Jakarta. President Joko Widodo has criticized the United Nations and the world’s financial institutions for leading an imbalance of economic and political power.
Joko’s speech in Jakarta opened a meeting of Asian and African nations to mark the 60th anniversary of a conference that was seen as a united stand by the developing world against colonialism and led to the Cold War era’s non-aligned movement.
The Indonesian president said that 60 years on, many countries in the two continents have gotten rid of their colonial masters and become independent nations.
“However our fight is far from over. A new world order based on justice, equality and prosperity is still out of reach,” the president said, referring to the aims of the inaugural 1955 Bali Conference.
Joko said 20 percent of countries lived in a world of abundance while the rest, especially countries in Asia and Africa, struggled to cross the poverty line.
“We, Asian and African countries, demand that the United Nations reform to function optimally as the world body that puts justice for all nations first,” Joko said. “For me, the global imbalance is getting more and more suffocating.”
Joko said the new global order should also be opened to emerging economic powers and leave the “obsolete ideas” of post-World War II Bretton Woods institutions in the past.
“There is a shifting world reality … Those who say the global economic problems shall only be solved through the World Bank, the IMF and the ADB, these are obsolete ideas,” Joko said. “There needs to be change. It’s imperative that we build a new international economic order that is open to new emerging economic powers.”
The International Monetary Fund and the World Bank are at the center of the Bretton Woods global financial order created by the United States and Europe.
Joko made no mention of the China-backed Asian Infrastructure Investment Bank (AIIB), which is seen as a threat to the Western-dominated World Bank and Asian Development Bank, but Indonesia is one of nearly 60 countries that have offered to be founding members of the AIIB.
The United States and Japan have not thrown their support behind the bank, which is seen as a threat to US efforts to extend its influence in the Asia-Pacific region and balance China’s growing financial clout.
Indonesia invited heads of state and government from 109 Asian and African countries, but there have been dozens of no-shows and officials said only 34 leaders turned up.
Zimbabwean President Robert Mugabe, speaking at the conference, said countries in Asia and Africa “should no longer be consigned to the role of exporters of primary goods and importers of finished goods.”
The long-serving ruler called it a “role that has historically been assigned to us by the colonial powers and starting from the days of colonialism.”
The world order has changed dramatically since nearly 30 heads of state gathered in 1955 to discuss security and economic development away from global powers embroiled in the Cold War.
Many of those countries, such as China, India and Indonesia, are now themselves at top tables like the Group of 20 and wield significant economic power.
Joko said the group was meeting again in a changed world but still needed to stand together against the domination of an unspecified “certain group of countries” to avoid unfairness and global imbalances.
Abe & Xi
Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe met Chinese President Xi Jinping on the sidelines of the summit on Wednesday, a Japanese government official said, the latest sign of a thaw in relations between the Asian rivals.
However, speaking at the summit ahead of the expected meeting, Abe warned powerful nations against imposing on the weak, an implicit reference to China. He also made an allusion to Tokyo’s remorse in the past over World War II, but stopped short of issuing a fresh apology.
Abe’s comments made it an awkward diplomatic backdrop for the expected meeting with Xi. But a Japanese official said ahead of Abe’s address that the two leaders would meet later in the day. China’s Foreign Ministry did not immediately respond to a request for comment.
Tensions between Asia’s two biggest economies have flared in recent years due to feuds over wartime history as well as territorial rows and regional rivalry.
Memories of Japan’s past military aggression run deep in China, and Beijing has repeatedly urged Japan to face up to history. But the meeting on Wednesday between the two leaders was expected to promote a cautious rapprochement that began when Abe and Xi met at a summit in Beijing late last year.
“We should never allow to go unchecked the use of force by the mightier to twist the weaker around,” Abe said at the summit in Jakarta. “The wisdom of our forefathers in Bandung was that the rule of law should protect the dignity of sovereign nations, be they large or small,” Abe said, speaking after Xi had addressed the conference.
China is locked in territorial rows with several smaller countries in the South China Sea, while Japan has a separate feud over islets in the East China Sea.
Abe said in his Jakarta speech that Japan had, “with feelings of deep remorse over the past war,” pledged to adhere to principles affirmed at the first Bandung Conference, including refraining from the use of force and settling international disputes by peaceful means.
As the Jakarta conference got underway, President Joko was flanked by Xi and Abe for a group leaders’ photo. The two remained on either side of Joko when they sat and watched an Indonesian traditional dance troupe perform.