A Conversation with Marty Natalegawa
JAMES ZIRIN: This promises to be a really exciting program. We're delighted to have Foreign Minister Natalegawa with us.
Just a few ground rules, which I'm compelled to inform you of, even though you've heard them before. Please turn your cellphones off, your BlackBerrys off, if you -- if it has a button, press the button because the vibration interferes with the sound system. And this meeting is on the record. And I think what we'll do is we'll -- the foreign minister and I will have a conversation for about 30 minutes, and then we'll open it up to questioning. And I hope we can go around the table, and everyone will participate.
I met the foreign minister about a year ago when he spoke at the council -- and really interesting program. It was -- I remember it was moderated by Lee Cullum. And then I met him again -- had the pleasure of meeting him again in Jakarta on a council trip that Richard Haass led, which was extremely instructive.
I assume you've all read his biography. Briefly, he was the permanent representative of Indonesia to the United Nations for two years, and then subsequently he became the foreign minister, a post which he has held for the last two years. And he has been a very active foreign minister, and Indonesia has been a country where there's been a tremendous amount of foreign relations activity, particularly in the last year.
You all doubtless have some background in Indonesia. There are -- it's a fascinating country. It consists of 17,000 islands or more, most of them uninhabited. It's the world's largest Muslim country, and it consists of 240 million people. There are at least five religious traditions that exist there, dozens of ethnicities. It's a country of tolerance. It's a country of democracy. It's a model for the developing world.
There -- of course you know its history. A decade or more ago it had autocratic rule under Sukarno. Now it has a vibrant democracy. A decade or more ago it was on the verge of economic collapse. And now it has achieved a growth rate of about 5 percent a year. Its debt-to-GDP ratio is an enviable, I think, around 27 percent. I won't compare it invidiously with ours in the United States. And I think we all have to salute the foreign minister on the economic and political turnaround in his country.
And my first question is what are you going to do for an encore?
FOREIGN MINISTER MARTY NATALEGAWA: Thank you very much, James and Richard, for once again -- once again welcoming me and my colleagues here at the council. I recall with great deal of appreciation our conversation this time last year. And very, very happy to be back at the council.
Yes, it has been -- you know, I mean, when looking back what has happened over the past one year since we last met here in the council, there's been so much change in the international setting. Not least, of course, all of us have been very much preoccupied with what is happening in North Africa, in the Middle East, the so-called Arab Spring and possible implications to the geopolitics of the region and beyond and how those particular developments, on the other hand, also reminds of the relative lack of development in the Middle East peace process.
But the point I wish to make, James, is that change is a given, and therefore a country like Indonesia in the conduct of its foreign policy must integrate the reality of change within its foreign policy posture, within its foreign policy outlook. And the fact that Indonesia, as James has said, that -- as you have kindly acknowledged, continue to make robust economic achievements. The economic growth in 2010 was 6 percent annual economic growth, and in 2011 we anticipate 6.5 percent economic growth. In the context of the current global financial economic downturn, I think those kind of figures are especially noteworthy.
So our interests, James, is to be able to transform or based on those economic and solid and sound domestic settings to be able to project that in the conduct of our foreign policy, especially in the regional setting. In ASEAN, I think that you are probably aware in 2011 we are -- have been chairing ASEAN for the past nine months or so. And I believe I shared with some of you who were in Jakarta what our outlook was for ASEAN chairmanship. And I think after nine months or so of that responsibility, we are where we should be in terms of the targets. And I'm very pleased to share with you what those targets have been and where we are if you so wish for me to describe it.
ZIRIN: Well, ASEAN, Association of Southeast Asian Nations, has been the centerpiece of your foreign policy as a trading group and as a political group. And what do you believe you've achieved in the last year since you assumed the chair?
NATALEGAWA: Well, we're always keen to differentiate between chairmanship and leadership. Chairmanship is something that comes naturally in terms of sequence, that it's a particular country's time to chair ASEAN, in this instance Indonesia in 2011. But ever since we assumed that chairmanship, we were keen to ensure that we project a certain kind of leadership. We take ASEAN from one situation to another, a better state of affairs.
And in this connection we have set for ourselves three principal priorities. One is deliberately housekeeping and inward looking, namely to ensure that ASEAN makes significant progress in its attempt to achieve community by 2015. As you would no doubt be aware, ASEAN has set for itself the target of achieving ASEAN community, a political community, security community, economic and social/cultural community by 2015. So we were keen to ensure that during the course of our chairmanship, substantial progress is made in that direction. But what is most noteworthy perhaps is that rather than simply legislating or enacting resolutions, declarations, agreements by ASEAN -- which obviously are already plenty -- we'd rather focus on the implementation of existing prior commitments, especially in the area of conflict resolution.
