Since the 1st of December 2021 last year, Indonesia has been appointed president of the Group of 20, or G20, an intergovernmental forum made to resolve major issues surrounding the world economy. These issues range from sustainable development, financial stability, and mitigating the effects of climate change. Furthermore, Indonesia will be the third G20 president appointed during the ‘COVID-19 era’, making recovery from the pandemic another major obstacle.
As a result, when Indonesia became the forum’s president it decided upon the motto, “Recover Together, Recover Stronger”. Indonesia also claimed ‘Global Health Architecture, Sustainable Energy Transmission, and Digital Transformation’ as its three prioritised issues. These three focal points demand deeper international cooperation in order to strengthen the global community’s resilience to pandemics and secure a cleaner and more prosperous future. Indonesia and the G20 cannot afford to be distracted from the goals they have set.
However, following Russia’s invasion of Ukraine which now has over 13 thousand casualties since last February 2022, Indonesia may also have to place peace on its agenda. In a move to assert its leadership and principles for peace and order, Indonesia has decided to invite all G20 members, including Russia to the next meeting among Ministers of Finance and Central Banks which will be held at Washington DC in the United States (US).
This commitment was made despite pressure from several members to exclude Russia from G20 activities. The decision was finalised among Indonesian President Joko Widodo alongside several government officials including: Coordinating Minister for Economic Affairs Airlangga Hartarto, Minister of Finance Sri Mulyani Indrawanti, and Minister of Foreign Affairs Retno Marsudi.
“The president of the G20 always invites all members, including the G20 meeting this year. It is G20 tradition. There are no exceptions. We hope everyone will be present. If Russia is present, we still expect the other members to attend.” – Edi Prio Pambudi, Deputy in the Coordinating Ministry for Economic Affairs and Co-Sherpa of Indonesia’s 2022 G20 Presidency.
Some observers may see Indonesia as ‘indecisive’ to ‘punish’ a ruthless foreign power. However, this move needs to really be seen as a bold display of Indonesia’s principles. That is, to participate in carrying out world order based on freedom, eternal peace, and social justice as written in the 4th paragraph of the preamble in Indonesia’s Constitution.
Indonesia must utilise its G20 presidency as an opportunity to serve as a peace mediator between global rivalries. Furthermore, Indonesia can take the lead towards a global order and peace that does not subscribe to ‘regional or block politics.’
Nonetheless, Indonesia will face challenges during its period as G20 president. This includes impacts from the Russo-Ukrainian War diverting the G20’s attention and resources away from their prioritised issues. The G20 will have to deal with its implications towards the global economy, COVID-19 recovery, climate change and development.
The most immediate challenge is a major global economic recession, caused initially by the COVID-19 pandemic in 2020 which slowed down supply chains. That recession is now worsened by Russia’s Ukrainian invasion and the sanctions the West has implemented in return. Both Russia and Ukraine are major suppliers of oil, wheat and minerals. So, though their conflict initially only disrupted trade and financial systems in Europe the effects are now global.
In fact, the resulting economic recession may have unique impacts on Indonesia and in turn its ability to lead the G20. As Russia and Ukraine’s supply of sunflower oil to Europe has slowed the region has turned towards crude palm oil (CPO), one of Indonesia’s largest export commodities, to replace their oil-related needs. This may unintentionally worsen the preexisting cooking oil scarcity taking place in the country for the past few months.
The Indonesian government has already tried to address the short supply of cooking oil recently, but increasing foreign demand may further complicate the crisis. The timing is a double-edged sword. Though the rising value of Indonesia’s CPO may seem favourable at a glance, it may incentivise producers to further divert their sales away from cooking oil companies supplying for the domestic market. If the crisis is not handled soon, Indonesia’s focus may turn more to its domestic issues than its G20 ambitions.
Russia and Ukraine’s war can also undermine the G20’s goals towards climate change and COVID-19 recovery by shifting G20 members’ focus to military spending. On one-hand, shipments of weapons and missiles toward the Russo-Ukrainian border detract from joint-efforts to supply vaccines and medical equipment towards developing nations.
On the other hand, war and military spending are also proven to be very detrimental to the environment and climate change. Military machines like tanks, submarines and jet-planes consume lots of energy and non-renewable fuels. They also emit a lot of greenhouse gas (GHG).
In fact, the mere maintenance of military equipment and infrastructure in places like the US can emit more GHG than whole other countries. Carbon emissions scale with increasing investment in military spending, and takes away human and financial resources that could be used for climate change mitigation and preventing the spread and health issues from COVID-19.
Increasing carbon emissions from armed conflict is especially disappointing considering the pledge the world made at the COP26 Climate Change Summit last November in Glasgow, Scotland. That pledge especially highlighted the need to cut down and eventually replace non-renewable energy. It is a time sensitive issue and failure to reduce our carbon footprint within the century will leave irreversible effects on the Earth’s temperature.
The political and economic destabilisation caused by the recent conflict and economic recession will hinder Indonesia’s vision for the G20, especially their three prioritised issues. While the international community fares with political and financial instability, it will be difficult to cooperate to improve health response towards COVID-19 and further advancements in sustainable energy, digitised systems and climate change mitigation.
Indonesia has taken its first step by insisting the G20 members meet despite rivalries. Now it must convince them to cooperate for our mutual peace, survival and prosperity.