What a year it has been for diplomacy, trade investment, international relations, aid, development, and all that ties. Every year promises to be better than the last and most ambassadors tend to be optimistic (and of course diplomatic) by nature. Here is a roundup of the ambassadors we met in Now! Jakarta this year.
H.E. Yvonne Baumann speaks to NOW! Jakarta about the relationship between Indonesia and Switzerland, the role of the newly established Swiss Business Hub as well as her achievements and challenges.
How will the recently opened Swiss Business Hub in Indonesia improve economic relations between the two countries?
Indonesia is expected by some observers to become the world’s fourth largest economy by 2050, so there is still enormous potential for our trade and investment relations, especially with regard to the rising middle class. The new Swiss Business Hub (SBH) Indonesia, located on the premises of the Embassy, aims at assisting companies and investors from Switzerland to access Indonesia’s large and dynamic market. We would also welcome more Indonesian investment in Switzerland. The SBH will act as a facilitator for Swiss and Indonesian businesses to grow. And with every new branch office opening, every new product crossing our countries’ borders, and every additional dollar invested, the intercultural understanding between our two countries will grow simultaneously since conducting business abroad means getting closer to that country’s society and economy. This heightened economic activity and exchange will therefore contribute to an even stronger partnership.
The Swiss Embassy has been engaged in a human rights dialogue with the Indonesian Department of Justice and Human Rights for more than a decade. What kind of improvements have you seen over the last couple of years?
Since the end of the New Order regime Indonesia is a success story in terms of democratization and has made remarkable progress regarding the protection of human rights. In fact, Indonesia has become a regional stronghold of democracy and stability, pluralism and tolerance, with a thriving civil society and media landscape. Every five years, Indonesia adopts a National Plan of Action on Human Rights with ambitious goals. In our yearly dialogue with the Indonesian Ministry of Justice and Human Rights we exchange experiences in promoting and protecting human rights and we embark on joint cooperation projects, for instance with regard to the prevention of torture. I am confident that Indonesia will continue on its successful path and I hope that its strong tradition of tolerance and pluralism can be preserved and become a model.
During your time as Ambassador to Indonesia, what have been your most rewarding and most challenging moments so far? What other goals would you like to achieve?
I feel very privileged to live and work in this beautiful and fascinating country, which I have got to like a lot. So there were many rewarding moments. I have made incredible and unforgettable experiences with the genuine friendliness, hospitality and helpfulness of the Indonesian people, even spontaneously in the street by complete strangers. Most rewarding were also the opportunities on my trips through the country to come across the rich cultural heritage of Indonesia – be it traditional dances, songs, performances, handicrafts or historic monuments. On the professional side, an important achievement was the decision of the ASEAN Foreign Ministers in July 2016 to confer to Switzerland the status of a Sectoral Dialogue Partner of ASEAN. Switzerland was only the third country in the world to be granted this special status. High-level visits from the capital – ministers for example - are also high-lights in every diplomat’s life, particularly when they culminate in a meeting with the President as it happened on three occasions during my tenure.
H.E. Johanna Brismar-Skoog spoke to NOW! Jakarta about the strengthening ties between Sweden and Indonesia, their various fields of cooperation and her plans for the near future.
There is also a dedicated energy counselor at the embassy, has much progress been made in the renewables field and energy efficiency?
Yes. Our counselor has the expertise needed for in-depth informal conversations with industry-experts. He can also evaluate proposals for Indonesia-Swedish Cooperation and say whether they hold up or not.
We signed an MOU with Indonesia on cooperation in the energy sector in February this year, and the energy counselor is the natural contact point for developing this with the National Energy Council and the Ministry. In fact, together with our Nordic colleagues and the Coordinating Minister for Maritime, we have just had a major conversation on “Waste to Energy” with stakeholders from both the NGO, business and Government sides. We have a state of the art waste to energy plant in the middle of Stockholm which provides a very good example of how safe it is to burn garbage for energy, using modern technology and adhering to the EU regulations. In true Nordic spirit a Finnish-Swedish company, using Danish technology, is now working to set up a plant in Sunter. Other Swedish companies are strong on this technology, and for example Scania has an excellent waste to fuel program converting plastic residue to fuel for transportation.
There is definitely an upsurge in creativity in Indonesia. How is Sweden helping there?
We are looking at different ways to approach creativity and the areas we have identified are fashion and music, and of course digital and tech. We signed a letter of intent on the Creative Industries with Indonesia during the State Visit, which we are now starting to implement.
I would highlight our collaboration with Jakarta Fashion Week over the past year, culminating with a runway show this October featuring up and coming Swedish designers that have put sustainability at the heart of their business models, be it in production, recycling, socially or questioning stereotypes. Earlier this year we invited JFW to Stockholm to learn more about our fashion ecosystem and how it supports creativity and internationalization. This was also the theme for a session we organized with JFW and Jakarta Creative Hub for H.M. The Queen during the State Visit. She also met a women’s community group recycling hotel bed sheets and making them into beautiful batik textiles.
