The high stakes of President Jokowi's international agenda

06 October 2015

The high stakes of President Jokowi's international agenda

President Joko Widodo will visit the United States Oct. 25–28, 2015, following an invitation from U.S. President Barack Obama. President Widodo’s visit, his first to the U.S. as Indonesia’s head-of-state, is announced jointly by the US and Indonesian governments. It will be a historic opportunity to highlight the importance of Indonesia-U.S. cooperation on global affairs. What do we have beyond the diplomatic statements?

There is reason to be supportive of President Jokowi's international activities in and by themselves. But ultimately the results have to impact domestic needs. Our economy is not growing well, the Rupiah is succumbing to the stronger US Dollar and global capital flows. Employment is stagnant and shifting to informal sectors as there is no growth of real investments. At the root of the bottom, infrastructure is severely underequipped to cope with increasing development demands.

The public is skeptical of international forays that have been discredited by the numerous irrelevant trips by parliament members and government visits by previous governments. 

The need is pressing for the public to perceive an agenda of issues that presidential visits will address. Successive president visits must form aprogression of content.

The President will be making trips abroad every month. October to Washington DC, November to Antalya, Turkey the G20 summit, December to Paris for the COP21.

The public must be made to understand that these meetings will help to reach the objective of economic stabilization and growth which will be achieved by accelerated infrastructure development.

This kind of public awareness is facilitated when we apply the proper perspective to the multitude of international issues that crowd the public consciousness

Clearing the way for infrastructure development.The administration of President Joko Widodo has set an infrastructure target to be achieved by 2019, in which 24 seaports, 15 airports, power plants with a capacity of 35,000 megawatts and nine million hectares of agriculture land will be developed.

This is the main imperative of the Jokowi vision and the key to midterm and long-term economic development. But there is an  "elephant in the living room", a metaphorical idiom for an obvious truth that is either being ignored or going unaddressed. The idiomatic expression also applies to an obvious problem or risk no one wants to discuss.

Climate change is a threat to our survival. But there are people who are still unaware of their issue because their immediate interests are not served by the notion that climate change is a loving-term issue, which it is not.

The immediate prerequisites for development are action on climate change and immediate economic stabilization. Our elephant is climate change, a serious risk not just to development but also to the very survival of society as we know it.

Being an island nation with a coastline second only in length to sparsely populated Canada, Indonesia one of the most vulnerable countries to climate change. Having forests that are being burned and destroyed, we stand to lose the very resources that are feeding us with oxygen. Yet Indonesia is one of the most potent countries in contributing to mitigation and adaptation to climate change. We have traditional wisdom that knows how to take care of our forests, a strength that is often recognized by world meetings and awards to indigenous peoples.

When Indonesia speaks up on climate change, the world listens more than they do on any issue. The COP21 climate conference in Paris is eagerly awaiting the call of President Jokowi to rally the world to action against climate change. COP21 brings the opportunity for Indonesia to firm up its national agenda with international support. There must be consistency in the international agenda, and climate policies underline that consistency.

International road map. Preceded by bilateral talks in the US this month and the G20 in Turkey next month, Paris brings us to a major milestone in our road map. The COP21 meeting is scheduled to start on December 1. The stage is set for the Indonesian president in a special event. 

Leadership in climate change immediately brings credibility in the global economic and investment agenda.  The paradigm shift in the annual UNFCCC COPs that represent global action on climate change, will bring bottom-up decision making, putting initiative in the hands of the developing countries. It is the parallel of the paradigm shift in Indonesia from a top-down authoritarian system to President Jokowi's democratic and practical approach.

President Widodo’s visit to the United States will include a bilateral meeting with President Obama at the White House on Oct. 26, and meetings with senior figures of the U.S. Government, the U.S. Congress, as well as business leaders in Washington, D.C. onOct. 26-27. The following day, President Widodo will visit San Francisco for meetings with business communities and university leaders.

Jokowi's passion for infrastructure development is well recognized. So is his commitment to investment and employment. They will have larger chance of success after a strong showing in Paris when Indonesia asserts its global leadership through practical yet ambitious programs.

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