The absence of President Joko “Jokowi” Widodo from the United Nations General Assembly for the eighth consecutive year is a missed opportunity for Jakarta to present its views on major global issues and lowers Indonesia’s position at the G20 presidency, analysts and lawmakers said.
Since taking office in 2014, Jokowi has never attended meetings of the global body in person and will not attend this year’s session in New York as he faces pressing domestic issues, said the presidential secretariat.
Sukamta, a lawmaker from the opposition Prosperous Justice Party, said Jokowi’s presence at the United Nations headquarters could be an opportunity to show Indonesia’s leadership on the international stage amid a transformation of a unipolar world to a multipolar world.
“It is quite unfortunate that Mr. Jokowi is not [going to be] present at the United Nations General Assembly,” Sukamta told BenarNews.
“In today’s uncertain global situation, the world needs new leaders.”
Jokowi attended last year’s General Assembly via video link as Southeast Asia’s most populous country reeled from a surge in COVID-19 cases.
This year, Indonesia is expected to be represented by Foreign Minister Retno Marsudi, while Jokowi will stay at home, head of the presidential secretariat Heru Budi Hartono said. Retno is due to address the General Assembly on Monday.
“[The president] first wants to focus more on domestic issues. There are many urgent tasks that need to be discussed with ministers,” Heru told BenarNews.
However, attending the UN meeting in person would have been a good opportunity for Jakarta to show leadership ahead of what is expected to be a contentious G20 summit in Bali in November, said Yanuardi Syukur, a researcher at the Center for on strategic policies from the University of Indonesia.
“Ideally, as the chair of the G20, Indonesia should seize every opportunity to show the world that it is capable of exercising global leadership,” Yanuardi told BenarNews.
In his August 16 state of the nation address, Jokowi said that with his presidency of the G20 this year and the Association of Southeast Asian Nations (ASEAN) next year, the Indonesia was “at the pinnacle of world leadership”.
Jokowi now needs to be more assertive at the upcoming G20 summit to make up for his no-show at the General Assembly Hall, Yanuardi said.
The preparation for the Bali meeting has been marked in recent months by divisions within the G20 over Russia’s war in Ukraine. Western countries condemned Russia for invading Ukraine, but other members including China, Indonesia and India refused to follow suit and maintained ties with Moscow.
As this year’s holder of the rotating G20 presidency, Jokowi sought unity among the group of the world’s 20 major industrialized and emerging economies ahead of the summit.
In March, US President Joe Biden, who is also expected to attend the summit, urged Jokowi to invite Ukraine as a guest if Russia was not kicked out of the group for invading its smaller neighbor in late February.
Jokowi said in August that Russian President Vladimir Putin and Chinese leader Xi Jinping were both due to attend the G20 summit.
Dinna Prapto Raharja, co-founder of think tank Sinergy Policies, said face-to-face meetings with other leaders at the UN General Assembly would have helped Jokowi push for G20 unity.
“Presence [at the U.N.] also symbolizes support for multilateralism” amid global power rivalry, Dinna told BenarNews.
“More concerned with domestic politics”
Muhammad Syaroni Rofii, a lecturer in international relations at the School of Strategic and Global Studies at the University of Indonesia, said Jokowi might have chosen to stay in the country because of the almost daily street protests. against a recent government decision to raise fuel prices by 30%.
“It looks like Mr. Jokowi wants to make sure the domestic situation is stable,” Syaroni told BenarNews.
Syaroni said Jokowi’s physical absence from the General Assembly for eight consecutive years could also reflect his priorities.
Jokowi is more concerned with domestic politics. Infrastructure development is its top priority. Meanwhile, foreign policy is mainly delegated to Foreign Minister Retno Marsudi,” Syaroni said.
Atip Latipulhayat, a professor of international law at Padjadjaran University in Bandung, pitted Jokowi against founding President Sukarno who used his speech at the United Nations General Assembly in 1960 to rally the world against imperialism.
“If I was asked to guess the reason, I suspect that Mr. Jokowi feels that he is not a man of ideas, unlike Sukarno,” Atip said.
This could be why Jokowi’s attempt to mediate between Russia and Ukraine was unsuccessful, he said.
“Things could have been different if he had invested in the UN forums,” he said.