Keynote Speech by the President of the Republic of Indonesia at The Launching of The Strategic Review Forum in Cooperation with Foreign Policy Association


Auditorium Price Waterhouse Coopers Building, New York,
26 September 2012
Keynote Speech at The Launching of The Strategic Review Forum in Cooperation with Foreign Policy Association

Assalamu’alaikum Wr. Wb.
Peace be upon us all,
Mr. George Soros,
Prof. Kishore Mahbubani,
Special Envoy Lakhdar Brahimi,
Professor Don Emmerson,
Ladies and Gentlemen,
Thank you, Mr. Latief, for the kind words you expressed about Indonesia and me. I am grateful to the Foreign Policy Association for bestowing upon me this medal for leadership in international peace and cooperation.
It is a great honor for me to speak before so distinguished an audience that has been brought together by the World Leadership Forum. I wish to thank the Strategic Review Forum and the Foreign Policy Association for organizing today’s discussions.
Yesterday, at the UNGA General Debate, I delivered a statement where I suggested that we have moved from the era of the “Cold War” to an era of “warm peace”.
This “warm peace” is still short from a condition of total peace. While the relations among the major powers are stable and cooperative, there are seismic power-shifts at work that will continue to unsettle the international system, for the better. Old enmities remain unresolved – in the Korean Peninsula, in the South China Sea, in the Arab-Israeli conflicts and many others - and they can still potentially erupt into open conflict. And in this “warm peace”, pockets of hatred and bigotry, intolerance and extremism continue to litter our world.
One of the great challenges of this “warm peace” is how to accommodate the rise of emerging powers in the 21st century international system. This is what I wish to talk to you about today.
I am aware that there are many views of which countries qualify as emerging powers. Well, to me, an emerging power is any nation that has strong economic performance, and political confidence, and one that is punching above its weight diplomatically. Emerging powers are easy to spot, because they tend to stand apart from others in their pack.
When talking about emerging powers, pundits tend to talk about China and India, but of course the list is more extensive. The 8 non-western economies in the G-20 certainly qualify as emerging powers : Argentina, Brazil, Indonesia, India, Mexico, Saudi Arabia, South Africa and Turkey. In Middle-East, new economic and cultural powerhouses have emerged. And this line-up will continue to extend. Goldman-Sachs, for example, predicted that future growth would also be driven what he called the Next-11 countries, which included : Bangladesh, Egypt, Indonesia, Iran, Mexico, Nigeria, Pakistan, The Philippines, Turkey, South Korea and Vietnam. Which ever the candidates, what is sure is that more and more countries will join the ranks of emerging powers.
There have always been many aspiring emerging nations – and they have come and go. What is different about today’s emerging powers is that this time they have economic power.
Economics, of course, is what makes nations relevant. You may have all the military arsenals in the world – as the Soviet Union did – but ultimately it is your economy that defines your true strength as a nation. It is the economy that helps determine a country’s influence in the community of nations.
In the 1960’s, for example, Indonesia’s President Soekarno attempted to gather a conference of “new emerging forces”. It was a great idea, and the movement did proceed well especially as a global political movement for several years, before it faded away. Back then, the Indonesian economy, like many developing countries at that time, was still struggling with poverty and inflation. 4 decades later when our economy reached high growth and became the largest economy in Southeast Asia. Without much fanfare, we naturally became part of the G-20 Summit, the premier forum for international economic cooperation.
The emerging powers today become even more attractive given the stark contrasts with the gloomy outlook that is felt in parts of the western world. And the projections for emerging economies are bright. Within the G20, for example, each of the G-7 countries will be surpassed by the 8 emerging economies in the G20. Indonesia is predicted to match the size of the British economy in the coming decades.
Thus, emerging economies not only became hard to ignore, they became a necessary partner, and increasingly seen as part of solution to global issues – for the financial crisis, food security, trade, investment and the environment.