Now ASEAN has voluminous documents relating to how conflicts should be resolved peacefully amongst themselves, but for the most part, those instruments have not been resorted to, have not been mutualized. And we began a game -- hopefully a game-changing paradigm-shifting approach when we first encountered the conflict between Thailand and Cambodia early in February of 2011. We deliberately and purposefully inject ASEAN's involvement in the conflict between the two fellow ASEAN member states, an issue that was brought of course to the Security Council in February. But this time around we have an ASEAN script; there is an ASEAN answer to the situation, and therefore when the issue was discussed in the council, Security Council, it was a matter of the Security Council endorsing the ASEAN approach. So in the conflict resolution domain, 2011 has been very much the empowering or the enactment of the carrying out of existing principles.
ZIRIN: And it also meditated a dispute with China, the naval dispute in the South China Sea within the past year..
NATALEGAWA: That's correct. Absolutely, absolutely. I was about to say that as well. In the South China Sea, the overlapping claims and disputes in that part of Southeast Asia has been a source of tensions for many, many years and -- between China and ASEAN and the other -- (inaudible) -- powers as well.
Now, this year, after 11 years or eight years of negotiations, finally we agreed to the guidelines on the code of conduct on how countries in the region are to behave, are to conduct themselves in the South China Sea. So that was a very important confidence-building measure. But we are now proceeding to the actual code of conduct itself. We are now moving forward to having a legally binding code of conduct for the countries in the region, how to behave themselves or to conduct themselves on the South China Sea. So whether it's been bilateral, ASEAN -- intra-ASEAN, ASEAN and the other countries, we have injected a more action-oriented, more operational ASEAN.
The second priority has been the regional architecture itself, wider, beyond ASEAN. And here I think -- I remember at this time last year when I came here, we were talking about the East Asia Summit, Russia, United States, how they will participate. And finally we have in a month's time the summit that will be attended by the two presidents of Russia and the United States.
And what we have been doing, James, over the past nine months or so -- we are now identifying basic principles on how the countries of East Asia will conduct themselves, like nonuse of force, transparency measures, confidence-building measures. We hope, in other words, to create a security community almost whereby countries of East Asia -- you could imagine the -- its importance, relations between China and U.S., China and India, Japan and China. These are major axes in the region's dynamics. And through the East Asia summit, through ASEAN, we are -- we are projecting the norms by which these big countries should conduct themselves in a more peaceful and benign manner.
And lastly, just quickly, we are also taking ASEAN to a higher level, ASEAN in the global community of nations. This is, again, Indonesia's initiative. Basically, we have set for ourselves a 10-year program whereby ASEAN after 10 years, hopefully less, will speak with greater cohesion on global issues -- not quite an ASEAN common foreign policy, but certainly as ASEAN common platform on global issues. So there is a deliberate three-pronged strategy that we are pursuing.
ZIRIN: Do you see the summit of East Asian leaders as being a new platform that will displace ASEAN in any way? I mean, here you have world leaders converging on Jakarta next month, or in November.
NATALEGAWA: Yes, well, it is a new forum in this -- as it's revamped. You have there of course the ASEAN 10. You have your India, China, Japan, Korea, Australia, New Zealand, and now with the two additional, Russia and United States. It is deliberately and by definition an ASEAN-led forum, an ASEAN -- in a central role.
But what I have been suggesting to my ASEAN colleagues is that ASEAN centrality or ASEAN-led nature of East Asia Summit cannot be legislated, cannot simply happen by repeatingly saying so. We need to deliver. That is why we have these principles that we have now come forward with, and therefore we have to be proactive in giving substance to the notion of East Asia Summit.
Especially what we are promoting, to be honest, James, in Indonesia is this notion of dynamic equilibrium for our region, certainly a state of affairs where there is no -- (inaudible) -- power, there is no dominant power for our region. But unlike the classic balance-of-power approach where we achieve this by having containment, by having a group of friends or similar, like-minded countries to address, to manage, to contain even a rising country, we create the notion of common security, common prosperity, and basically dilute -- put into context a certain rising country so that that country becomes a part of the -- like, an established -- a country that has a vested interest in maintaining the peace and the stability of the region rather than a (revisionist ?) country.
ZIRIN: Now, Minister, you referred to the Arab Spring, which our own Richard Haass calls the "Arab upheaval." Does -- I wanted to ask you, what is the attitude of Indonesia as an Islamic country that's enjoyed a transition, almost a seamless transition, from -- to make Islam and democracy consistent toward what's going on in the Middle East?
NATALEGAWA: Well, the first thing that we are basically noting out of this whole episode is that so-called governance issues -- democracy, human rights -- issues that traditionally would have been seen as being internal, national -- in a way, soft issues actually can quickly become hard security issues, whether it be -- especially in the Libyan context, and potentially before in the Egyptian context, but certainly in Libya -- and Syria we are yet to see and Yemen we have yet to see -- internal democratic deficit, governance deficit quickly becomes hard security issues, interstate issues, use-of-force issues.
