September 27, 2022
JAKARTA – Foreign Minister Retno LP Marsudi used her speech on the last day of the United Nations General Assembly on Monday to warn the world against getting dragged into another global war, offer up a “new paradigm of collaboration” to avert it and call for imminent UN reforms.
Indonesia’s turn to speak at the assembly came just a day after the United States said it would act “decisively” against Russian threats to deploy its nuclear arsenal, capping off a week at the UN defined by tense cross-talk, thinning solidarity and narrow self-interest.
“Crisis after crisis is unfolding around the world,” Retno said as she opened her address to the biggest annual event for multilateralism since the COVID-19 pandemic, warning the world to watch out for a huge impending war.
“Let us look at the period leading up to World War II; the Great Depression, the rise of ultra-nationalism, competition over resources and rivalry between major powers,” she said. “These are very similar to what we are facing today.”
If the world continues on the same path, she added, it would be “heading toward a disaster”.
“But if we choose a different path,” the minister went on, the world could still stand a chance. “So today I would like to offer you a world order based on a new paradigm.”
This paradigm – offering a win-win solution rather than playing a zero-sum game; prioritizing engagement over containment; and promoting collaboration rather than competition – is the “transformative solution” the world needs right now, Retno said.
The focus of the minister, whom President Joko “Jokowi” Widodo has entrusted with handling Indonesia’s geopolitical affairs at the UN, appeared to speak directly to the mood of the 77th General Assembly.
Somber reminders of Russia’s war in Ukraine dominated as world leaders and senior officials took turns to speak at the gray marbled rostrum of the General Assembly Hall at the UN headquarters in New York, the United States.
The lineup of speakers itself fluctuated greatly this year, with many leaders deciding to either forego the annual tradition or shift their schedules around to accommodate a trip to the funerals of British monarch Queen Elizabeth II and the late Japanese prime minister Shinzo Abe.
Remarks between allied Western nations and Russia but also Iran, Afghanistan and China, among others, appeared to indicate a fierce debate was brewing, although the way the assembly is structured does not allow for direct retorts.
US President Joe Biden accused Vladimir Putin’s Russia of seeking to “extinguish Ukraine’s right to exist”, while Russian Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov criticized Washington for trying to turn the world into its “backyard”. In his own remarks, Chinese Foreign Minister Wang Yi called on both Russia and Ukraine to “keep the crisis from spilling over” and from affecting developing countries.
For Indonesia, respect for international law and nurturing cooperation is the only viable solution to end the conflict, Minister Retno said. Without naming Russia or other nations, she also asserted that “the fundamental principles of sovereignty and territorial integrity are non-negotiable”.
“These are the rules of the game that we must maintain if we truly want peace,” she said. “It is our responsibility to apply them consistently – not selectively or only when we see fit.”
Additionally, just as this message was conveyed by President Jokowi to Putin and Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky during his visit to Moscow and Kyiv in late June, so the foreign minister said it also applied to conflicts in Palestine and Afghanistan.
Likewise for developing countries, who stand to bear the brunt of all this conflict. “We must act urgently to address food and energy crises and prevent a fertilizer crisis from happening,” Retno said. “Otherwise, billions more people will be at risk particularly in developing countries.
That countries were pushing for a stern front against Russia through coercion indicated a failure to recognize the interconnectedness of the world, said Dinna Prapto Raharja, founder and senior international relations analyst of Synergy Policies.
Ongoing communication between Europe and the US may be a reassuring sign that a full-scale open war could still be avoided, she said, but the dialogue involving current crises tend to be “Euro-centric” and fail to consider how smaller countries are affected.
“Regions that are vulnerable and are economically dependent on more powerful nations are held hostage by these major countries,” Dinna noted. “Their steps are made at a deadlock.”