Jayanty Nada Shofa, Jakarta – Building resilient national health security and strengthening ties for economic recovery are among Indonesia's five diplomatic priorities in 2021, according to Foreign Affairs Minister Retno Marsudi.
The minister kicked off 2021 by announcing Indonesia's diplomatic agenda for the year ahead. With the Covid-19 pandemic still in full swing, it is no surprise the country's first two diplomatic priorities are within the health and economy sectors.
"Our first [diplomacy priority] is building a self-sufficient and resilient national health security," Retno said at the virtual annual year-end conference on Wednesday.
To this end, Retno pledged to realize Covid-19 vaccine provision commitments through bilateral and multilateral partnerships. Indonesian international relations will also focus on building the national health industry for active pharmaceutical ingredients, medicines, and medical equipment.
"We will bolster cooperation for research development, technology transfer, and human resources in the health sector. And reinforce a preparedness system and mechanism for future pandemics at a national, regional, and global level," she said.
Second, in the diplomacy priority list is boosting economic recovery while also supporting green and sustainable development.
The minister said Indonesia would promote the implementation of Asean Travel Corridor Arrangement (TCA) and other travel bubbles as well as the use of the Asia-Pacific Economic Cooperation (APEC) Travel Card, which eases entry for business travelers within APEC economies.
Boosting inbound investment is also part of the 2021 diplomatic agenda, she said.
Indonesia aims for wider market access and regional economic integration via numerous trade agreements. Among them is the Indonesia-South Korea Comprehensive Economic Partnership Agreement (IK-CEPA). The minister also hopes to secure a limited trade deal with the United States.
"In addition, we will strengthen our diplomatic efforts to counter trade barriers, including negative campaigns against Indonesia's main commodities, particularly palm oil," Retno said.
Retno added the ministry would promote equality of sustainability standards to all vegetable oils at bilateral, regional, or multilateral levels.
In her speech, Retno warned intensifying rivalries between major powers can become a roadblock on the road to recovery.
"If these countries are not willing to forgo their rivalry and promote collaboration, this can derail our efforts on addressing the pandemic and the global economic downturn," Retno said.
"There is a need for a strong collective global leadership. Recover together, recover stronger through collective global leadership," she added.
Retno vowed to strengthen the protection system for Indonesian citizens abroad, including ship crews, as the third diplomatic priority. For instance, the ministry will create a roadmap for the ratification of the International Labor Organization C-188 on Work in Fishing Convention. This helps ensure decent work conditions for the workers in the fishing sector.
Throughout 2020, Indonesian diplomatic missions handled more than 54,000 cases abroad. They have settled Rp 103.8 billion (around $7.4 million) worth of financial rights for migrant workers.
"We have repatriated more than 172,000 Indonesians. Seventeen people were exonerated from death row, and we have freed four hostages," she said.
Last year, the ministry assisted more than 2,400 Indonesians overseas who had tested positive for Covid-19. Indonesians abroad had also received over half a million basic needs packages.
Fourthly, Indonesia hopes to play a more active role in addressing regional and global issues. This includes supporting world peace and human rights.
At the conference, Retno shot down rumors of Indonesia seeking to normalize diplomatic ties with Israel. The minister reaffirmed Indonesia's unwavering support for Palestinian independence.
"Indonesia will continue to support the independence of Palestine based on two state-solution and UN Security Council resolutions as well as internationally agreed parameters," she said.
According to Retno, President Joko "Jokowi" Widodo already assured his Palestinian counterpart, Mahmoud Abbas, that Indonesia would not change their stance via a phone call on Dec. 16, 2020.
Last but not least, Indonesia will continue to intensify negotiations for land and maritime boundaries. They will also reinforce efforts to protect the integrity of the Unitary State of the Republic of Indonesia, Retno said.
"I wish to underscore a principle concerning sovereignty and sovereign rights in Indonesian waters that any claims by any parties must be in accordance with international law, including the United Nations Convention on the Law of the Sea (UNCLOS) 1982," she added.