H.E. Dr. N. Hassan Wirajuda
Minister for Foreign Affairs
Republic of Indonesia
At the 63rd Session of
The UN General Assembly
New York, 29 September 2008
May I first congratulate you on your assumption of the presidency of this 63rd Session of the General Assembly. I am sure you will lead our deliberations with great wisdom and skill. I wish also to congratulate your predecessor, H.E. Mr. Srgian Kerim, for ably guiding our 62nd Session.
It is timely and wise that we should focus our deliberations on the global food crisis and on the democratization of the United Nations. While these two issues appear to be vastly different, they have more to do with each other than meets the eye.
For democracy means nothing if a part of humankind is well fed but a larger part of it goes to bed hungry every night. Human equality is a mirage in any country where a part of the population struggles against obesity while a larger part of it wonders where the next meal is coming from.
I do not exaggerate: according to the FAO, food prices will remain high for the next three to five years. Rice stocks are falling to their lowest level since the mid-1970s. Wheat stocks are sinking to their lowest since 1948. Compounding the situation is the explosive growth of the world population.
There is a huge unfilled demand for food. Food riots have already erupted in parts of the Middle East, Africa, Asia and the Caribbean. In 33 countries, especially those with fragile states there is real and present danger of social and political unrest because people are hungry.
We must vigorously address this problem of global food insecurity. Otherwise peace is at risk in the developing world and in pockets of the developed world.
What the world needs today is a new green revolution. A green revolution that this time embraces the entire developing world, especially Africa. Developing countries must now put agriculture—especially food production—back into the core of their development agenda. For their part, the developed countries must put agriculture and food production into the core of their trade and aid programmes.
In this regard, the experience of Indonesia may be instructive. It is not easy to feed a population of 230 million, but there are no food riots in Indonesia. Last year we had a surplus production of rice. We use the surplus to bolster our national stockpile. That has contributed to national stability.
This year we expect another surplus of five percent, which brings production up to 36 million tones. We are going to export part of that as our contribution to global food security.
We can do that because we have vastly improved our rice productivity – by providing our farmers with microfinancing, improved seed varieties, cheap but appropriate farm technology and affordable fertilizers. We have thus developed some experience and expertise that worked for us and can work in other developing countries. We will continue to share these with them in the spirit of South-South Cooperation.
Food security is a cause in which everyone must be involved. In this light, I firmly believe this General Assembly of ours is called upon to take a number of concrete measures.
First, we can task the World Bank and the relevant UN bodies to develop ways and means of helping national governments spend more on agriculture and on rural infrastructures to empower small farmers.
Second, let us ensure that the appropriate UN bodies link up with regional mechanisms for food security, such as common food reserves and early warning systems on regional food crises. ASEAN has such an arrangement and so do other regional organizations. The UN can serve as the hub while the regional arrangements serve as the spokes of a global wheel for food security.
Third, let us establish the framework for a global partnership on food security. We should ensure that the WTO Doha Development negotiations reach a conclusion that supports increased food production. And let us make use of the forthcoming review of the Monterey Consensus on financing for development as an opportunity for devising ways of funding the Green Revolution.
Let us be mindful, however, that agriculture does not always lead to a food harvest. It is even possible that an imprudent rush to produce biofuels, will lead to a severe reduction of food supply.
It is true that by switching from fossil fuels to biofuels, we can cushion the impact of the skyrocketing of the world price of oil. Thereby we address the energy crisis.
And it is true that by making that switch in fuels, we reduce greenhouse gas emissions. Thereby we address the challenge of climate change.
But it would be unwise and reckless to address two crises by aggravating a third. We cannot allay the energy crisis and the crisis of global warming by deepening the global food crisis. That will only worsen the plight of humankind.
But we can carry out a broad range of rationalized and coordinated policies and initiatives that address these crises systemically.
We can address the energy crisis by developing all alternative sources of available energy—which will help mitigate global warming.
Moreover, in the next 16 months, we can advance the climate change agenda through the Bali Roadmap all the way from Bali to Copenhagen through Poznan. Indonesia is fully committed to this process. After hosting the Bali Conference that produced the Roadmap, we have joined the Troika of host countries to give the process a push among world leaders.
By 2009 we should produce an ambitious post-2012 global climate regime that will contain global warming to within two degrees Celsius in the next 20 years. But even before the process is concluded in Copenhagen, we in Indonesia are partnering with other countries in enhancing our tropical forests and coral reefs in an effort to reduce carbon emissions.
Even as we face the challenge of global warming in the physical world, we must also deal with the reality of a global chill in the politico-security field. Symptoms of that chill are the military tensions are the military tensions that have taken place in Eastern Europe.
There is also a new arms race. There is more military spending now than at the end of the Cold War. Moreover, the conflicts and tensions of a year ago are still with us.
The dream of establishing a Palestinian state by the end of this year has virtually crumbled. The Iraqi and Afghan conflicts keep raging on. North Korea, the subject of so much uncertainty today, is backsliding from its commitment to dismantle its nuclear weapon programme. The nuclear issue in Iran remains unresolved.
In the face of these conflicts and tensions, the UN Security Council should have been more decisive. That the Council has failed to address them is cause for concern.
Of the issues that the Council has failed to resolve, two are of great concern to Indonesia. Those recent cases that directly infringe on the principal of territorial integrity and political independence of states, both involving external intervention that led to a secession of a part or parts of a state. Both cases involved Major Powers.
It is of the great importance to Indonesia and to many developing countries that those recent cases must not create an ill-advised and dangerous precedent. Developing countries in the midst of nation-building and state-building would be extremely vulnerable to such a precedent.
The danger is that it takes only one such misstep to kill a principle that has been enshrined in the UN Charter—the principle of the sovereignty of states. Kill that principle and you have killed the ideal that holds the United Nations together.
The sovereignty of states must be preserved if there is to be a democratic spirit in international relations. This is essential—because without democracy, a world organization like the United Nations cannot be effective. Indeed, the failure of the Security Council to come to grips with recent challenges to global security is due largely to the fact that it is not democratic enough.
To make the Council more democratic, the veto power of the Permanent Five must be regulated. The misuse of the veto by any one Permanent Member should no longer be allowed to paralyze the entire Council.
Democratization of the Council also means an equitable distribution of its membership—not only in terms of geographical representation, where we already have imbalances—but also in terms of constituencies. Hence, the world’s major civilizations should be proportionately represented. The world’s community of 1.1 billion Muslims must be represented on the Council if it is to be truly democratic.
The need for democratization is also deeply felt at the regional level. In ASEAN, I am pleased to say, we have responded to this need. The cause of democracy is gaining ground in the region as we transform ASEAN from a loose association into a true Community that is firmly committed to the promotion of democracy and human rights. All members, without exception, strongly share this commitment.
It is in this spirit that Indonesia is launching the Bali Democracy Forum this December. This is not an exclusive forum among democracies but an inclusive and open forum for countries of Asia to share their experiences and best practices in fostering democracy.
For a true democracy is always homegrown. It is never anything that is imposed by outside.
Meanwhile we in Indonesia continue to tend to our young democracy. We are seeing to it that democracy take roots—not only by holding free elections but also by working hard to provide good governance, to sustain a system of checks and balances among the three branches of government, and to strengthen the roles of the mass media and civil society in our national life.
And thus we pursue the democratic ideal: democracy at the level of the United Nations, democracy at the regional level, and democracy within the nation.
And at each of these levels, it is our fervent hope to see nations and people taking control of their lives, taking part in the decision-making processes that shape their future.
The realization of that ideal will give full meaning to the first three words of the UN Charter. Indeed, “We the Peoples..”is what democracy is all about.