So we are -- we are -- you know, we are fortunate in ASEAN, in Southeast Asia. Ten years ago, we begun the process of making governance issues, human rights, democratization promotion as a part of a region's collaborative efforts. Having said that of course, we support fully the democratic changes that is taking place in the Middle East. We wish very much to see the wishes of the people in those countries be respected.
But for that to happen, we believe that we must create the space for the peaceful transformation of those countries and for the democratic conversation and dialogue to take place. In other words, a country like Libya we suspect -- we assume to be quite -- has a very strong national and traditional -- especially national capacities. And we would not want to be too quick in wanting to, you know, like suffocate its own national process. And for Indonesia as a country, like you have said, Muslim-majority country, at the same time democratic, having undergone its own transformation; we have lessons to impart in terms of problems, challenges. And we are doing that at the moment with our friends in Egypt, with our friends in Tunisia especially -- not by way of telling them what to do simply, but simply by informing them what our problems have been and how we can partner them in promotion of democracy.
ZIRIN: I wanted to ask you about your relations with the United States. Of course, President Obama spent four years of his life in Jakarta. We visited the school he attended in the course of our trip. It was not a madrassa. It was actually a Catholic school. And the -- we -- and now he's making his second trip of his presidency to Indonesia. Do you see a close relationship with -- (inaudible)?
NATALEGAWA: Yes, absolutely. It is -- it is a partnership, and it is a comprehensive partnership, and therefore I think those two key qualities are important to emphasize. A partnership suggests therefore it is truly a relationship of equal, of mutuality of interests and benefits in the nature of the relationship, and comprehensive in that it's not only political, it's not only economic, financial but in a most comprehensive way.
And you are quite correct. It has been -- it has been quite intensive. There's been a lot of communications, a lot of visits. The president of the United States will be visiting Indonesia again in November. So that's in a very close sequence. I've had twice now a full-fledged ministerial meeting -- ministerial commission meeting with Secretary Clinton. Last time was in July of this year in Bali, and prior to that was in September of 2010. So within less than one year I've had two full-fledged bilateral ministerial commission meetings at the -- at the secretary level. And we are now seeing a lot of deliveries -- deliverables in terms of outcomes. Indonesia varies very much it's relationship with the United States as part of -- to deepen its relationship. And whether it's bilateral or ASEAN-U.S. or East Asia Summit, it is, I believe, one of those important stabilizing (factors ?) for our region.
ZIRIN: I think Indonesians characterize their foreign policy as free and active. And certainly the appearances that you were a nonaligned nation and that you really want to be friends with everyone in the world, and seeing how those relations can lead to progress -- you were a very early supporter of Palestine's bid for statehood in the United Nations. Did you feel that was inconsistent at all with your relationship with the United States?
NATALEGAWA: Not necessarily. Well, first of all, the independent -- (inaudible) -- in the past, the most obvious manifestation of such an outlook during the Cold War was not to align oneself to East or West. But in the absence of those East and West divisions, it's no long -- it's not sufficient to be nonaligned, because it's nonaligned vis-a-vis what? There's nothing to align to or to be nonaligned against.
And so independent and active, in the current international setting, is defined as simply being a capacity to make independent decision-making, for us to be able to judge each situation on the basis of its own merit and build like-minded and build commonality and consensus around that fact.
On Palestine, as I have said on many, many occasions, of course, Indonesia is in its outlook deliberately and principally in support of the Palestinian cause. But at the same time, in the same breath, we've always also emphasized that our vision is of the two-states vision, of an Israel and of a Palestine that live side by side in peace and security. And therefore, when we are pronouncing our support for Palestinian statehood, including the current efforts at the U.N., it is, we believe, consistent with that vision of two-state solution.
And by the way, we've always said that, in the final analysis, the issue will be resolved through negotiations, with the support of the Quartet, including the United States. So I think the Palestinian bid at the U.N. is not, you know, burning bridges. It should be seen as being -- to create climate conducive to encourage all parties concerned to actually have a more serious dialogue and negotiations. But we respect very much the U.S. efforts through the -- as a part of the Quartet.
ZIRIN: The relationship with the United States has been somewhat complicated by the issue of human rights.
ZIRIN: And certainly, Senator Leahy and others in our Congress have spotlighted the failure to crack down on terrorists; on the issue of religious freedom on the part of some Muslim sects, which they say is abridged; and the abuses of the military in West Papua. Do you think you're making progress in this area, or is this something that really is nobody's business but your own?
