Now! people |

Indonesia Welcomes the New UK Ambassador Owen Jenkins

NOW! PEOPLE | 2 December 2019
Picture of Owen Jenkins, UK Ambassador to Indonesia
Owen Jenkins, UK Ambassador to Indonesia. Photo by Raditya Fadilla/NOWJAKARTA

Welcome to Indonesia. Please can you give us a brief history of your career and any highlights you may wish to recall.

Thank you. I am thrilled to be posted here. This is the culmination of 28 years (so far) in the diplomatic service. It is my fourth overseas posting and my first as ambassador, so it is tremendously exciting. I have previously worked in Turkey, Argentina, Brussels and India and have always sought out jobs which are challenging and in places which are dynamic, exciting and (usually) far-flung. Indonesia certainly fits the bill! I have also done a number of jobs at our HQ in London, most recently as the Prime Minister’s Special Representative for Afghanistan and Pakistan, which was an extraordinary job, and a fascinating insight into a part of the world where the UK has always been a major player.

Do you have any major items in your agenda that you would like to achieve while you are here?

I’ve only been here a few months, but I ‘ve given this a good deal of thought. So here’s my starter for 10 -

  • Economics, trade and prosperity: the first embassies were trade missions, and promoting trade, investment and prosperity is always going to be central to what we do. After Brexit there will be even more emphasis on ensuring that our efforts bring practical shared benefits to the UK and to Indonesia. This will be a high priority for me.
  • Foreign and security policy: Indonesia’s place in the world, and its choices, are of increasing interest to the UK and to other major geopolitical actors. Its size, location and potential mean it will be a major player in the 21st century. Upholding the Rules-Based International System will be key to ensuring shared security and prosperity in an Asia with many centres of power and influence and a world of great uncertainty and challenge. We want to work with Indonesia as a key country with an interest in ensuring that all states play by the rules.
  • Sustainability: a personal area of interest for me, I have always wanted to concentrate on this area. But we are also about to enter a busy period for the interlinked agendas of climate change, sustainability and biodiversity. The UK will take a leading role, as the chair of next year’s COP26, and Indonesia is a critical country across the whole agenda.
  • Soft power: I have been very struck by the reach in Indonesia of British football, music, language, pop culture, etc., and by the scale and strength of the British Council’s work, who lead on many of these. I want to find even more ways to tap into these strengths to deliver our specific goals. My favourite football team is by some distance the question I get asked most (it’s Arsenal, by the way).

There is a major ongoing celebration of the Indonesia – UK 70th Anniversary of diplomatic relations, can you tell us more about this?

Happily. It is fantastic to have landed in Indonesia in the middle of such a positive set of events. Our 70th anniversary is a good excuse for the UK and Indonesia to celebrate our shared values, the deep cooperation already happening between us in a whole variety of areas from the economy to defence, and the people-to-people connections that make up our nations’ great friendship. Our relations have never been so good. We are working together to create new collaboration in science and academia, to tackle corruption, to clear the path for low carbon development, build infrastructure, to help Indonesians learn English… I could go on. In this inter-connected world, we must work together to shape the future for the better. Over the next 70 years and beyond, I am confident that our two nations will stand together as friends to make the world more peaceful and prosperous.

"It is fantastic to have landed in Indonesia in the middle of such a positive set of events. Our 70th anniversary is a good excuse for the UK and Indonesia to celebrate our shared values, the deep cooperation already happening between us in a whole variety of areas from the economy to defence, and the people-to-people connections that make up our nations’ great friendship."

Are you here with your family? Please tell us a bit about them.

I am here with my wife and son, who are thoroughly enjoying their immersion in this amazing country. We have two other children, at university and school in the UK, but visiting for the holidays. We have already enjoyed one wonderful trip to Komodo National Park and hope it will be the first of many!