Indonesia’s Bid for a UN Security Council Seat

28 September 2016 Jarryd de Haan, Research Analyst, Indian Ocean Research Programme

Background

Indonesia has officially started lobbying for a non-permanent seat in the UN Security Council (UNSC) for the 2019-2020 term. The bid was officially announced during a speech at the 71st General Assembly on 23 September by Indonesia’s Vice President, Muhammad Jusuf Kalla. Indonesian Foreign Ministry spokesperson, Arrmanatha Nasir, initially announced that Indonesia will open its bid for a seat in the UNSC earlier on 1 September when he said, ‘The UNSC is where Indonesia’s voice can directly reach the world and our influence can be apparent. There, Indonesia can contribute to constructing what we call World Order.’ Former Foreign Minister Hasan Wirayuda has also recently criticised the UNSC for failing to do its job in maintaining global security adding that ‘Indonesia should be more frequently involved in the UN Security Council considering Indonesia’s significance as a middle power country’.

Comment

During the same assembly, some Pacific countries criticised Indonesia’s human rights record in its Papua and West Papua provinces. During their address, delegations from the Marshall Islands, Solomon Islands, Nauru, Tuvalu, Tonga and Vanuatu all conveyed their concerns over West Papua issues and requested action on behalf of the UN. Specifically, Prime Minister of Tuvalu Enele Sopoaga suggested that the UN ‘must not allow actions in the guise of principles of non-interference and sovereignty as reasons for inaction. The UN must act on this issue and find a workable solution to give autonomy to the Indigenous Peoples of West Papua.’ In response, Indonesia’s representative Nara Masista Rakhmatia rejected the claims of abuse, accused the Pacific countries of undermining Indonesian sovereignty by supporting separatists and diverting attention away from their own domestic social and political problems.

Despite the controversy stemming from this, Indonesia seems likely to win its bid. The members of the Association of Southeast Asian Nations (ASEAN) have mutually agreed to support each other’s bid in the UNSC, taking turns in holding the Asia-Pacific seat. Following their 46th meeting, which concluded on 30 June 2013, ASEAN released a joint-statement which stated in part, ‘we reaffirmed ASEAN’s support for Malaysia, Thailand, Indonesia, Vietnam, and the Philippines’ candidature to become Non-Permanent Members of the UN Security Council for the year 2015-2016, 2017-2018, 2019-2020, 2020-2021, and 2027-2028 respectively’. While Thailand’s bid did fail, Malaysia was successful in its bid thanks to the support of ASEAN. The only other candidate for the Asia-Pacific seat so far has been the Maldives, which has yet to hold a temporary seat at the council despite being a member of the UN for over fifty years. Indonesia on the other hand, has held three terms for a total of six years. The Maldives also faces problems of its own over human rights abuses. Just last month on 9 October, UN High Commissioner for Human Rights Zeid Ra’ad Al Hussein urged the Maldives to refrain from going ahead with planned executions, pleas which so far have been ignored.

India may, however, also contend the seat. This could complicate matters for Indonesia although it could be said that the political climate in the region favours Indonesia’s bid. With increasing attention on combatting terrorism as well as ongoing developments in the South China Sea, Indonesia’s role in combatting extremism and its mediatory role in the South China Sea dispute places Jakarta in a strong position to win the bid. India, on the other hand, was recently denied permanent membership of the UN Security Council ‘because of its involvement in the massacre of Kashmiris’. This, and recent inflammatory comments from Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi that Delhi ‘will leave no stone unturned to isolate Pakistan in the world’ and that ‘I want to tell the people of Pakistan, India is ready to fight you’ could hamper its bid for the Asia-Pacific seat.

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