NEW YORK -- With Indonesia poised to assume the presidency of the G-20 next year, the leader of the world's fourth-largest country laid out its priorities to the United Nations General Assembly on Wednesday.
In a pre-recorded statement, Joko Widodo said inclusiveness and a sustainable, green economy will top the list during the 2022 presidency themed “Recover Together, Recover Stronger.” He committed to working for the benefit of all, including “vulnerable groups that must be prioritized.”
Calling for countries to work in concert, he advocated for reorganizing the architecture to mobilize global health security resources, like funding and vaccines, and establishing a standardized global health protocol for travel.
The 60-year-old Widodo, popularly known as “Jokowi,” presents himself as a man of the people and campaigned in part on a pledge to run a clean government in a country rife with corruption. His credibility in improving infrastructure and the environment in southeast Asia's largest economy helped him win a second term in 2019, although he had to reshuffle his cabinet in December after the arrests of two ministers on corruption charges.
“Indonesia’s commitment toward climate resilience, low carbon development and green technology is firm and clear,” he said, but added that developing countries need to be included in energy and technology process transformation. He underscored the importance of diversifying the locations of production centers.
After his reelection, Widodo himself announced he would relocate the country's capital from the sinking Jakarta — located on the island of Java that's home to 57% of the country's 270 million people — to a sparsely populated province on Borneo island, known for its rainforests and orangutans.
Widodo's government has eagerly courted foreign investors as drivers of economic growth in Indonesia, where nearly half the population is under 30.
“Global economic recovery can only be attained if the pandemic is under control and countries join hands in helping one another,” he said. “Indonesia, along with other developing countries, embraces quality investments.”
A jobs law implemented last year was intended to improve bureaucratic efficiency to attract that foreign investment. It was received with mass protests sparked by concerns over weakened labor and environmental protections.
Widodo has taken additional heat on the environment. Last week, an Indonesian court ordered him and other government officials to improve the air quality in Jakarta, finding that they had neglected citizens' rights to clean air.
Widodo said Indonesia reduced its forest fires by 82% in 2020, compared to the previous year. Deforestation rates also dropped to their lowest in 20 years, he said.
“Indonesia is aware of our strategic place on climate change. Thus, we will continue to work hard to fulfill our commitments,” he said, later adding that the country believes in “burden sharing, not burden shifting.”
While climate change and the economy made up a substantial portion of the president's speech, he also highlighted issues of terrorism, conflict and war.
“Concerns on the marginalization of women and violence in Afghanistan, Palestine’s elusive independence, and the political crisis in Myanmar must be our common agenda,” he said.
On that last point, he reiterated Association of Southeast Asian Nations leaders' call for Myanmar's military to assent to the five-point consensus agreed upon in Jakarta. That consensus established in the aftermath of February's military coup in Myanmar included the start of a dialogue facilitated by a special ASEAN envoy.
Karmini reported from Jakarta.
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