The rise of emerging powers have caused a new phenomenon : the proliferation of strategic partnerships. More and more, emerging powers are turning to one another for diplomatic support and new initiatives. This process is still quite sporadic, with no set patterns. But it is a growing phenomenon. For example, in recent years alone, Indonesia, has developed strategic partnerships or comprehensive partnerships with China, India, South Korea, Turkey, Brazil, and South Africa.
With growing assets, come increased sense of entitlement. There is certainly a tendency for greater diplomatic activism among the emerging powers. They want to be part of solution. And often they want to be on the driver’s seat. Countries in Southeast Asia, for example, define a healthy regionalism in terms of “ASEAN Community” and “ASEAN Centrality” where they are the main drivers in the affairs of their region.
I also notice one common denominator among emerging powers. The growing phenomenon of confidence. Diplomatic confidence, political confidence, economic confidence, and even cultural confidence. This usually begin to form after they score one success and crave for more. And the more they win, the more they begin to see the world not as a threat, but as opportunity.
Confidence is important of course because without it you cannot achieve much, and with it, you can achieve anything. Even country that qualify as emerging power has this quality of confidence, although at varying degrees. A poll by The Economist found that in Brazil, India and China some 85 – 92 % felt satisfied with the way their countries are heading. In Indonesia, in an independent poll taken by LSI, 85 % - irregardless of their political persuasion - said that they were satisfied with the country’s system and the direction we are taking. This year, the Economists also reported a poll by research firm IPSOS conducted in 24 countries, and found that Indonesians are the happiest people on the planet.
It comes as no surprise, therefore, that these emerging powers are now eager to project their art and cultures to the world. This is a good sign of pride and optimism, and reflects an outward-looking attitude. Indonesia also have been active in spreading our culture worldwide : batik, angklung, gamelan, pencak silat martial arts, and others. In this, I am delighted that Ambassador Dino Patti Djalal last year launched a successful American Batik Design Competition, and also scored a historic Guinness Book of World Record for the Largest Angklung Ensemble.
All in all, the emergence of emerging powers is good for the world. They help strengthen the system, and their economic assets help power global growth. The participation of emerging powers means added capacity to cope resolve global challenges, especially as the resources of the developed countries become more constrained. I am particularly pleased to see that a number of developing countries have become centers of innovation. Which means that innovation today can really come from all parts of the world as opposed to being concentrated in developed world as had happened in the past.
What is certain is that the world will function differently than the way it did. In the 20th century, right after World War 2 ended, the west to a large degree dictated the terms in the new world order. When the “Cold War” ended in the early 1990’s, there was also a feeling that this was a victory for the west – which led Francis Fukuyama to come up with his End of History theory. But we know that, today, major power shifts are taking place in the international system. In this, the west can no longer dictate the emerging powers to come to its terms. Similarly, the emerging powers cannot dictate the west to come to their terms. They must find a meeting point so that they will arrive at mutually-agreed common terms.
This is a process that will take some time. On the economic front, there has been some encouraging progress in terms of reforming the global architecture, especially with the G-20 rising to the fore.
But in terms of security, the international security architecture has not moved much. The alliance systems have been largely intact. The members of the UN Security Council have also not changed. And as we see in the Syrian crisis, the UN Security Council remains divided and helpless in addressing the problem.
The rise and proliferation of emerging powers will change the weight of the world, and every change in power relations brings consequences. In the past, this major strategic readjustment is something that often led to new conflicts and even wars. In the 21st century, it does not have to be that way. That is why we must do all we can to ensure that the rise of emerging powers will actually reinforce peace and cooperation among nations.
Thus Indonesia is helping build in the region a balanced and inclusive relationship among the Asia-Pacific powers that we have termed “dynamic equilibrium.” This means a state of affairs in which harmony and collaboration leads to a win-win situation among all participants.
This is important because international relations should not be a zero-sum game. It has to bring mutual benefits. It has to be based on equal and common interests and shared responsibility. It has to be with a forward-looking attitude.
If the emerging economies and the developed countries can seize the day, and if they can get together and work together a robust partnership, I am confident that historic breakthroughs will follow. Ours will be a stronger world that can finally solve long-festering global problems. And ours will be a more compassionate, more equitable global politics that all humankind can be proud of.
I thank you.