Indonesia and UN - partners in the country’s development process
The new United Nations Resident Coordinator in Indonesia, Anita Nirody, recently talked to the UN Connect newsletter on her work in the country. Below is the interview:
Question: What is your vision for the UN Country Team in Indonesia?
Anita Nirody (AN): It is such a pleasure to be in Indonesia. I arrived about two months ago, and I have used my time to meet with the country team. I have started meeting with different national counterparts within Government and outside. So, I want to say that I am still in a learning process because this is a large country, diverse, extremely complex with many opportunities and challenges. So really looking at my vision should be contextualised within the learning that I am undergoing now. I was very pleased to have my conversations with the Government and with the UN in this country and we really have a long history of collaboration. Very importantly, when I try to outline my vision for this country, I would like to frame it in one word- and that is partnership. This is a country that is middle income, a member of the G20, has a strong and growing economy and has made progress in social and economic realms. There is a lot of potential for it to grow even more. Within this context, the conversation that we, as the UN, are having with our national counterparts, is what this partnership is about and what we, as a global entity, bring to Indonesia’s development. So, in addition to a partnership, another important element that I see us engaging on is really bringing in policy advise and technical expertise from various parts of the world to contribute to Indonesia’s development. But at the same time, there is a lot of rich experience within this country that we very much would like to share with other parts of the world in the development field. So, it is very much a two-way relationship and it is very much a partnership that we are engaged on. I think it’s quite important for me to mention that the foundation of our work, the UN Partnership Development Framework which was signed in 2016. It is a four-year-framework and forms the foundation for our engagement in this country. It really emphasizes the issue of disparities and what we can do together to support the development in Indonesia.
Q: What will be your focus on the partnership?
AN: I believe that the UN Partnership Development Framework provides an excellent Foundation upon which we, as the UN in this country, can build on. We should frame everything that we do, support and advise on Indonesia within the context of Indonesia’s own national development priorities and the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) that the global community, including Indonesia as one of the founding states for the SDGs, have signed up to. So, our support is going to be within the SDGs framework. We are looking at 17 Goals, 169 indicators that cover a range of economic, social and environmental dimensions and a lot of cross-cutting issues related to gender, youth and combating climate change. There are several areas within the SDGs that the Government and its partners are working on and we see ourselves as an important part of this process, working with them and supporting them, based on the experience we have from other countries.
If we talk about focus, I would like to refer to a few specific issues. One of the very important issues in this country is economic growth and economic productivity, and reducing poverty. This is very much encapsulated within Indonesia’s own Medium Term Development Plan and also in our Partnership Development Framework – how to support the growth of productivity, employment and sustainable development. The other area is what we call good governance which is really the building blocks and foundation to building a democracy in any country around the world. This includes supporting efforts to combat corruption, for example, supporting the countering and prevention of violent extremism, supporting the access to justice to communities that are poor, to vulnerable parts of the population, to women and to those who may not have the means to have the access to justice. So, these are some of the broad areas within the good governance.
Another very important area of focus is on social services- health and education. This is a country that has made tremendous progress in these areas with quite a large percentage of the budget going towards health and education. But there are also some challenges such as stunting for children under five and the relatively high maternal mortality rate. Our role is to provide advice and support as we can in terms of access to some of these very basic social services- health and education- but also looking at ways to improve the quality of health-care and education in the country. I believe we have the experience from around the world and the expertise to bring together in this area.
And last but not the least, this is a country that is extremely rich in biodiversity - probably one of the richest globally. It is seen as a mega-diverse country in abundance of natural resources but is also a country that has suffered from high rates of deforestation, forest-fires and the impact of climate change. I think this is an area certainly where the UN system can provide advice and support and it is going to be an important area of focus. In these areas that I have talked about, I think it is going to be important for us to bear in mind that we continue to work with vital constituencies like young people within this country and we ensure that our policies and our support to this country integrate gender issues. There is a lot of progress made in this country in terms of gender and there are also challenges as we know, in the economic and social realms. I believe that it will be quite important for us to keep our eyes on issues related to gender, to look at women’s access to the labour market, women’s access to justice, women’s access to employment opportunities, and to health and education. I think this is going to be very much driving through all the work that we do in this country.