NATALEGAWA: Oh, no -- (chuckles) -- of course, it is an issue of common concern and interest to all of us. The main point I think that must be underscored and appreciated is the fact that, whatever shortcomings that still exist in the area of promotion of human rights, respect for human rights and all of the other very important principles that we espouse, this time around, the government of Indonesia, and especially the civil society in Indonesia itself, are actually calling for those deficiencies to be addressed. So whenever there have been lack of -- I mean where there have been difficulties or there have been incidences involving the abuse or the -- by certain individuals about -- relating to human rights, the government has been very open, transparent, in bringing the matter to the attention of the public and bringing those responsible to justice.
Now, in the prosecution of the matter in the courts, we may have our own views in terms of whether it was sufficient or not sufficient. But given the important principle of the division between the executive and the judiciary, then the government cannot intervene in the -- in the kind of decision that the court has reached based on the evidence before it.
But on terrorism, of course, you know, all of us, unfortunately, continue to be -- to face the prospect or the threat of terrorism which can strike at any time, at any place. But the Indonesian government -- Indonesia has from the very beginning determined -- has been determined to ensure that this problem is addressed -- this challenge is addressed in a comprehensive way, through democratic response, because we believe it is only a democratic response that is -- that can be sustained over the long run.
ZIRIN: One other issue, and then I'll open it up. In President Obama's U.N. address last week, he referred to corruption, and he said no country can afford the corruption that plagues the world like a cancer. And in Indonesia, there seems to be this lurking issue. We discussed it a year ago, and in the last year there have been more scandals that we read about. And I wondered how robustly you're addressing this issue.
NATALEGAWA: Well, yes, I mean this whole issue of efforts to combat and to overcome -- eradicate corruption is part and parcel of good governance, part and parcel of the efforts to ensure democratization, the strengthening of democratic institutions. It is very much work in progress. We are not there yet in terms of having complete -- you know, I mean, to be where we want to be.
But I think the projection -- the projectory (ph) is quite positive, is encouraging based on the corruption index that is widely available. The trend from 2004 -- I was told that it's 2, now in 2010 is 2.8. In other words, the perception of corruption index is getting more positive. But the Indonesian government is very much aware that this is an issue that needs even more serious efforts on the part of the government.
ZIRIN: Well, I know my colleagues are very anxious to ask questions, so why don't we just go around the table, starting on my left with President Richard Haass.
QUESTIONER: I will defer. Got a lot of -- lot of interest here.
QUESTIONER: Thank you. I'm Dan Altman from North Yard Economics. You said that internal treatment of human and civil rights (should/could ?) be fundamental to ASEAN's goals of regional security. I would put it to you that internal treatment of economic rights and institutions may be fundamental to ASEAN goals of economic integration as well. How do you try and take on that issue with ASEAN members, issues like land tenure and property rights in Cambodia, for example? How can you try and promulgate that?
NATALEGAWA: Well, exactly. That's why back in 2003 now, when we began this whole subject of ASEAN community, initially it was only in the economic domain, ASEAN economic community. And it was at Indonesia's initiative that we also brought onboard two other pillars, ASEAN political security community as well as ASEAN social-cultural community, mindful of the fact that all those three elements are very much interrelated. And so nowadays it's extremely difficult to differentiate between what is political, security, social-cultural and economic, and even more difficult sometimes to differentiate between what is local, national, regional and global.
Now, those kind of national level or even subnational level concerns, we are experiencing them to different degrees in ASEAN countries. Indonesia, for example, we have, you know, quite a bit of a challenge in the whole issue of land tenure and land ownership when the government is committed to build infrastructure and roads and rail tracks, et cetera, and there is a problem in terms of freeing up the land for the purpose of building those transportation links. In other ASEAN countries, maybe more -- less publicly engaged, I mean, where the government has more room to be able to get its decision immediately implemented, there's a different degree of -- a different kind of situation.
What we do in ASEAN is to compare notes on these developments and to ensure that the lessons learned in one country is shared with others, and therefore there is this very constant sharing of experience at the subnational level, the national and at regional level.
But the point is, the economic community concept is not only about trade, investment, but also creating equitable development. Because within ASEAN, there are pockets of under-development, pockets of -- within subregion of ASEAN, so we have not only an ASEAN-wide economic community effort in all its facets, but also within ASEAN there are subregions, subregions of East Asia, East Indonesia, South -- Southern Philippines, for example. So we have these little triangles, subregional cooperation within ASEAN, to address these pockets of under-development within ASEAN.
ZIRIN: Right here.
QUESTIONER: Thank you. Peggy Hicks with Human Rights Watch.
Minister, I wanted to ask about Indonesia's voting record at the United Nations, particularly on human rights resolutions, which seems quite a bit out of step with the vision of a model of democracy and good governance which you've outlined. In particular, Indonesia is one of only -- less than two dozen states that has consistently voted against the North Korea resolution, voted for the past three years against the Iran resolution, and the Burma resolution resolution two of the three years.
How -- could you explain that voting pattern to us?
