Jakarta. President Joko Widodo’s speech at the Asian-African Conference has garnered applause from the international community and at home, with both politicians and academics praising the president’s bold statements.
Joko criticized on Tuesday global financial institutions — namely the International Monetary Fund, Word Bank and Asian Development Bank — for failing to accommodate the shift in economic power to emerging countries.
Golkar Party politician Tantowi Yahya, a member of the House of Representatives’ foreign and security commission, said the president’s boldness was a far cry from the foreign policy of his predecessor, Susilo Bambang Yudhoyono.
“During SBY’s term, our foreign politics were made toothless with his ‘Thousand Friends, Zero Enemy’ policy,” Tantowi told reporters.
“But now the world, and all of us [in Indonesia] are mesmerized with [Joko’s] boldness,” he added.
In his speech, Joko channeled the same spirit of challenging Western primacy that drove the inaugural conference in Bandung in 1955.
“The views that say global economic problems can only be solved by the World Bank, IMF and ADB are obsolete views that need to be discarded,” Joko said, drawing applause from the audience that included 21 heads of state and government.
“Global injustice is felt when a group of countries are reluctant to admit that the world has changed.”
Several original participating nations from the Bandung Conference of 60 years ago are today among the biggest and
fastest-growing economies in the world, including Japan, China, India and Indonesia.
But the Bretton Woods global financial institutions established after World War II continue to be dominated by wealthy Western countries.
The United States, for instance, controls a 16.5 percent voting bloc in the IMF, which effectively means the world power can veto any proposal for funds.
Indonesia, which account for 1.1 percent of the global economy and 3.5 percent of the world’s population, however, only has 0.85 percent of votes in the fund.
“It’s imperative that we build a new international economic order that is open to new emerging economic powers,” Joko said on Tuesday.
“We call for a reform of the global, financial architecture.”
International relations expert Teuku Rezasyah from Bandung’s Padjadjaran University praised the president’s criticism of the United Nations’ reluctance to acknowledge Palestinian statehood.
“It is fitting for the president to say that the UN needs to be reformed,” he said.
Rezasyah also lauded Joko’s decision to call for more solidarity between Asian and African countries.
The president’s message “should be followed up with concrete steps. It is more fitting that Indonesia and South Africa spearhead these efforts,” he said.
“Ideally, these ideas should be well maintained by [the delegates’] respective governments,” he added.
On Friday, the last day of the Asian-African Conference, the president looked to the historical greats of both regions who attended the 1955 conference.
“They dared to dream way ahead of their time,” he said.
“Our dreams must also be realized — this can be done through cooperation; through mutual and equal partnerships with other countries.”
To conclude the conference, leaders of Asian and African nations led by Joko, China’s President Xi Jinping and Malaysian
Prime Minister Najib Razak re-enacted the historic walk of 1955 down Jalan Asia Afrika in Bandung.
Thousands of residents flocked to see the procession as honor guards marched with the national flags of the participating countries and dozens of women garbed in traditional West Java dress trailed behind the leaders.
The procession ended at Gedung Merdeka, where both this year’s and the 1955 conference was staged. It is now a museum displaying artifacts and pictures of the Asian-African Conference.
Bandung’s Hussein Sastranegara airport was closed for commercial flights from 4 p.m. on Thursday through 9 p.m. on Friday, as participating delegates headed back to their respective countries.
Representatives of 90 countries from the two continents participated in the conference, including 34 heads of state and heads of government.