South-South cooperation

Recently, UNDP’s south-south cooperation unit bid farewell to one of our closest partners, Pak Syarif, who left his most recent posting as the director of the Directorate for Technical Cooperation (under Indonesia’s Ministry of Foreign Affairs) to become the deputy head of Indonesia’s mission in Australia.

In our farewell meeting, we discussed the short and medium-term trajectory of Indonesia’s south-south cooperation amid COVID-19. As only a few people are aware of, last year Indonesia launched Indonesian Aid (Indonesian Agency for International Development), in which our unit and the Norwegian embassy have been heavily involved in the making of this new institution. The country has for a long time sought to slowly resume its leading role in south-south cooperation, which it most inspiringly and profoundly demonstrated during the Sukarno era (such as the non-alignment movement or the 1955 Bandung conference). But while its past leading role was largely about political mobilization for the anti-colonial cause across the Global South, nowadays it is about political swaying through technical assistance, especially around “international development cooperation”.

Without revealing too much details, things will take more time than planned to realize as domestic priorities have assumed greater urgency. Whether or not the pandemic will further deepen the country’s patterns of inward-looking foreign policy originating from the New Order era remains to be seen. But underneath the public surface, Indonesia’s forging of Asia-Africa solidarity quietly continues and remains central to its evolving south-south cooperation policy as it slowly returns to its early post-colonial roots while navigating through the political climate at home with varying attitudes to the country’s rather untapped foreign policy potential.

Beside his telling of the rather tedious journey from Jakarta to Canberra required due to limited air traffic and boundless of other requirements for travel during COVID-19, here’s a few photos that reflect the changing work settings for all of us. Officially, there are now 81,668 positive cases across the country, with the capital Jakarta and East Java province being the two main epicenters. As our resident representative has repeatedly reminded us: there is no way back to “old” normal, meaning old ways of working. Indonesia: tetap sehat, tetap semangat!

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