Much at stake in advancing global goals as Indonesia kicks off UN General Assembly week

The Sustainable Development Goals Summit has so far been dubbed the most important event of the General Assembly, where delegates will discuss the lack of collective progress in advancing the 17 goals previously set.

Yvette Tanamal

Yvette Tanamal

The Jakarta Post


People walk past the United Nations headquarters in New York on March 3, 2023. PHOTO: AFP/ THE JAKARTA POST

September 19, 2023

JAKARTA – Indonesian delegates on Monday dove into this week’s whirlwind of the United Nations General Assembly (UNGA) meetings, where world representatives will discuss the state of the world and mull over cooperation agreements.

With the world continuing to grapple with the post-COVID-19 recovery, the economic and political tension sparked by the war in Ukraine, as well as an ever-worsening climate crisis, thousands of delegates from across the world are gathering in New York in the United States to advance key talks and navigate the current precarious geopolitical landscape.

The Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) Summit on Monday and Tuesday has so far been dubbed the most important event of the 78th UNGA, where world delegates will discuss the lack of collective progress in advancing the 17 SDGs previously set to be achieved by 2030.

The SDGs include inclusive and sustainable industrialization, climate action, as well as strengthening the global multilateralism mechanism, among other issues. Yet in April, a UN report said that only 12 percent of the 140 assessed SDGs targets were on track, while the majority of the action plan reflected “weak and insufficient” progress.

The UN recently stated that the failure to reach SDG targets before the set time may exacerbate political instability and enable irreversible damage to the environment.

In an address at the SDGs Summit on Monday, Foreign Minister Retno LP Marsudi lamented the state of the global order, emphasizing that developing countries must be allowed to develop without “discrimination” and that the “Global South must have the opportunity to develop downstream industries.”

Ahead of the SDGs Summit, the Foreign Ministry told reporters that Indonesia has been performing well at achieving its goals. Citing 2021 National Development and Planning Ministry (Bappenas) data, he said that only 48 out of the 222 SDG indicators showed a need for improvement.

“The Indonesian delegation’s participation has been positive. We have been invited to share our experiences and best practices on various issues, [insights which] we have observed to be valuable for other countries,” director general for multilateral cooperation Tri Tharyat said.

According to the latest UN data, Indonesia scored 70.2 out of 100 points on the SDGs indicator, ranking 75th out of 166 countries.

With President Joko “Jokowi” Widodo once again skipping the global convention, Indonesia is represented by Retno, who on the sidelines of the general assembly will conduct a series of bilateral meetings, attend high-level dialogues and lead a few ASEAN meetings.

Among Retno’s list of people to meet are her counterparts hailing from the Pacific Islands, the Middle East, Latin America and Europe. She will also be attending the 47th Group of Seventy-Seven (G77) Foreign Ministers’ Meeting and the MIKTA Foreign Ministers’ Meeting. MIKTA is an informal consultation forum that groups five middle-power countries, Indonesia, South Korea, Mexico, Turkey and Australia.

Additionally, Retno will also be attending high-level dialogues on development financing, where she will discuss among other matters the sluggish financing progress from developed countries to their developing counterparts to adequately fund sustainable development, including climate financing.

A long-time bid

Included among Indonesia’s top priorities at the UNGA is the advancement of its membership bid for the Organization for Economic Co-operation and Development (OECD), an economic grouping of developed nations, which, if it were to accede to Indonesia’s membership request, would elevate the country’s status to that of high-income.

On the sidelines of the UNGA, Retno is set to hold bilateral talks with eight OECD members: Ireland, the United Kingdom, Germany, Estonia, Greece, the Czech Republic, Slovakia and the Netherlands.

OECD membership has been projected to boost Indonesia’s economic growth as it would encourage more foreign investment; but it will require Jakarta to complete laborious homework and policy reforms to prove itself worthy of winning consensus from all 38 member countries.

“The OECD has yet to decide anything, but so far no member has rejected Indonesia’s bid. The process will be a long one,” diplomat Tri said. “But once accepted, there will be a road map drawn up for Indonesia’s accession.”

Indonesia has been among OECD’s key partners since 2007, and has since then worked to reform its economic policies in line with the group’s standards. In August, the government officially submitted its membership bid.

Yet with Indonesia currently engaged in trade disputes with the European Union, several of whose members are in the OECD, analysts have warned that Indonesia’s accession may not come easy.

“One of the OECD’s principles is to eliminate obstacles to the exchange of goods. Indonesia’s economic policies, [like] mineral downstreaming and the raw nickel ban, may present challenges here,” economist Habib Abiyan Dzakwan of the Centre for Strategic and International Studies (CSIS) told The Jakarta Post recently.

In order to elevate its economic standing, Indonesia through its 2025-2045 National Long Term Development Plan has in recent years intensified its efforts to downstream its critical mineral industry by banning the export of unprocessed nickel ore in order to capture the lion’s share of the electric vehicle battery supply chain.

These policies have irked its European trade partners, which last year filed a lawsuit at the World Trade Organization for unfair trade practices. The WTO late last year favored the EU over Indonesia, which then pledged to appeal the case.

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