And I'd also like your reflections on how we can expect, I would hope, to see that Indonesia's engagement change in the course of its tenure at the Human Rights Council, to which it's been recently re-elected.
NATALEGAWA: Well, on the -- yes, of course we wish to ensure that the changes that's taking place, the democratization that is taking place within Indonesia is properly reflected in its foreign policy, both in terms of process, which means that the process of foreign policy-making in Indonesia is now even more open and transparent than ever before. In the old days, you know, I mean, foreign policy-making is principally the responsibility of the foreign policy -- you know, foreign -- the Department of Foreign Affairs and other government institutions, but now the foreign -- process of foreign policy-making is more engaging of civil society and the like. So the process of foreign policy-making is even more open.
But the outcome as well, the actual foreign policy as well, is -- we must ensure that it's actually in keeping with the internal domestic human rights reform and changes.
And I think -- you know, it's funny you should ask this question, because I was just asking one of my colleagues the other day to come up with a snapshot, a scorecard of where we are. And I'm keen to get your data as well as from the Human Rights Watch, because I'd like to make sure that where -- we are where we want to be. And I have deliberately and personally begun a process of this recalibration of our voting position on many issues.
We have a bit of a principal problem or principal challenge, by way of approaching these country-based resolutions. Our principal challenge is that sometimes these country-based resolutions becomes heavily politicized in terms of group of countries championing certain outlook against another group of countries. So it becomes very much an interstate -- typical U.N. interstate group bloc politics, developing versus developed, West against developing countries, OIC versus others.
So we have been -- in the past, we have a principal generic blanket objection, opposition to any country-based resolution because of a matter of principle, because we believe in the Human Rights Council the approach should be collaboration, cooperation, not confrontation.
But we've begun to change that. Even when I was here as ambassador at the United Nations, at the Security Council here in New York, when we had the episode in -- the incidences in Myanmar with respect to the -- to the demonstrations by the religious leaders, by the monks, I think that was a time when on Myanmar we shifted our position both on the action -- what it's called -- but --
MR. : (Inaudible) -- action.
NATALEGAWA: -- no-action --
MR. : Motion.
NATALEGAWA: -- no action motion --
MR. : (Off mic.)
NATALEGAWA: -- as well as on the actual voting itself. We had -- we had voted against the submission of the issue. Instead we had in -- voted in favor of bringing the issue to the -- to the General Assembly, and we have now adopted a position of abstaining on the -- on the -- on the issue.
On North Korea, as well -- previously we have voted against, but now we are voting in -- we're abstaining. So on those -- we have three key countries there, Myanmar, North Korea and Iran. On Myanmar and North Korea, we are now -- we have shifted from being against to being -- we abstain. The only lacuna -- the only gap still is the Iran resolution that I'm looking at seriously.
In other words, we have shown a capacity to change, and now what I have asked my interlocutor from the so-called -- the other sides who have sponsored these resolutions -- I have asked them to please also similarly move away from their own comfort zones. And I'm afraid that some of these resolutions are year in and year out basically the same, year in and year out basically the same, adding one or two preambular to say this is this year's resolution, rather than last year's. It is not actually applying themselves to the new situation.
Now if we -- we cannot do a political somersault from one extreme, against, to suddenly becoming in favor, without some kind of application by the sponsors of this resolution to say: Look, we are looking at new settings, whatever that new setting is.
But you know, I'm -- there is inertia sometimes in this whole debate. Countries are so comfortable in just going through the motion of having the same thing year in and year out. We are doing our best to move.
And on those two resolutions, we have changed. On Iran, as I said, I'm looking at that. We -- I'm looking as well on where we are on the issue of human rights, on the issue of capital punishment, this whole debate, because it's a big issue in the United States as well. I am -- we are looking at that as well.
So we are -- one final thought I wanted to impart is Indonesia was elected to Human Rights Council. I think we believe -- if I'm not mistaken, we have the largest support of all the member states of the U.N. We've got the largest support. But that's a huge burden on us to do the right thing. And so we are -- we are keen to ensure that we are where we should be, and I will be very keen to get your data as well from Human Rights Watch so that I can really compare and make sure that we are where we should be.
ZIRIN: Yes, ma'am.
QUESTIONER: Janet Benshoof from the Global Justice Center. First of all, I want to say I really appreciate your frank and transparent remarks. And I think Indonesia's clearly on its way to being not just a regional but a very much of a world leader.
I want to speak to you about the issue of political reform and encouraging political reform in the case of the Republic of Myanmar, and also about stopping inertia. Indonesia president is also the commander in chief, and you can well comply with the ASEAN Charter. The Republic of Myanmar just instituted a new constitution of bifurcated sovereignty which is unlike any in the world. The president and the civilian government are precluded from taking any actions against the military, civil or political, or enforcing anything to do with nuclear energy or weapons. In other words, the president can't even walk on an area of a nuclear reactor without the commander in chief being there.