Q: With the population of young people on the increase globally what do you see as their role in the implementation of the SDGs?
AN: Absolutely critical, essential and vital. For the UN, we see young people as a force for change. When we talk about young people we need to look at them within the context of the System-wide Action Plan that the UN Secretary-General put together on young people and really provided the framework for what we do and how we engage with this very important constituency around the world. You will have seen very recently that the Secretary-General has appointed a very dynamic young woman, Jayathma Wickramanayake as his envoy on youth, and I think this sends a very important message because it is enabling young people to understand and engage around a series of development, peace and humanitarian issues globally.
If you look at the Asia Pacific region it is home to 700 million young people, which is a huge number. And if we look at the context within this country there is about 65 million young people so, we really need to be a force for change and a force for influencing and shaping the development outcomes in this country. And if you look at the SDGs you will see that almost a third of the goals, across the goals, makes some reference to young people. So, they do have a critical role to play within the country. I think that the formulation of the SDGs and the next 15 years are going to be very important because young people are going to be growing up and experiencing also the impact of some of the policies that decision-makers are going to take with regards to this course. The question then becomes how do we actually engage them in the process? What is our role in connecting them to the development agenda in the country and what is it that we can do? I think it’s very important for me to mention here that in countries across the world we have been playing a very important role in linking up youth through youth groups and youth networks and providing that platform for consultation, dialogue and input into a country’s development agenda. In Indonesia, young people and the importance of young people for their development and the SDGs is very much part and encapsulated in their Medium-Term Development Framework. In the UN we are of course playing an important role in many different ways, recognizing that young people now in this country are more educated, healthier and digitally connected, but at the same time face a number of challenges, both in terms of their access to the labour market and the skills that they bring. In the case of girls, many of them are leaving school because of early marriage for example, having perhaps less of an understanding of what their reproductive rights are. So, these are some of the challenges they face. But they are also a lot of opportunities because of so much progress that has been made overall in the development agenda in this country. For the UN I think itis very important that we engage them as we support our national partners on the implementation of the SDGs. It is going to be very important that they be an intrinsic part of that effort and we are very pleased to have in fact nominated in Indonesia some young celebrities who can advocate on the issues of young people and the SDGs, whether it is related to the empowerment of women or climate change. We call them SDGs Movers and I am very proud of this effort and of course there is a lot of work that we are doing with our Planning Ministry, BAPPENAS, and the Ministry of Youth and Sports, for the first time, supporting the National Action Plan on Youth in this country and having the youth index which will measure progress of youth contributions to development. So, these are some of the areas.
.Young people are also innovators. They bring fresh thoughts and very fresh ideas into any situation and we have been very pleased to engage them through, for example, crowd funding campaigns to address issues related to the protection of the Sumatran Tigers, or on the issues of water and its conservation. The refreshing ideas that they bring to development solutions cannot be under-estimated. This is something that could be used and enhanced. I very much hope that seeing them as I do, as bringing energy, dynamism, ideas and change, that it will enrich the development debate and the development outcomes. As the UN, we very much hope to be part of that process as well as bring experience on how we are engaging with youth. There are some great examples out there, across board, within the development process in Indonesia.
Q: What do you see as the role of technology in all the areas you touched on?
AN: The role of technology is tremendous. And if you look at social media in this country, this is one of the countries where the use of social media is considered the 6th largest in the world. You have huge and very active engagement of people on a variety of social media channels such as Twitter, Facebook and Instagram. I think that leveraging technology and leveraging the social media as a positive force for development, is something that we all need to collectively look at and I think Indonesia has provided a number of wonderful examples in that regard.