attractive candidate owing to its protracted dispute with Pakistan. Afghanistan has very small chance owing to its unstable internal politics. Japan on the other hand is quite a strong Asian candidate, but China, for its own reasons, would likely oppose a Japanese candidature. In addition many Japanese currently hold high positions within the UN structure. Thus, given this brief analysis, Indonesia apparently is in a good position to make a successful run at becoming the next UNSG.

Why not Indonesia?

To the issue of an Indonesia candidate, Indonesia with the other 9 ASEAN member countries has already endorsed the Thai candidate as announced by the spokes- person of the Indonesian Ministry of Foreign Affairs months ago(15/2/06) The support was offered as an act of ASEAN solidarity.

Regardless, Indonesia has the perfect profile for putting forward its own candidacy, should the Thai candidate falter. There are many good reasons why it could work politically. Examining the regional landscape, Indonesia’s geopolitical position by default is crucial to the stability of the region. Furthermore, the USA confronted with its present challenges needs to show that it is not anti Muslim; Indonesia is a perfect partner for the USA in addressing Muslim society and terrorism. The unfreezing of Indonesia-USA military cooperation and the current visit of the US Foreign Minister followed by US Defense Minister within the same month has shown the USA support for Indonesia’s international role and has paved the way for Indonesia to play a bigger role in the Middle East peace process. The visit of the British Prime Minister to many Muslim institutions in Indonesia is also a clear indication, that Indonesia remains an important actor within the global context of balancing religious Issues with temperance, which remains at the top of global agenda.

Indonesian relations with European Union countries are in excellent shape due to its involvement in the Aceh peace process as well as emergency Tsunami aid. The EU with many western countries donated more than 200 billion Euros to help solving the Aceh problem. Apart form EU, France and Germany individually will ago along with other key countries decision of the UNSG candidate as long as their interests are secured. For China, in addition to its traditional relationship with Indonesia, it does not have any objection as long as Indonesia supports its one-China policy. Indonesia never displays support for Taiwan independence. Further, the growing bilateral relationship between the two countries and particularly China’s large investments would be more secured and protected if it supported an Indonesian candidate. Russia would not be opposed as there is no hostility between the two. Actually bilateral relations between Indonesia and Russia are good due to recent military cooperation and military equipment procurement. Therefore, Indonesian relations with the 5 key countries on many key issues are quite positive at this moment.

Given the above sketch, it is clear that Indonesia has an excellent chance as a potential contender from Asia. Beside the above reasons, there are a long list of straight forward and logic reasons; First, Indonesia is a founding father of the non aligned movement, therefore it is neutral on many issues, secondly, as the largest Muslim country and the third largest democratic country in the world Indonesia obviously has leverage within both a regional and a global context, particularly when dealing with Muslim societies, thirdly, its geographical and demographic position has to be counted for regional security, fourthly, its relatively positive image due to its successful political transformation, from military authoritarianism to a Civilian regime is hailed by many western countries, and fifthly its success in arresting terrorists while empowering the moderates and sixthly, its good relations with key Middle East countries could permit her to play the role of mediator in the region for all interests, and finally the most important one its good relations with other group of 77 member countries who have come to dominate the General Assembly. Those all indeed are advantageous factors. The current Indonesian Foreign Minister , DR. Hassan Wirayuda or former Minister Ali Alatas are both experienced international figure who are outstanding candidates. Given its advantageous position, the question remains, why Indonesia has not put forward its own candidature?

The reason has not yet been made clear, as we have not seen any official statement, but what is clear is that there is some pessimism over the fact that we might not win. It can be assumed that Indonesia’s reluctance is due to its calculated balance sheet which has tilted to the negative. This conclusion to some measure may be due to internal problems namely, among others; firstly the separatist movement in Papua province, secondly, the residual problem on human rights in East Timor, and thirdly, the horizontal conflict in certain areas. Another reason which is very clear is that Indonesia apparently has been investing great effort into being elected to be a non permanent member of UN Security Council which is viewed as a more successful possibility. Given these two alternative positions {SGUN or non-permanent member of the SC}, at this point, it depends on Jakarta’s understanding of which option will more adequately serve the national interest.

Depok, 16 Juni 2006

No comments: