Jakarta – With less than two weeks until the United Nations General Assembly convenes for high-level dialogue in New York, the government continues to avoid a straight answer as to whether President Joko "Jokowi" Widodo will make his first in-person appearance at the annual global forum.
If he decided not to go, Jokowi would be missing out on an important opportunity to make use of his role as president of the Group of 20 biggest economies and the incoming chair of ASEAN next year. He would also skip a chance to burnish Indonesia's credentials as one of the world's largest democracies and a beacon of moderate Islam.
The 77th session of the UNGA opens on Sept. 13 under the theme "A Watershed Moment: Transformative Solutions to Interlocking Challenges". The theme is inspired by the recognition that the world is at a "critical moment in the history of the UN" due to complex crises, including COVID-19, the war in Ukraine, unprecedented humanitarian challenges, a growing climate crisis, as well as threats to the global economy.
If he wanted to, appearing at the UNGA could also become a "watershed moment" for Jokowi, who has managed to avoid attending one of the world's biggest multilateral events in the eight years he has governed.
The President and his fellow citizens may be tempted to hide behind potential political instability that may arise from the unpopular decision to hike fuel prices, or even use global economic headwinds from soaring inflation and corrected economic costs to justify focusing solely on the domestic side of things in the next few weeks.
But refusing to speak plainly on the state of international relations in this time of great crisis, at a meeting of other global leaders, just because it is happening on the other side of the world, may just come off as indolent.
At the very least, Jokowi should consider it a chance to expand his global personal network with other leaders and captains of industry, as he has done at other meetings like the G20 Summit or the World Economic Forum (WEF).
Already we have heard of allies calling for Indonesian leadership on the global stage, owing to its strategic role as a large developing country capable of speaking up for the least developed and other developing countries.
Conversely, if the President were to make the best of his temporarily boosted global profile, he could invite leaders personally to attend the G20 summit in Bali while laying out his wishes for their support to make it a successful event. It would be seen as a sincere offer leaders such as United States President Joe Biden could not easily afford to decline.
More importantly, the hard work that Foreign Minister Retno LP Marsudi has laid out in pursuit of an improved and more inclusive multilateral order would not be wasted, and would appear as if the order was a product of Jokowi's own efforts.
The world as it currently is already a hard place to live in for everyone, so one might as well show up and lead.