At first glance, one might think what an unusual pair: Indonesia and Germany, located on different continents, each with neighborhood problems of their own. One country shaped by a Christian-Jewish cultural heritage, the other with a long multi-cultural and religious tradition that has defined a modernist middle-path Islam.
And yet at second glance, Germany and Indonesia have a lot in common. They are both large democracies and strategically important countries within their respective regions – in fact, to the extent that others ascribe them a sense of authority and responsibility within their neighborhoods.
Representing western Europe and Asia, the two countries have been elected as non-permanent members of the United Nations Security Council, or UNSC. They will serve on the international community’s prime security institution for the next two years. They do so in particularly troubling times, as the international rules-based order is under stress and authoritarianism is globally on the rise.
While much has been said and written about the alliance of multilateralists, the concept has remained somewhat fuzzy. For us, however, the challenge is clear: We need to bridge geographical distance across the globe by building a network of multilateralists that share a commitment to the rules-based international order.
Therefore we believe that during our shared term at the UN Security Council, both our countries should look beyond their immediate spheres of interest and aspire to cooperation where one might not necessarily expect it. In doing so, we hope to open up a debate that goes way beyond bilateral Indonesian-German cooperation and lays out a vision and, more so, a project that will encourage others to join along the way – thereby forging a true alliance of multilateralists.
In times in which our worlds are radically changing, it is our understanding that a multilateralist vision needs to put security first. As the rules-based international order erodes, new challenges to state and human security arise and yet the UNSC is increasingly unfit to tackle these challenges. With difficulties in the bilateral relationships between some of the five permanent members, or P5, the new non-permanent members should help create a much more conductive atmosphere within the UNSC.
Indonesia and Germany can play important roles in this regard by proposing independent initiatives and jointly pressuring the P5 to secure and implement the main tasks of UNSC with as little veto threats as possible. In our view, two topics are particularly pressing to focus on, namely maritime security cooperation and mediation to build peaceful and stable regions.
As the largest archipelagic state located in the strategically most-important waterways in the world, maritime security is critical for Indonesia. But cooperation in order to keep sea-lanes safe, is also a matter of global consequences. This is particularly evident in the Asia-Pacific, where the two largest powers, China and the United States, have shown ambivalent positions on the international law of the sea (UNCLOS). We urge China and the US to lead by example in respecting, ratifying and implementing the provisions of UNCLOS.
But our two countries should equally do their share. We believe that Germany and Indonesia should be part of an inter-regional response to maintaining the freedom of the seas. Special emphasis should be given to the full implementation of Article 23 of UNCLOS, which governs the right of innocent passage for nuclear-powered ships through territorial seas. The UNSC should launch a disussion of the liabilities nuclear-powered ships may involve, while exercising their freedom of navigation.
While maritime security has the most direct implications for Indonesia, the interlinked nature of security and stability in the Middle East has serious impact on European societies. But as the largest Muslim community in the world, a stable Middle East, with a moderate Islam at its heart, also matters to Indonesia. Indonesians and Europeans alike have suffered from a flow of terrorists from the region that aim to unsettle our societies through radicalism, violence and terrorist attacks.
An alliance of multilateralists needs to generate the political will in their regions to finally take steps towards pacifying the Middle East. While a German and European role could be more institutional in bringing stakeholders together, Indonesia and other moderate Muslim nations, should act as mediators within the region. Indonesia in particular, has important lessons to offer from its own experiences with counter-terrorism and de-radicalization that could serve as a model for the Middle East.
The difficult times we are living in make multilateral cooperation more necessary, but also more difficult in practice. Some governments no longer feel strongly committed to this approach of global problem-solving. It is therefore crucial to advocate a multi-stakeholder approach to multilateralism that goes beyond traditional government cooperation. It should include legislatures and relevant non-governmental actors that share an interest in multilateral cooperation and a rules-based international order. Accordingly, we intend on bringing the Indonesian and German members of the foreign affairs committees together for a parliamentary discussion of the topic.
Now some of you might think, what an unusual pair: Indonesia’s ambassador to Germany and the Chair of the German Foreign Affairs Committee outlining a German-Indonesian vision of multilateralism. This vision is the spontaneous result of a meeting in Berlin, where we are both professionally based. And while it might be unusual, neither of us is afraid to think and act outside the box.
Ambassador Arif Havas Oegroseno and Dr. Norbert Röttgen represent Indonesia and Germany as temporary members of the UN Security Council. To contact the authors: [email protected]