Sweden is also a world power on the popular music scene and there are some interesting initiatives by Prajna Murdaya of Shoemaker Studios, a passionate promoter of Indonesian music talent, taking young Indonesian artists to Sweden and bringing a Swedish-American voice coach couple here. We support where we are needed.
What are you final thoughts?
The bilateral relationship between Indonesia and Sweden is far deeper than business and trade. It is also built on close international collaboration in the UN, on political and security issues, sustainable development and peacekeeping, to mention a few. Sweden and Indonesia see eye to eye on many issues and our two Foreign Ministers, who happen to be women, have good rapport. Some examples: we cooperate in the UN on the recent Rakhine refugee crisis, where Sweden is a member of the Security Council and Indonesia an important and influential regional actor. Indonesia took a leading role during the Sweden-Fiji hosted first-ever UN Conference on the Ocean in June, and co-chaired the working group on plastic debris. Our governments have also agreed on developing trilateral collaboration with Palestine. So there are many things to build on for the future and we need to keep a long-term perspective.
H.E. Päivi Hiltunen-Toivio has been the Ambassador of Finland to Indonesia for the past three years. In an interview with NOW! Jakarta, she spoke about the fields of cooperation between the two countries, development policies and sustainability and shared tips for Indonesians who are planning to travel to Finland.
Finland was named the most stable country in the world during 2011–2016. How was this achieved?
I think it is a combination of various components that have led to Finland becoming the most stable country. The Finnish society is very much built on a high-class education system where every child has an equal right to basic education – the ethos of “no one is left behind” is very important. Equality in society in general and low levels of hierarchy is the norm in Finland, which in turn can prevent conflicts and increase stability. The level of corruption is one of the lowest in the world. We put great value on an open society, freedom of speech and press, gender equality and a strong rule of law. The government highly invests in research and development, which has led to high technology, a strong innovation culture and a large number of patents. In Finland original and versatile cultural life is vital to human capital and actually does not require huge financial resources.
Scandinavian countries are frontrunners when it comes to sustainability. Finland wants to be a leading country in the implementation of Agenda 2030, the UN’s new sustainable development programme. Where does Finland currently stand, and how do you think Indonesia fares in this regard?
The sustainable development goals of Agenda 2030 are an ambitious transformative effort. The Agenda forces us all to rethink the way we live our lives, not only in developing countries but also in the Western world – we have a shared and individual responsibility to be a part of this agenda.
When it comes to Finland, we were among the first countries to present our implementation plan at the UN forum, maybe also because this is not exactly new to us. The Finnish model includes a wide national sustainable development commission led by the Prime Minister that has been in place since 1993.
I am happy to see that the Indonesian government has also launched the implementation of sustainable development goals and presented its plans at the UN forum. At the same time, I understand that climate change and the sustainable development agenda has been a high priority for the government. To mention a few examples, Indonesia was the first country in the world to gain the EU’s FLEGT license on legal timber and has also established the BRC Peatland Restoration Agency. Furthermore, Indonesia initiated a World Parliamentary Forum on Sustainable Development meeting in Bali last September and will have another chance to showcase its work in Sustainable Development Goals next year when it will host the World Bank and IMF meetings. I think this is a globally visible and promising start for Indonesia in the implementation of the Agenda 2030.
Finland is a world leader in Cleantech (Clean Technology). Do Finland and Indonesia work together in this field?
According to the environmental performance index 2016, Finland was the greenest country in the world. Cleantech Finland is a concept that offers solutions to environmental and energy efficiency problems, bringing together experts that can introduce fresh ideas and solutions to challenges. Cleantech covers air quality, sustainably produced bio products and materials, clean water, energy and resource efficiency, renewables and smart grid, smart transport and logistics as well as technology to bring value from waste.
Indonesia can benefit from cooperation with Finnish Cleantech companies in many ways. There are already quite a few projects between Finland and Indonesia that include transfer of technology and skills in Cleantech sectors.
It is often said that Finland has one of the best education systems in the world. Are you trying to attract more Indonesians to study in Finland?
We receive more and more inquiries about the possibility of studying in Finland at the Embassy. However, the number of Indonesian students in Finland is still quite low – around 100 students annually. Finland has only recently begun to attract foreign students to come to Finland. Nevertheless, we have been trying to open new channels and encourage Finnish universities and other educational institutions to come to Indonesia learn more about the country and establish a network. Finland and Indonesia have also signed two MoUs in the field of education a few years ago, which are now the basis for our cooperation.
Denmark’s new Ambassador to Indonesia, H.E. Rasmus Abildgaard Kristensen, had a chat with NOW! Jakarta about areas of cooperation between Indonesia and Denmark, as well as the personal and professional goals he would like to achieve during his tenure in Indonesia
The Danish Government’s “Growth Strategy Indonesia” seems to be a real win-win scenario. It has been in operation for four years. What’s been successful so far?
