President Joko 'Jokowi" Widodo met with Dutch Prime Minister Mark Rutte at the State Palace in November, where they discussed working together to improve trade and investment relations, boost the countries’ respective economies and infrastructure, and commit to better environmental, maritime and water management practices. (Antara Photo/Yudhi Mahatma)

Indonesia's Foreign Affairs in 2016: Strengthening Partnerships and Combating Terrorism, Climate Change


DECEMBER 28, 2016

Jakarta. The world, lacerated by war, terrorism and the emerging threat of climate change, has witnessed a tumultuous series of events from across the globe from the beginning of 2016. In the era of globalization, what happens across the world almost immediately affects others in tremendous ways. As a result, we continue to learn how our interconnected world provides us with opportunities to improve the lives of others across the world.

President Joko “Jokowi” Widodo met with foreign leaders during official state visits throughout the year. This included a meeting with President Park Geun-Hye during a state visit to South Korea in May, and a bilateral meeting with Russian President Vladimir Putin in Sochi prior to the Association of Southeast Asian Nations summit.

In April, Jokowi was welcomed by German Chancellor Angela Merkel in Berlin where they held fruitful discussions on education and improving relations between Indonesia and Germany.

Indonesia also hosted several leaders in 2016, including Philippine President Rodrigo Duterte for his first state visit to Indonesia in September, when the two leaders discussed the war on drugs in their respective countries, among other issues.

Jokowi also met with Dutch Prime Minister Mark Rutte at the State Palace in November, where they discussed working together to improve trade and investment relations, boost the countries’ respective economies and infrastructure, and commit to better environmental, maritime and water management practices.

A bilateral meeting with Sri Lankan Prime Minister Ranil Wickremesinghe was held in Jakarta in August, where the two Asian leaders had discussions focused on anti-terrorism and exporting Indonesian-made train carriages to Sri Lanka.

Towards the end of this year, Indonesia took concrete steps in matters regarding foreign affairs: from the country’s readiness to provide assistance amidst rising tensions in Myanmar's Rakhine State to its ratification of the Paris Agreement in an effort to combat climate change.

This year has offered a glimpse of Indonesia's efforts to maintain regional security, promote bilateral partnerships and multilateral support while aiming for sustainable development and making important progress for the benefit of not only Indonesia, but also the international community as a whole.

Paris Agreement

Indonesia ratified the Paris Agreement in October after receiving approval from the House of Representatives.

The country is one of the world’s largest carbon emitters, slightly behind the United States and China. According to the report "Emissions Database for Global Atmospheric Research 2014," Indonesia released 0.5 billion tons of carbon dioxide in 2013 alone.

The ratification of the Paris Agreement marks a major milestone in Indonesia’s efforts to combat climate change, and has become proof of its commitment to sustainable development in the progress towards the global 2030 agenda.

Indonesia has even formed a special unit that reports directly to the president on ways to tackle carbon emissions in the country. Promoting a green economy and several other new policies, such as renovating public parks to absorb carbon and the green building policy, has shown that the government is willing to take active steps to reduce carbon emissions.

Strengthening partnerships

Indonesia has continued to take an active role in strengthening its partnerships with other countries throughout 2016, with several notable highlights.

In November, Indonesia became the first country in the world to participate in the European Union Forest Law Enforcement, Governance and Trade, or FLEGT, action plan – part of EU's initiative against illegal logging – and now enjoys enhanced access to the European market with its legal timber trade.

The country also made a deal in education with Germany in April, particularly in vocational education, when President Jokowi made a visit to Berlin.

Jokowi’s recent state visits to India and Iran were part of the government’s efforts to increase partnerships in trade, investment and energy. Additionally, through a multilateral maritime innovation event, Indonesia has cooperated with Denmark and Norway to improve its fishing industry and make it more environmentally friendly.

"Partnership is key in a networked world, no country can stand on its own," Minister of Foreign Affairs Retno Marsudi said in her speech delivered at a meeting between Indonesia and an EU joint committee in Brussels, Belgium, in November.


