Foreign Minister Retno Marsudi: Rivalry Is Getting Fiercer During Pandemic

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  • TEMPO.CO, JakartaAmid her desperate hunt for Covid-19 vaccines, Foreign Minister Retno Lestari Priansari Marsudi managed to successfully led Indonesia’s presidency over United Nations Security Council (UNSC) in August.

    ON August 28, UNSC members agreed to adopt Resolution 2538 on female personnel in UN peacekeeping missions proposed by Indonesia. "This is the first Indonesia-sponsored resolution during our membership in the UNSC," Retno Marsudi, 57, enthused during a special interview with Tempo last Friday, September 4.

    Indonesia, one of 10 non-permanent UNSC members, also proposed a counter-terrorism resolution, but the draft failed to get passed after the United States of America blocked it albeit the support from the remaining 14 members including the four members with veto power. Retno said the US wanted foreign fighters to be included in the resolution, although it was not intended to address the issue.

    As for Covid-19 vaccines, together with State-Owned Enterprises (SOEs) Minister Erick Thohir and Bio Farma's Chief Executive Officer (CEO) Honesti Basyir, Retno traveled to China and the United Arab Emirates where they secured commitments for 340 million doses of vaccines to be supplied until the end of next year. "We've also spoken to various parties including AstraZeneca, Imperial College of London, Gavi (Vaccine Alliance), CEPI (Coalition for Epidemic Preparedness Innovations), and COVAZ facility" she added.

    During the video interview from her office, Retno talked to Tempo reporters Sapto Yunus, Mahardika Satria Hadi, Abdul Manan, and Hussein Abri Dongoran about various issues, from Indonesia's role during its presidency of the UNSC, the search for Covid-19 vaccines, to entry bans against Indonesian travelers by several countries. The interview was supplemented with WhatsApp chats on Wednesday, September 9.

    What were Indonesia's considerations behind the proposal of the resolution regarding female personnel in UN peacekeeping missions?

    This is the first Indonesia-sponsored resolution during our membership in the United Nations Security Council. If you look in recent years, issues such as women, peace and security have always been mainstreamed in our foreign policies. We see that women always are part of solutions including in peace and security matters.

    How was it lobbied until it was passed?

    There were a series of initiatives prelude to it. Last year, for example, we conducted training on women, peace and security for female diplomats from the Association of Southeast Asian Nations (ASEAN) countries. This year, we trained not only diplomats but also negotiators and mediators. We want to establish a network of female negotiators and mediators in Southeast Asia that is connected to other (similar) networks around the world. We also set up the Indonesia-Afghanistan women's network.

    How far did Indonesia's presidency help facilitate the endorsement of the resolution?

    Quite significantly, especially when I am a woman. This is the second time Indonesia held the presidency and it was not easy this time because first of all, we were at the height of the (Covid-19) pandemic. Secondly, we were in the middle of fierce rivalries among the major powers on almost all fronts, a situation that clearly influenced the discussions within the UNSC. We were consistent in using diplomacy to 'bridge' all kinds of differences.

    Did you expect Resolution 2538 to receive unanimous support from all the UN member countries?

    We were also surprised. We initiated this resolution from the UNSC and it turned out any countries wanted to co-sponsor it. So, Resolution 2538 was supported and co-sponsored by all the UNSC members plus other non-UNSC members. In total, 97 countries co-sponsored it. The huge support signifies that women empowerment is the cause the whole world is keen to champion.

    How about the role of Indonesian women personnel in UN peacekeeping missions?

    I've visited our peacekeeping forces on UN missions. The last was in UNIFIL (United Nations Interim Force in Lebanon), Lebanon where we have our largest force. I saw how critical women's role in many conflict areas because, for example, by traditions or customs, women are more comfortable talking to women. Women and children are more eager to accept female personnel especially when it comes to services for health care and counseling for psychological trauma. If I'm not mistaken, we currently have 158 female personnel among the total 2,800 Indonesian personnel in UN peacekeeping missions. It's still a small percentage.

    Read the Full Interview in Tempo English Magazine