So I'm not talking about political reforms. I'm talking about Myanmar's legal incapacity to comply with the ASEAN Charter about nuclear-free zone or the Bangkok Treaty. Now given the legal incapacity -- legal incapacity under the constitution, which is radically different than Indonesia, are there any steps -- leadership steps by Indonesia to -- until there's an amendment in the constitution to declare that Myanmar's ASEAN membership is null and void?
NATALEGAWA: Yes, Myanmar in general -- I'm not really -- I'm not knowledgeable of those specific provisions within the Myanmar constitution that you made reference to, and therefore I can't give an informed response to it. But as a general outlook, when we look at Myanmar this time last year, when we meet here and where we are now, I'm always keen to emphasize just one word, basically the development. There's been development in Myanmar over the past one year. I'm not necessarily saying progress; I'm saying development with respect to the release of Aung San Suu Kyi -- Daw Aung San Suu Kyi with respect to the elections, the formation of civilian authority, of government in a way, as well as the -- subsequently the capacity and ability of Daw Aung San Suu Kyi and supporters to conduct political activities, to have dialogue with the president of Myanmar -- these are developments -- and not least the openness of -- the relative openness of the government of Myanmar to receive foreign international envoys and the like. So there have been developments.
But -- and of course, as you are aware, Myanmar is now seeking the chairmanship of ASEAN in 2014 after the initial delay of 2005 if I'm not mistaken. But what we have been doing in Indonesia and in ASEAN is to acknowledge those developments, but encouraging them to do some more. And the ASEAN framework provides precisely -- we believe can provide conditions conducive to encourage Myanmar to move forward in its -- in its democratization path -- certain reference points and benchmarks.
And one issue is -- that has recently obtained a great deal of attention is the issue of nuclear energy development or nuclear safety and the like. And in this connection I would like to inform as well, this year, after some eight years of negotiations finally -- or lack of progress and not even any negotiations, finally the ASEAN countries have reached consensus on the position they had to take to the nuclear-weapon states on the zone of Southeast Asia nuclear-weapon-free zone.
So we had a very good discussion with the nuclear-weapon states last August, with a view to getting their ratification of the treaty by November, hopefully. There's another -- sets of meeting this coming October in -- here in New York. So basically, the nuclear dimension in Southeast Asia is becoming more complex. It is no longer now the issue of proliferation or geographical proliferation, deployment of nuclear-weapon states' weaponry in our region, but also the real giving up of the nuclear option from Southeast Asian countries and the safety issues, security issues, and environmental issues as well.
QUESTIONER: Thank you.
ZIRIN: Yes, sir.
QUESTIONER: Drozdin Fischer (ph), Malata Group. Your Excellency, I'd like to ask a question about human capital. Indonesia's seen impressive economic growth and that's lead (sic) to success, and hopefully that will contain (sic) in the future. How are you finding your ability to get skilled Indonesians to meet those challenges?
NATALEGAWA: Precisely. That's what we do recognize, that the development of our human capital, the -- would be key in taking Indonesia's development path to that higher level in a more sustained way and really taking us to where we want to be.
As you are aware, within the Indonesian constitution it is actually provided for that the budget on education is actually strictly set vis-a-vis -- as a proportion of the government expenditure, so there is actually a government constitutional provision for that purpose. And Indonesia is beginning to increase its efforts in the education area, to ensure precisely the development of its human capital, especially as -- in recognition of the rising middle class. Indonesia is -- now has probably one of the world's largest or most substantial increase in the number of middle-class people, population. A young population demographically -- we are yet to reap the full dividend of the young population composition that we enjoy.
And so there is I think a lot of -- a lot of upswing that is to be fully tapped in the years to come, especially -- I was in San Francisco last week, or slightly a week ago, with Secretary Clinton. I attended this conference about the role of women in the economy. And I left that conference with even greater conviction that the promotion of the role of women in the economy, especially in the small and medium enterprise sector, is not only right, but is also smart, because it has a huge growth-driver impact, as well as the right kind of growth. It is a sustainable growth, and also a more equitable growth as well. So we are really focusing in the area of human capital development, especially and not least zeroing in on the education and capital -- human capital development among women in Indonesia.
ZIRIN: Yes, sir.
QUESTIONER: "Selamat Pagi." I'm Drew Ladner, with Pascal Metrics.
NATALEGAWA: Thank you.
QUESTIONER: So consistent with the demographic assets Indonesia has, and as more women enter the workforce, clearly, finding jobs is important. And in Indonesia, like the United States, enabling small and medium-sized businesses to start, to grow, to develop, is key. I'm long on Indonesia, but whether it's the World Bank doing business in Indonesia Index or other experiences, there's some concern about the ability for that growth to happen. What steps is Indonesia taking to address the ability to do business in Indonesia, whether it's starting a business, to have contracts enforced and so on?
