Flags of participating nations are being prepared at the Jakarta Convention Center, where the Asian-African Conference was opened on Sunday. (Antara Photo/Hafidz Mubarak A.)

Asian-African Conference Kicks Off to Boost South-South Cooperation


APRIL 19, 2015

Jakarta. The 60th commemoration of the Asian-African Conference kicked off in the Indonesian capital on Sunday, amid high hopes to boost cooperation among countries of the Global South.

"I officially open the Exhibition of South-South and Triangular Cooperation and the 60th Asian-African Conference," Indonesian Foreign Affairs Minister Retno Marsudi said at the Jakarta Convention Center (JCC) on Sunday.

Retno said she was pleased that countries around the world had placed their trust in Indonesia to enhance South-South cooperation in the political, economic, social, cultural, environmental and technical domains.

According to Retno, Indonesia had already launched some 400 programs, involving at least 4,400 people from 99 countries across Asia, the Pacific, Africa and Latin America, to stimulate cooperation.

"We need to go further, that's why we need to strengthen it [cooperation]," she said.

The minister also called on donor countries and multilateral organizations to facilitate South-South initiatives through the provision of funding, training and managerial and technological support, often referred to as triangular cooperation.

"Indonesia is very committed to developing that form of cooperation […] One day, this cooperation will not only narrow the gap between countries but also contribute to growth and peace," Retno said.

Security, traffic

Jakarta military commander Maj. Gen. Agus Sutomo, meanwhile, said around 3,000 soldiers would be on standby to help secure the high-level conference, which will last through Friday and also features sessions in Bandung, the capital of West Java province.

"The army is 100 percent ready to protect the Asian-African Conference," Agus said. "Let's all work together to make the event a success."

Jakarta Governor Basuki Tjahaja Purnama stressed that the city, too, was ready to host the conference.

"We were asked to ensure that the city's traffic is in order," said Basuki, who is popularly known as Ahok.

Jakarta generally is regarded as the city with the worst traffic congestion in the world, with its notorious traffic jams causing hours of delays every day for most commuters.

The city administration suspended the weekly Car-Free Day in the center on Sunday and throughout the week traffic will be redirected at several key locations to make sure conference participants will not be hindered on their trips to and from venues.

The Jakarta Police, meanwhile, called on potential protesters to suspend any plans to hit the streets during the six-day conference.

"I urge the public to not hold rallies because this will create traffic jams," Insp. Gen. Unggung Cahyono, the chief of the Jakarta Police, told the state-run news agency Antara on Sunday.

Unggung added that people should help keep the order in the capital to boost the country's image.

'Drug emergency'

President Joko Widodo's chief of staff, Luhut Binsar Panjaitan, who oversees the organization of the Asian-African Conference, said Indonesia would also highlight the issue of drug abuse in its discussions with other countries in attendance.

"Indonesia will talk about drugs, since [drug abuse] is the country's biggest enemy," said Luhut. "Drugs are a cross-border problem — they don't make any distinction based on race, religion or work. We have to resolve this together to protect our nation and future generations."

Luhut added that this year's Asian-African Conference would also focus on human rights, tolerance and strategies to deal with the rise of the radical Islamic State group in the Middle East.

"Justice and human rights issue are very sensitive issues. There have been hundreds of thousands of people dying in Syria," said Luhut. "We would like to share our experience with our friends on how to build a tolerant society despite our differences."

Three official statements will be prepared during the conference: a general Bandung Message, a declaration on the New Asian-African Strategic Partnership (NAASP) and a document to express support for the Palestinian declaration of independence.

The first Asian-African Conference was held in Bandung in 1955.