11 December 2022

Indonesia’s Chair in ASEAN 2023 and Support for the Blue Economy

Small-scale fishermen in Bitung, North Sulawesi. doc: M. Salachuddin

ASEAN’s economic growth of 5.5 percent in 2022 makes this region the world’s fastest growing region. Holding the ASEAN Chair in 2023, Indonesia invites countries in one region to not only pursue inclusive growth, but also sustainable and equitable growth.

Carrying the theme “ASEAN Matters: Epicentrum of Growth”, Indonesia will chair the Association of Southeast Asian Nations (ASEAN) in 2023. The government focuses on inclusive economic growth and is committed to the Sustainable Development Goals or SDGs.

In addition, Indonesia will strengthen the implementation of the inclusive ASEAN Outlook on the Indo-Pacific (AOIP) in order to create a peaceful, interconnected, inclusive and competitive region.

Indonesia is also pushing for a blue economy and a shift towards renewable energy. Both are expected to be aligned with the principles of accessibility, affordability and sustainability for the ASEAN people.

ASEAN agreed on a joint commitment regarding the blue economy at a highlevel conference (Summit) which will be held in 2021 – or when Brunei Darussalam holds the chairmanship. The call was repeated the following year under Cambodian leadership.

This commitment was formed based on the awareness that the sea is one of the keys to driving economic growth.

Referring to this function, ASEAN feels the need to maintain the sustainability of the sea so that its utilization is optimal and long-term.

Lately too, Indonesia has been actively calling for the implementation of a blue economy because of the huge potential available in the seas and coasts. The World Bank predicts that the blue economy will create 7 million jobs and a profit of US$27 billion against Indonesia’s gross domestic product.

ASEAN has collectively agreed on a declaration of commitment to this blue economy. However, a blue economy framework that is used collectively by member countries is not yet available.

The blue economy framework is also not specifically included in the agenda in the ASEAN Economic Community (Masyarakat Ekonomi ASEAN or MEA). Leading ASEAN in 2023, Indonesia has a great opportunity to present the agenda in regional negotiations.

The capacity as the largest maritime country in ASEAN allows Indonesia to determine what agendas and achievements can be achieved by countries in the same region. Holding the chairmanship of ASEAN means that Indonesia also has the opportunity to present the blue economy as an important agenda item at the upcoming summit.

Small-scale fishermen in Bitung, North Sulawesi

Indonesia can become a policy formatter and blue economy framework. In this way, the commitment of member countries is not limited to collective declarations, but is also implemented properly.

Moreover, Indonesia already has experience working with several communities and other countries regarding the blue economy. For example, with Sweden and the Seychelles Islands through a blue economy development program on Maratua Island, East Kalimantan. Empowerment and fulfilling the potential utilization of marine resources through this program can be an example – if you don’t want to mention a foothold – for other countries in the ASEAN region.

However, it should also be remembered that any efforts to strengthen the blue economy will not be that easy if water disputes cannot be resolved.

Currently, Indonesia and ASEAN are facing increasing competition for influence and power projection between the major powers in the Asia Pacific region. Geopolitical tensions, the formation of defense alliances outside ASEAN, the potential presence of nuclear-powered submarines and an arms race between major powers in Southeast Asia and the Indo-Pacific are overshadowing ASEAN and becoming a new reality in the region, writes Beginda Pakpahan, political and economic analyst , in the Kompas Daily opinion column. Indonesia and ASEAN, he later wrote, “were in a difficult and dilemmatic position to respond to this situation. The dynamics of the internal and external environment of the Southeast Asian region also affect peace and stability in the region.”

If miscalculations occur, it is possible that tensions will escalate and open conflicts will occur in Southeast Asia, East Asia, and the IndoPacific. An example of a case that we need to pay close attention to because it can affect regional peace and stability is the South China Sea.

To this day, major powers are busy escalating competition and showing off their strength in these strategic waters. Indonesia and ASEAN need to play a more important role in ensuring regional peace and stability.


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