NATALEGAWA: Yes. Well, these are all -- actually, the problems or the bottlenecks and the hurdles are very much well defined, and we are very consciously aware of them: legal uncertainty, bureaucracy, corruption. But these are precisely the kind of areas where the government is now really trying to address itself to these problems -- removal of bottlenecks and eradication of corruption, dealing with the -- we've had this pendulum swing from a very centralized system of government, to a very decentralized form of government where the provinces and the regencies enjoy far greater autonomy than before. It has had a huge -- what do you call it? -- a huge growth impact. But at the same time, if it replicates the kind of bureaucracies and the kind of bottlenecks that used to be found at the central level, but also at the regional level, then that becomes problematic. So there is -- we are addressing that central government versus regional government issue as well.
But the key point that I want to emphasize is that despite -- despite all these well-known problems, well-known challenges that we are purposefully and deliberately addressing, despite all that, we are -- yet we are able to achieve the kind of growth that we have, 6 percent last year and 6.5, perhaps, this year.
So we are seeing -- in reminding ourselves about the need to address these problems, we are saying that, look, if we get it right, there is another -- yet more drivers for the higher economic growth for Indonesia, especially Indonesia being -- you know, the most recent financial and economic crisis reminds us how on the one hand, of course, it's important to establish links, globalization -- you cannot opt out of globalization, obviously; it is a reality, a fact of life -- but at the same time, we must have a strong national underpinning. The national economy must be robust, a good domestic market, connectivity, so that whatever happens at the international level, we have that to rely on in terms of engines for growth, the national, domestic driver for growth.
ZIRIN: You had a question, in the back.
QUESTIONER: David Phillips from Columbia University. How would you characterize conditions they have in West Papua? I understand there have been some demonstrations. What kinds of grievances are being expressed? Steps that you're taking, including implementation of autonomy agreements?
NATALEGAWA: This is similar to the other question that I received just now about the human rights situation in general in Indonesia. As you're aware -- or I would like to inform you -- our whole approach on Papua, the two provinces in Papua, has undergone a huge change in terms of paradigm, in terms of outlook, away from so-called law-and-order, suppressive and -- measures, but more towards governance in terms of economic development outlook, through especially the implementation of the special autonomy.
Our problem, to be honest, when we apply -- because when you look at the figures -- I don't have the figures with me -- the two provinces in Papua, both in terms of its own locally or regionally derived sources of revenue as well as the revenue distributed from the central government, is actually per capita one of the highest -- one of the most endowed, well supported provinces.
We have a problem in terms of governance, in terms of absence -- in a way sometimes absence of governance, in the sense that we need to be -- to ensure that all the resources that have been empowered and available as a result of the special autonomy actually bring about improvement, bring out development in the area.
Now, that's the big picture. Of course, there are incidences, difficult incidences, unacceptable incidences of human rights violations, but -- on the one hand. On the other hand, there is genuine, sometimes, law-and-order problem. You know, when we have people -- wherever it is, whether it's in Indonesia, in any part of Indonesia, any part of the world -- you know, when we have situations where there is horizontal conflicts between communities -- and when I say conflicts here, it's not like one of those conflicts that you see in London, the London riots recently where people -- you know, there was a lot of problems and the government in the United Kingdom has to be very forceful in assuring law and order. The type of horizontal conflicts that you can see in Papua are actually real, violent conflicts, people using bow and arrows and killing one another.
Now, any governments must ensure a certain kind of stability and law and order and cannot simply let these kind of situations develop out of control. So it must -- it is a balance between law and order and stability to ensure economic prosperity and development to take place.
But the key thing here, to all our international interlocutors, friends, and both critical as well as supportive: We get it. We know that this is -- this is two provinces in -- is that -- provinces that need special attention, special empowerment, autonomy is the way to go. But when there are problems and they are problems, as we are not immune or exempt from problems, as any other countries, let's address them in a -- in a(n) inclusive way and problem-solving way, rather than simply creating more challenges ahead.
QUESTIONER: Ken Roth from Human Rights Watch again. I wanted to follow up, if I could, on your comments about country-specific resolutions at the United Nations. And I take your point that the proponents of those resolutions need to keep them up to date and should not just, you know, repeat by rote what happened the year before that and the year before that.
But I wanted to address the rationale that you had stated for why Indonesia sort of presumptively opposes those kinds of --
NATALEGAWA: In the past.
QUESTIONER: -- in the past, yes, or even abstains, in the sense that there -- it makes sense to talk about cooperation in the case of a country where the government has a clear policy to respect human rights, but it may lack the technical capacity and therefore cooperatively providing technical assistance makes lots of sense.
