Editorial: G20 Presidency, Can Indonesia Pull It Off?

4 min read

From getting a globally-recognized scholar to write a piece praising President Joko Widodo as a genius world-class leader to setting him up a rosy interview with BBC to having him state strong words against Myanmar during a meeting of Southeast Asian leaders, Indonesian officials are trying hard to establish narratives leading to G20 meeting in Rome that their president is more than capable of presiding the club of the world’s 20 biggest economies during one of the world’s most trying times.

Read more Rebuffing Professor Mahbubani’s Praises for Jokowi Point by Point

G20 is the world’s most influential forum that brings together the world’s biggest economies. Its members collectively account for more than 80% of global GDP, 75% of global trade, and 62% of the world’s population.

Indonesia took over on Sunday the presidency of the G20 from Italy, and Jokowi as he is popularly known will lead Indonesia to steer the world for one year in a time when the pandemic is still very much threatening the lives of billions of people across the globe.

Indonesian officials or at least those people surrounding Jokowi must have been thought that boosting Jokowi’s image was necessary for him to get sufficient respect to lead such a prestigious and powerful organization.

Fortunately, under his watch Indonesia has managed to drastically bring down covid-19 cases, becoming a global example of successful handling of the pandemic, although the country has to lose nearly 150,000 of its people before it can somewhat control the virus. This success has been well used as a compelling argument in Rome so that the world can give him a chance to lead.

However, presiding G20 has too much at stake for Indonesia to play around as billions of people around the world will be affected by whether Indonesia fails or succeeds in carrying out its presidency.

No president in Indonesian history was given such an opportunity to shine globally like what Jokowi is getting now. This is even a bigger chance than what was given to Indonesia’s first president Soekarno when Indonesia hosted Asia-Africa Conference in 1955. It seems like this is Jokowi’s destiny.

With G20 Rome meeting failing to address world’s most pressing problems: vaccine inequality, poor and developing nation’s mounting debts and climate change, Indonesia has huge opportunity to make history, with Jokowi being blessed with a chance no any Indonesian president could ever have: writing his or her name on global history as a world hero.

Vaccine Inequality

Vaccination is the best bet the world possesses to be able to finally control the spread of the Covid-19. However, the distribution of the vaccine is very unequal, with G20 countries which represent 62% of the world’s population having used 82% of the world’s COVID-19 vaccines and only 3.1% of people in low-income countries have received at least one dose, according to the People’s Vaccine Alliance, a coalition of more than 75 organizations, which include Oxfam, Amnesty International, the African Alliance, UNAIDS, and Global Justice Now.

The core problem of the vaccine inequality has been the rejection of big drug companies to share knowledge and technology of how to produce the vaccines and how to do diagnostics and treatments to poor and developing nations by using the International Property Rights (IPRs) as their justification for their rejection. This rejection causes the vaccine to highly concentrate within the rich nations without any use to them because they have so many doses in supply, far higher than what they need to vaccinate their population. If the IPRs could be waive, and production can be done in more countries, especially in countries with low rate of vaccination, then the vaccine will reach more people.

Many hopes that G20 leaders during the Rome meeting could agree to persuade the drug companies and waive the IPRs, but German and United Kingdom have prevented talks of waiver proposal, blocking vaccine to be distributed to billions of people, and threatening to prolong the pandemic and loss of millions more lives.

Indonesia, for instance, has told expressed optimism during a WHO press conference earlier this year that it could manufacture 550 million doses of COVID-19 vaccines a year if it is given right to do so. However, intellectual property and secrecy around vaccine knowhow have held Indonesia back.

As of October 30 Indonesia managed to give nearly 120 million or 44 percent of its population one dose, and more than 73 million or 26 percent have been fully vaccinated, still far below the WHO target of    fully vaccinating 40 per cent of people in all countries by the end of 2021 and 70 percent of people in all countries by mid-2022.

Epidemiologists have warned that the current generation of vaccine could be undermined if many people are still not getting it as the virus could quickly mutated causing the vaccine less and less useful.

Because as the president Indonesia can set agenda to be discussed and goals to be achieved, making vaccine more equally distributed must be Indonesia’s first priority. But can Indonesia rally other members to unify, and force Germany and UK to agree to waive the IPRs and set up more production bases within poor and developing nations?

The answer will define Jokowi’s legacy, and if the answer is yes, then he could be the first Indonesian to receive the Nobel Prize because Indonesia under his leadership could possibly save the lives of billions of people. At the moment, only half of nearly 8 billion world population have received one dose of the vaccine.

Can Jokowi Pull It Off?

All eyes are now on Indonesia, and Jokowi can’t treat international community like he treats his stakeholders in Indonesia. Smile, innocent look and paid buzzers will not cut it. What counts are results. We hope that Jokowi and people around him understand the crucial role they play in this endeavor, and quickly realize to just stop creating gimmicks and start doing something real to fulfill our responsibilities as G20 president.

Hopefully, Jokowi can form a special team of dedicated, honest and capable people to specifically help Indonesia achieve its goals as the president of the G20, especially to create a more equal distribution of vaccines.

The good thing is that most countries do not expect much from Indonesia. If a developed nation like Italy can’t do much, what can a developing nation like Indonesia do? But this should strengthen the motivation to prove the most people are wrong. And we believe Indonesia can do it. Global respect is what Jokowi has yet to achieve. He can choose to go quietly in 2024 or strive to make history no Indonesians have ever done before.

For us, Indonesians, whether we are Jokowi lovers, Jokowi haters, or part of indifferent groups and pessimists, we must unite to stand behind our president for Indonesia and world sake.

Editorial Omong-Omong

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