Monday, March 12th, 2018, the University of Sydney was visited by the former Indonesian Foreign Minister, Dr. Marty Natalegawa. He served as Foreign Minister from 2009-2014 and, in 2011, Indonesia was appointed as the Chair of Association of Southeast Asian Nations (ASEAN). Between 2002-2005, he performed as the Director-General for ASEAN Cooperation in Indonesia’s Department of Foreign Affairs. He came to give his speech about ‘The Future of ASEAN’ in front of Australian and Indonesian officials, academics, and students at The Refectory, University of Sydney. As we know, ASEAN is still facing challenges and opportunities in the era of prompt geopolitical transformation, especially in the Asia-Pacific region. Also, the next day would be an important moment for ASEAN and Australia because both parties were welcoming the Special Summit.

Dr.Michael Spence gave opening speech (Doc. PPIA 2018)

Opening the lecture was Dr. Michael Spence AC, the Vice-Chancellor, and Principal, University of Sydney. Discussing with Dr. Marty Natalegawa in the lecture was Dr. Michael Vatikiotis who is the writer of “Blood and Silk: Power and Conflict in Modern Southeast Asia”. The lecture given by Dr. Marty Natalegawa was followed then by questions from Dr. Michael Vatikiotis and the floor. It was such an abundant event in the middle of the autumn day at the university.

Dr. Marty Natalegawa spoke confidently throughout the lecture. He said that ASEAN is seen to be proactive and reactive to the issues happening within and outside the neighbourhood. ASEAN has been transformative as well in promoting changes in intra-region and changes of the relation between ASEAN and wider area. Despite the growth potential, ASEAN still should learn a lot from the past, particularly in governance and human rights issues, like Myanmar crisis and Indonesia’s reformation.

Dr. Marty Natalegawa gave his lecture about ASEAN (Doc.PPIA 2018)

Now, ASEAN is also developing its economy as the result of efforts by the policies of ASEAN members. Indonesia, as the biggest economy among members, has contributed the most to the regional gross domestic product (GDP) and this country becomes the only member from ASEAN to the Group of 20 (G20). “Indonesia also has taken the leadership role and been able to be part of (ASEAN) transformation”, said Dr. Marty Natalegawa. He also added that Indonesia has participated in sustaining intra-ASEAN cooperative outlook.

By ASEAN Community 2015, he expects that the community can elevate cooperation which should be learned from European Union (EU). However, to be an integrity like in Europe, ASEAN still has to work hard to make it within their own region. That has been a necessity for ASEAN to build up the ‘sense of community’ which signifies a characteristic of the region ‘people-centered’. By working together, he hopes ASEAN can deal with the complex dynamic, challenges of geopolitical and geo-economic shifts, and progress or regress from uncertainty to drifts.

Instead of transactional foreign policy, ASEAN needs to develop the cooperative partnership. One of the challenges we have is class deficits among the nations. He emphasised,”In the 21st century, let’s apply non-interference and state sovereignty”. For instance, in Cambodia – Thailand conflict, Indonesia still respect the sovereignty of two countries and chose to offer ASEAN Solution as a comprehensive solution. Indonesia should resist saying “no” in conflict resolution because saying ‘no’ is not a policy. Not only in intra-region, ASEAN is a bit more confident and ambitious to offer its ideas towards the wider region.

Dr. Marty Natalegawa encourages the people of ASEAN to be the driver for change. He thinks ASEAN is still too divided and ASEAN should change to be stronger and more integrated to offer the answers to some situations. ASEAN also should change, or even transform, rather than just being a responsive body. In the future, more challenges will come and ASEAN has to be ready for all the shifts happening inside and outside the region.

After he ended the lecture, he had a short discussion with Dr. Michael Vatikiotis about ASEAN’s past and present. He also accepted some questions or comments from the floor before he moved to the press room to give the release. The participants made networking group and enjoyed the refreshment served. It was such a fruitful event of his due to his faith and confidence on ASEAN in bridging the region to the world.

Thursday, March 22nd, 2018

Bakti A. P. Rozali