But in the case of countries that as a matter of government policy are violating human rights, that kind of cooperative approach doesn't make sense. And indeed we've seen an evolution at the U.N. Human Rights Council. Just in the last year there suddenly have been a whole spate of new country-specific resolutions in the case of countries where there is a policy of violating human rights.
And so my question to you is really whether Indonesia would consider its own distinction as to when --
NATALEGAWA: Yes, absolutely. Yeah.
QUESTIONER: -- because we'd -- you know, ideally would it be possible for Indonesia to vote --
NATALEGAWA: Yeah --
QUESTIONER: -- positively, for resolutions on North Korea or other governments that pursue policies --
NATALEGAWA: For -- yeah, yes. Of course we can differentiate and delineate between those kind of situations, abject failure and utter unwillingness to comply with certain human rights standards.
On Libya, for example, when Libya was -- its status was -- (inaudible) --
MR. : Suspended.
NATALEGAWA: -- suspended, we were in -- we supported that measure. And so we can differentiate that.
But my only problem or my suggestion is to some of our interlocutors -- is that they are so in it, they are so -- this has become like industry of competitions and bloc politics in Geneva. I was sitting next to the Human Rights Council -- (inaudible) --
MR. : (Off mic.)
MR. : (Off mic.)
NATALEGAWA: What's the -- what's the term? Is it "commissioner"?
MR. : The high commissioner.
NATALEGAWA: The high commissioner. (Cross talk.) Yes. I was sitting next to her over lunch the other day, and I was saying that, you know, I feel, whether it's Geneva or here in New York, we need to have less of this "friends of" group, friends of this, friends of that. So who's the enemy?
So you have -- it's self-defined exclusionary groups, and as if -- we need countries that -- you know, Indonesia would like to present itself -- that actually connects people up, find commonalities. And this bloc, we --I mean, groupthink is -- I think it's no longer result-oriented. And therefore when we have like a resolution on Libya or on the situation on Myanmar, and I said, look, we have opposed this resolution before, we want to move forward, we have now done away with the blanket opposition, we want to apply ourself, let's apply ourself.
But if you are simply having the same resolution since 1972 or '73, the same resolution that's simply updated with the preambular, I mean, it won't fly. I mean, you -- we have to apply ourself. Let's just reiterate all the things that we've before. Fine. Recall, reaffirm. We'll support those resolutions, fine. But let's get down to having a real resolution to say: This is what needs to happen.
Just to give a concrete example, Sri Lanka, a country, like Indonesia in the past, that's now going through changes and trying to do the right thing, I believe -- I believe. You know, it's half empty or half full. Myanmar can be seen in that way as well.
But our interests -- based on Indonesia's own experience, we need our international partners to strengthen their democratic constituency back within. So when a country like Indonesia seeks membership in the Human Rights Council, it is not a one-way thing. It is not us trying to tell us the world: This is how we should be. But it's actually to give us -- to strengthen our democratic constituency back home. Look, we belong to this group and that council and this, so we better deliver. We better live up to these commitments.
And this is the point that I'm trying to say, is that some of these countries in transition, they need encouragement and support. And if you are simply to say, look, you know, they already want to report -- say Sri Lanka has certain issues, and they want to report to the council -- informally, perhaps -- but it gets done. It's reported. But somewhere, somehow, someone wants to put the icing on the cake and say, oh, let's have a proper agenda item on this, just to make the point, as if this reporting or this event happened because of their -- at their behest, at their demand.
So it's as if -- trying to put the icing on the cake. Let's just let things happen naturally, you know. I mean, country ownership, national ownership is important.
Indonesia and Timor-Leste, we have this Commission on Truth and Friendship bilateral to address problems of the past. It is probably not the most perfect mechanism, but we are learning as we are doing it. There is a capacity-building, lessons-learned benefit to be had out of it. But if we were to do the shortcut, and then we have some fantastic tribunal sitting somewhere in The Hague, perhaps with all the most prominent lawyers in the world -- but after all is said and done, there is no multiplier; there is no lessons-learned, capacity-building impact for the region.
So in many of these instances, I think it's about diplomacy. It's about take and give. It's not all about take. You know, there has to be some kind of a middle ground. And what Indonesia is saying is that in many of these issues, we are not interested in (accentuating the region ?). "Me first" is very easy. I mean, you know, so -- but let's all have a clean slate and apply ourselves actually to the situations at hand. That's our -- (inaudible).
ZIRIN: Unfortunately in terms of our time, we're neither half empty nor half full, but our cup runneth over. (Laughter.) So I wanted to thank the minister for a really interesting presentation. I think we've all -- (inaudible) -- tremendously enlightened. And we wish you well and a safe and good trip back.
NATALEGAWA: Thank you -- (inaudible) -- so much. Thank you. Thanks -- (inaudible). (Applause.)
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