Actually, our previous government launched the “Growth Strategy”, but that has largely been superseded by new initiatives. The State Visit of Her Majesty The Queen of Denmark with her delegation of ministers and commercial interests provided a new platform for an Innovative Partnership Agreement covering a number of areas for cooperation; areas where we have real competence: Food & Agriculture, Design & Lifestyle, Cleantech & Urban Planning as well as the Maritime Sector. We signed bilateral agreements in those areas. For example in agriculture, Denmark produces three times the amount of food our population needs which gives us a competitive edge in this area, especially dairy products. Lurpak butter is a good example, which is well known here.
Of the four sectors, the most needed would seem to be Cleantech and Infrastructure. Can you tell us more about efforts in these areas?
As far as Cleantech is concerned, the scale of the problem in Indonesia is right here in our faces, with over 7000 tons of waste needing disposal in Jakarta every day. The government of Indonesia also has high ambitions to move on renewable energy and energy efficiency where Denmark has a strong showcase. We are cooperating closely with Indonesia in all those areas. This week – for example – we had a delegation of Indonesian government officials as well as business people in Denmark to study energy efficiency solution. Indonesia has expressed concerns regarding both costs and how to integrate renewables into the grid, but I think Denmark has proved that renewable energy is not only technically feasible, but also a cost-efficient form of energy, Indonesia with solar, geothermal and a-plenty wind should go all out in that direction.
What do you think the challenges are in Indonesia and how can Denmark help to overcome them?
There is certainly a lack of awareness of the benefits of Cleantech and we are ready to demonstrate them! For example we have a major “waste to energy” plant right in the centre of Copenhagen which has no pollution and no disruption, in fact it is designed as a hang out place for the public with a ski-slope and a playground. At the same time we are phasing out traditional development assistance, in favour of new solutions in cleantech and in the maritime sector where we have very strong historic connections.
Please share with us some of your personal and professional goals for the coming year.
I would like to achieve two things:
One: to focus on areas that we can really help, where Denmark and Danish companies are world class: cleantech, food & agriculture and healthcare for example. We need to help Indonesia understand that products and services that look expensive in the short term can often be much better in the long term.
Two: to get Indonesia “on the radar” in Denmark to raise awareness of the opportunities that lie here (despite the challenges!).
H.E. Vegard Kaale, who arrived in Jakarta in early September, is the new Ambassador of Norway to Indonesia and looks forward to further strengthen the good relations between the two countries. His career at the Ministry of Foreign Affairs has already led him to, among others, The Hague and Dublin. The Ambassador recently spoke to NOW! Jakarta about his new post in Indonesia and the main areas he would like to focus on.
Both Norway and Indonesia are maritime nations. Knowledge about the oceans and the resources they provide are vital for future generations. What can be done in order for the blue economy to grow sustainably?
I think that this is one of the most important areas where we can develop a stronger cooperation. Both countries are coastal nations with a long tradition when it comes to fishing and shipping, therefore there are lots of opportunities to work together. We already have a cooperation to fight illegal fishery and another to further develop aquaculture. In the future, the ocean will become even more important. Many environmental initiatives are already in place - one of them we are looking at are ways to reduce marine litter, which is a big challenge globally and also here in this region, including Indonesia. Last but not least, the conference “Our Ocean” will be hosted by Indonesia next year. This year’s conference took place in Malta just recently, while in 2019 it will be held in Norway, providing us with many different arenas and platforms where we can work closer together. But in the end, this should not only be about coming together and engaging in discussions - it is important to see results. We have to deliver and improve as well.
In 2010, Norway and Indonesia entered into a climate and forest partnership to support Indonesia’s efforts to reduce emissions from deforestation and degradation of forests and peat lands. Can you tell us more about the results and progress of this partnership?
Tropical forests and peat lands are extremely important to reduce CO2 emissions and mitigate climate change. It is also important for people living in this region, for the flora and fauna and last but not least, for business as well. The Indonesian government has a very ambitious reform agenda in this field, led by President Joko Widodo himself. Norway is one of Indonesia’s biggest partners and supporters in this regard. This is a task where you have to cooperate with many stakeholders, be it on the government level, in the provinces, on local level with NGOs, the businesses or the indigenous people. With so many stakeholders being involved, this issue becomes quite complex. That’s why Norway is putting a lot of effort in this particular field. At the Embassy alone, we have five people working on this issue, in close cooperation with the Indonesian government.
Last year, we allocated US$ 25 million to Indonesia in order to prevent greenhouse gas emissions from peat.
Together with Brazil is Indonesia, with the world’s third biggest tropical forest, among our most important partner countries in reducing deforestation.
In terms of economic relations, how strong is the presence of Norwegian businesses in Indonesia?
There are quite a few Norwegian companies and consultancies doing business in Indonesia. At the same time, I believe that we could do better and would like to see an increase in bilateral trade. For the time being, EFTA - the European Free Trade Association consisting of Switzerland, Liechtenstein, Iceland and Norway - is negotiating with Indonesia to achieve a comprehensive economic partnership agreement.