"Indonesia has made great strides in dealing with violent extremism. It enjoys global recognition on deradicalization of individuals, which is something other parts of the world can learn from," United Nations Counter-Terrorism Center director Jehangir Khan said during a press briefing in Jakarta in November.

Indonesia’s counterterrorism policy, which has a focus on tolerance, has garnered praise from the international community. Indonesia has an interesting and unique spotlight as a country with the largest Muslim population, and promotes a brand of religious pluralism that tackles terrorism and global security challenges head on.

Such efforts are witnessed through Retno's lead in an Asean-EU partnership discussion on facing global security challenges in October. The minister has been promoting the importance of interfaith dialogue in her meetings with other foreign ministers.

Rohingya crisis

Through aid and capacity-building assistance, Indonesia took an active role in addressing the humanitarian crisis involving Rohingya Muslims in Rakhine State.

Retno met with Myanmar’s Aung San Suu Kyi earlier this month to discuss the escalating tension in the region and has progressed with a multilateral discussion with Asean’s foreign ministers, which the association’s members agreed to take action to stabilize Rakhine State.

Retno visited the Kutupalong refugee camp in Rakhine, Myanmar, to get a firsthand impression of the situation and condition of the refugees in the Bangladesh-Myanmar border area. She was the first minister to visit the camp since tension rose in Rakhine State on Oct. 9.

The minister’s efforts to resolve the situation is of great importance not only for the region’s stability, but also for the future of regional cooperation in Asean and the role that Indonesia plays in it.

Memberships in international organizations

Indonesia began to review its memberships in international organizations on Jokowi’s order. The move is likely to benefit the country as it allows for greater focus on more relevant issues and to avoid overlapping across international organizations.

As Foreign Affairs Ministry spokesman Arrmanatha Nasir said, the review will be conducted based on how Indonesia can benefit from the international memberships, and what we can contribute to the international community through those organizations.

Retno led a campaign for a temporary membership in the UN Security Council in November, which presents a hopeful outlook that will likely improve the country’s standing in global politics.

The rise and fall of world leaders

In November 2016, Donald Trump shook the world by winning the US presidential election against Hillary Clinton. An unexpected turnout, the results of the 2016 US election will likely affect international relations in the next year, as uncertainties continue to rise as US President-elect Donald Trump gets closer to take office on Jan. 20.

Trump's various controversial statements during campaign has caused a big stir in nations across the globe, including Indonesia. Trump's victory is a turning point as the global economy shifts.

This year also saw an attempted coup to overthrow Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan in July, who condemned the attempt as an attack on democracy. The coup has also affected some education institutions in Indonesia which have allegedly received funding from Fethullah Gulen, a group that Erdogan has accused of standing behind the coup.

Erdogan personally asked Jokowi's administration to shut down nine schools — mostly bilingual school across the archipelago that he believes is backed by Gulen. As Erdogan survived the coup, and quickly purged Turkey of threats to his rule, allegations of several school in Indonesia began to fade away from the spotlight.

Thailand’s King Bhumibol Adulyadej passed away in October, after having served as the longest head of state for 70 years. His deep popularity among the people of Thailand ignited a profound grieving period among the citizens for the loss of their beloved leader. He has been a prominent figure who constantly supported Southeast Asia's policies through thick and thin.

News headlines have had a particularly busy year with their frequent mentions of Duterte, who assumed his presidency in July. Since he took office, Duterte has been openly determined to forge closer ties with China and made shocking comments on foreign leaders. The unexpected move from Duterte to oppose its long-time ally, the US, has made the first Visayan president gain more traction and bargaining power in the international community.

Duterte has also drawn criticism for his infamous war on drugs, to which 6,000 drugs pushers had been killed according to Reuters. This extrajudicial policy of his, has made the UN Human Rights Commission react firmly despite the Filipino people's support over Duterte's no-nonsense policies.