10 Juni 2018 By Publikasi IIS

[COMMENTARIES] Opportunities, Challenges and Projections of Indonesian Foreign Policy as Non-Permanent Member of the United Nations Security Council (UNSC)

[COMMENTARIES] Opportunities, Challenges and Projections of Indonesian Foreign Policy as Non-Permanent Member of the United Nations Security Council (UNSC)

The election of non-permanent members of the United Nations Security Council (UNSC) has been commenced on Friday, June 8th 2018. Indonesia gained 144 out of 190 votes of the member states of the United Nations General Assembly (UNGA) and secured its seat as non-permanent member of the UNSC. The road to this position was not easy that Indonesia already eyeing this position since 2016. However, the position was obtained by Kazakhstan. Therefore, Ministry of Foreign Affairs (MOFA) of Indonesia prioritized this campaign by possessing its track record upon the role of Indonesia in supporting global peace, humanitarian values, and prosperity.

In the presence of other delegations, Retno Marsudi as Indonesian Foreign Minister, stated that Indonesia will be a true partner for world peace during its reign. In that campaign, digital diplomacy seemed prominently used, as seen from how Indonesia uses various types of popular social media during the campaign. This strategy is applied in order to introduce Indonesia’s contributions in developing global peace, both to the international community and to Indonesian citizen. Published gait in social media also take an important role in UN Peacekeeping operations as well as humanitarian aid. Indonesia’s contributions are not limited only to the armed conflict resolution, but also in the form of disaster response in all parts of the world.

Middle Power Strategy and the Opportunities for Indonesia

By a margin of 98 votes from the Maldives, the success of Indonesia becomes opportunity to contribute in more strategic motion. First, through the foreign policy analysis (FPA) framework, it is important to see the direction and objectives of Indonesia in two years ahead. With the UNSC membership, Indonesia would have opportunities to arrange security agenda, recalling its position as a middle power state. Derived from MOFA of Indonesia’s campaign, Indonesia not only has materialistic ability attribute but also has what is perceived as internationalism willingness to become a good international citizen (Cooper, Higgott and Nossal, 1993). Beside the emergence of terrorism issues in Asia, security interest in the maritime aspect of Asia-Pacific region is linear with the current Indonesia?s maritime orientation.

State’s response towards de-radicalization process and counter-terrorism are able to offer a new perspective. As one of the largest democracies, Indonesia is able to promote and strengthen diplomacy through moderate Islamic values which are part of Indonesian society (Natalegawa, 2010). In the highlight of terrorism and maritime concerns in Asia-Pacific, Indonesia had a chance to offset the issue by playing role as a key geopolitical actor that able to represent Asia-Pacific equipped by authentic knowledge of maritime state.

Previously, UNSC already projected several priorities until the reign of 2018 ends. Those priorities including conflict that divided based on the region, such as Libya, South Sudan and Democratic Republic of Congo as the concerns in Africa; the issue of Palestine in the Middle-East, to continue the resolution of Iran’s Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action as well as Yemen; then in Asia by focusing on Afghanistan and the issues in Central Asia. The opportunity owned by Indonesia is derived from the point where the state could contribute in the next period in 2019. This correlated to the regional issues of Southeast Asia that could be raised by using humanitarian diplomacy as the tool and the constructive involvement from the civil society both in the form of academic community, non-governmental entity and grass-root community. Based on the middle power characteristics, Indonesia had a chance to enter from the aspect of internationalism and the ability to represent non-traditional security issues.

Furthermore, Retno Marsudi emphasized the role of Indonesia in bridging understanding between actors (Kemlu, 2018), a role that reflecting middle power’s foreign policy. This could be seen as a main supremacy that could be offerred by Indonesia in mediating the forum objectively, in the middle of political interests of the superpower states without overriding other’s interests (Lee, Sun, Cuh and Tomhsen, 2015). Likewise, its status as non-permanent member in UNSC could give different tunes upon the dynamics of regional security. These changes are offerring alternative views in order to fulfill mediating function or ‘bridge’ in the UNSC. For this context, the direction offerred by foreign minister to the UN is inline with foreign policy framework in which it adjusted to President Joko Widodo’s visions. Therefore, Indonesia could maximized external interaction mainly in international organizations to achieve national interests.

Projections of Indonesia’s Challenges Ahead

As a non-permanent member of the UNSC, Indonesia would face several challenges both from internal and external aspects. Internally, the president election in 2019 would potentially increasing domestic political volatility. In this context, oftentimes the middle power is unable to commit in the foreign policy making process. Mainly in obeying international system, because of an ever-changing domestic political forecast and it influence the decision making process (Jordan, 2003). Moreover, Indonesia’s foreign policy direction is most likely changes due to the change of leader. This correlated with the foreign policy analysis (FPA) in the specific actor level. Knowledge and political perception from the leader of the state could influenced the visions of a state’s foreign policy (Jervis, 1976). Beyond that, terrorisms, extremism and radicalism based on domestic violence would be a complex challenge, where a state’s long term full attention is needed to handle it. In terms of external aspect, in the UNSC, Indonesia has contradictive view with the US as one of the P5 members in the context of Palestine issue. Besides, as a part and leader in ASEAN, there are several regional security challenges which become Indonesia’s burden. Humanitarian issue that raises in Southeast Asia must be represented in international forum, Rohingya issue for instance. As already stated in the previous paragraph, there would be numerous cases raised in this forum and many voices correlated to the interests of each state. Moreover, the UN has such complex bureaucracy and difficult consensus process, where Indonesia shall perform and voice its position firmly in larger institutional meetings. In the occasion given, state should positioning itself strategically eluding disappearance of Indonesia’s interest within the forum, so that ultimately the membership is unable to give substantial essence to the state.


Becoming a non-permanent member of UNSC was Indonesia’s target since 2016. However, this achievement is needs to be followed by the clarity of Indonesia?s national interest as well as the future foreign policy direction. Foreign policy effectivity could be answered when a state is able to fulfill the planning, because the position is not an ultimate point of the Indonesia’s effort to be more involved yet seen in global political stage. Holistical strategy in the practice of Indonesia’s diplomacy should accommodate various challenges that would appeared in numerous meetings in the future. It includes the combination between traditional and non-traditional security issues as well as military and humanitarian approaches. For further, the direction of Indonesia’s foreign policy within the UNSC should be adjusted with the vision as a true partner for world peace that has been declared.

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Habibah Hermanadi, SIP

Researcher, Global Politics and Security, Institute of International Studies UGM

Atin Prabandari, MA (IR)

Lecturer, Departement of International Relations, Universitas Gadjah Mada



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  • Kemlu, Kementerian Luar Negeri Indonesia – Utusan Khusus Presiden Galang Dukungan dari Berbagai Penjuru Dunia, 8 Juni 2018, Retrieved from https://www.kemlu.go.id/id/berita/Pages/Utusan-Khusus-Presi-den-Galang-Dukungan-dari-Berbagai-Penjuru-Dunia.aspx
  • Lee, S., Chun, C., Suh, H., & Thomsen, P. (2015). Middle Power in Action: The Evolving Nature of Diplomacy in the Age of Multilateralism. Seoul: East Asia Institute.

Official statement and online source(s):

Translator: Kevin Abimanyu Jatmiko
[This article is first published in Bahasa Indonesia]