September 27, 2022
JAKARTA – Secretary of State Retno LP Marsudi used her final day speech at the United Nations General Assembly on Monday to warn the world of being drawn into another global war, offered a “new paradigm of cooperation” to avert it and called for upcoming UN reforms.
It was Indonesia’s turn to speak at the gathering, just a day after the United States said it would take “firm action” against Russian threats to use its nuclear arsenal, capping a tense week at the United Nations crosstalk, dwindling solidarity and self-limitation -interest.
“Crisis after crisis is unfolding all over the world,” Retno said as she opened her address at the largest annual event for multilateralism since the COVID-19 pandemic, warning the world to watch for a huge war ahead.
“Let’s take a look at the period before World War II; the Great Depression, the rise of ultra-nationalism, competition for resources and rivalry between great powers,” she said. “These are very similar to those we face today.”
If the world continues down the same path, she added, it would be “headed for disaster.”
“But if we choose a different path,” the minister continued, the world would still have a chance. “So today I want 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 encouraging collaboration rather than competition — is the “transformative solution” the world needs now, Retno said.
The focus of the minister entrusted by President Joko “Jokowi” Widodo with handling Indonesia’s geopolitical affairs at the United Nations seemed to speak directly to the mood of the 77th General Assembly.
Gloomy memories of Russia’s war in Ukraine dominated as political leaders and high-ranking officials took turns speaking in the grey-marbled grandstand of the General Assembly Hall at the UN headquarters in New York, USA.
The lineup of speakers itself has fluctuated wildly this year, with many leaders opting to either forego the annual tradition or shift their schedules to accommodate a trip to the funerals of Britain’s Queen Elizabeth II and the late Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe .
Statements among allied Western nations and Russia, but also Iran, Afghanistan and China, among others, seemed to indicate that a heated debate was brewing, although the way the gathering is structured does not allow for direct answers.
US President Joe Biden has accused Vladimir Putin’s Russia of wanting to “wipe out Ukraine’s right to exist,” while Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov has 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 “prevent the crisis from spilling over” and affecting developing countries.
For Indonesia, respecting international law and promoting cooperation are 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 play by if we really want peace,” she said. “It is our responsibility to apply them consistently – not on an ad hoc basis or only when we see fit.”
Just as this message was conveyed by President Yokovi to Putin and Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskyy during his visit to Moscow and Kyiv in late June, the foreign minister said it also applies to conflicts in Palestine and Afghanistan.
Likewise for the developing countries, who bear the brunt of all these conflicts. “We must act urgently to address food and energy crises and prevent a fertilizer crisis,” Retno said. “Otherwise, billions more people would be at risk, especially in developing countries.
That countries were forcing a tough front against Russia indicated a failure to recognize the interconnectedness of the world, said Dinna Prapto Raharja, founder and senior international relations analyst at Synergy Policies.
Ongoing communication between Europe and the US can be a reassuring sign that full-scale open war can still be avoided, she said, but dialogue on current crises tends to be “Euro-centric” and fails to take into account how smaller countries are being affected.
“Regions that are vulnerable and economically dependent on more powerful nations are being held hostage by these big countries,” Dinna noted. “Your steps are taken in a dead end.”