In a divided world, Indonesia wants to be a bridge. In the midst of a world full of challenges, Indonesia is determined to be part of the solution.
FRANSISCA ROMANA, FROM NEW YORK, USA
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NEW YORK, KOMPAS — The 77th session of the United Nations General Assembly, which commenced on Tuesday (20/9/2022) at the United Nations headquarters in New York, the United States, is convening under the shadow of multiple worldwide crises due to conflict, climate change and the Covid-19 pandemic.
It marks the first time the meeting has been held face-to-face throughout the session since the Covid-19 pandemic broke out in 2020. In the previous two years, the UN General Assembly session was held online in 2020 and on hybrid basis in 2021.
With more than 130 heads of state and governments attending the opening session, security in the area around the UN headquarters was heightened. President Joko “Jokowi” Widodo is absent from this year’s session. Indonesia is being represented by Foreign Minister Retno LP Marsudi, who is scheduled to make a speech before the assembly on 26 Sept.
The offline meeting between the world leaders is expected to be able to restore the personal diplomatic weight that was lost or less forceful when the meeting was held virtually. Thus, the outcome of this year's meeting is expected to give more bearing on the efforts to resolve global problems.
Before the session opened, the convention hall buzzed with delegation members – some still wearing face masks – greeting each other and chatting in a warm manner.
Opening the session, UN Secretary General Antonio Guterres said the world was in big trouble. “Divides are growing deeper. Inequalities are growing wider. Challenges are spreading farther. But as we come together in a world teeming with turmoil, an image of promise and hope comes to my mind,” he said.
He showed the UN-flagged Black Commander on the screen. The grain-loaded ship navigated through the war zone out of Ukraine via the Black Sea. The ship was bound for countries in need of food. Those countries greatly suffered because of the war in Ukraine.
“This ship is a symbol of what the world can accomplish when we act together,” he said.
Divides are growing deeper. Inequalities are growing wider. Challenges are spreading farther. But as we come together in a world teeming with turmoil, an image of promise and hope comes to my mind.
Referring to the humanitarian mission as multilateral diplomacy in action, Guterres reminded attendees that the world needed hope and more action.
Guterres said the global food crisis required fertilizer distribution as solutions in order to evade threat over next year's food supply. He stressed the need to remove barriers to the export of Russian fertilizers and their ingredients, including ammonia.
“We need action across the board. Let’s have no illusions. We are in rough seas. Global discontent is on the horizon. A cost-of-living crisis is raging. Trust is crumbling. Inequalities are exploding. Our planet is burning. People are hurting – with the most vulnerable suffering the most. The United Nations Charter and the ideals it represents are in jeopardy. We have a duty to act,” he said.
He mentioned other pressing issues that called for cooperation to resolve, such as the Russia-Ukraine war, orientation of the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs), technology, social media, communal violence in a number of countries, the crisis in Afghanistan and Myanmar and the Palestinian-Israeli conflict. Environmental issues and the crisis due to climate change were also highlighted in his speech.
After Guterres, Brazilian President Jair Bolsonaro became the first head of state to deliver a speech. US President Joe Biden's speech, which should have come second, was rescheduled for Wednesday. He had just returned from the funeral of British monarch Queen Elizabeth II.
In the General Debate session, Indonesia will again emphasize multilateral cooperation as an unnegotiable requirement to overcoming various global problems that are plaguing the world. The apparently deepening polarization and divisions among countries in the wake of Russia's military attack on Ukraine have been hampering the efforts to instill common ground in overcoming various crises.
Retno said Indonesia would use this year’s General Assembly to make its voice for joint work more heeded in the agenda over the global humanitarian crisis. She will also use the occasion to hold bilateral talks with foreign ministers of G20 and ASEAN members (Myanmar excluded).
Global Citizen Award
The day before the UN General Assembly session, President Jokowi, represented by Retno, received the 2022 Global Citizen Award from the Atlantic Council at Cipriani Hall in New York on Monday night (19/9). The Atlantic Council is a nonpartisan organization that promotes leadership and constructive engagement on international issues.
The award is a form of recognition for Indonesia's leadership in the G20, international peace efforts marked by the President Jokowi's visit to Kyiv and Moscow, as well as post-Covid-19 pandemic cooperation.
The award recipients for 2022 also included Finnish President Sauli Niinisto, Swedish Prime Minister Magdalena Andersson, Google and Alphabet CEO Sundar Pichai and actor Forest Whitaker, who is also the founder and CEO of the Whitaker Peace and Development Initiative. Special moments of respect were paid to the late Queen Elizabeth II and former Japanese prime minister Shinzo Abe.
World Economic Forum executive director Klaus Schwab, in his presentation of the award, hailed President Jokowi’s initiatives in the face of multiple crises. The President was appreciated for having sought cooperation at the global level to continue to achieve peace and mutual prosperity.
In a message delivered via video recording, President Jokowi thanked The Atlantic Council for the Global Citizen Award.
"I dedicate this award to the Indonesian people who have been working hard with me to face the various challenges," the President said.
Accepting the award on the behalf of the President, Retno said the Indonesia government had been appealing to countries to come together to build a peaceful, just and prosperous world under a framework of what she called the collaboration paradigm.
“Indonesia will be at the forefront in promoting this paradigm. In a world overshadowed by pessimism, Indonesia wants to inspire hope and trust," she said.
“In a divided world, Indonesia wants to be a bridge. In the midst of a world full of challenges, Indonesia is determined to be part of the solution," she added.