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29 Aug, 2014

Indonesian President: World Not in Good Shape but “Global Conscience” is Emerging


Full text of a Keynote Speech At The Sixth Global Forum Of The United Nations Alliance Of Civilizations, Bali, 29 August 2014



Om Swastyastu,

Peace Be upon Us All,

Your Excellency United Nations Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon,

My Dear Friend, Prime Minister Xanana Gusmao of Timor-Leste,

Your Excellency, Jose Manuel Garcia-Margallo, Minister for Foreign Affairs of the Kingdom of Spain,

Your Excellency, Naci Koru, Deputy Foreign Minister of the Republic of Turkey,

Your Excellency, John William Ashe, President of the Sixty-eighth Session of the United Nations General Assembly,

Your Excellency, Nassir Abdulaziz Al-Naseer, the UN High Representative for the Alliance of Civilizations,

Excellencies Ministers, Ambassadors and Representatives of United Nations Agencies and International Organizations,

Distinguished Speakers and Panelists,

CEOs of Multinational Corporations,

Ladies and Gentlemen,


Let me bid a very warm welcome to Indonesia to all of you.  Indonesia is proud to host this year’s meeting of United Nations’ Alliance of Civilizations in Bali.

I would like to pay a special tribute to Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon for his leadership and his robust support of the Alliance since he assumed office in 2007.  The Secretary-General’s active involvement has been critical to the ability of our Alliance to progress from political commitment to positive action in various fields.

I highly value the opportunity to closely work with Mr. Secretary-General during my co-chairmanship of the UN High-Level Panel of Eminent Persons on the Post 2015 Development Agenda in 2012 – 2013. I admire his leadership and unflagging commitment to making our world a better and safer place, including through the UNAOC process.

Let me also congratulate His Excellency High Representative Nassir Abdulaziz al-Nasser for your most able leadership in guiding the work of the Alliance.

This is also a good time to pay tribute to a great Indonesian diplomat-statesman, the late Ali Alatas, who passionately served in the High-level Group during the early years of the Alliance.

When the Alliance was still at the conceptual stage, Ali Alatas worked hard to ensure that the Alliance did not exclusively focus on the Islamic and the Western worlds, but include all civilizations without exception.

This is something that is particularly important to us in Indonesia.

Because of our strategic location, situated in the historic trade and maritime route the Pacific and Indian Oceans, the people of this archipelago have always been exposed to the intense cross-currents of world civilizations.

In a process that spanned centuries, the Islamic, Hindu, Buddhist, Sinic and Western civilizations have merged with local cultures to become part of our rich heritage as a nation.

Thus, in Indonesia, there is no fundamental clash of civilizations. Instead, in general, there is a harmonious confluence of civilizations which together form the heart and soul of Indonesia. And significantly, in the 21st century, Indonesia has also demonstrated that Islam, democracy and modernity can co-exist in harmony.

So I stand here today with absolute conviction, that the sum interaction and fusion of civilizations makes the world better, richer and stronger.

Of course, I realize full well that history is replete with examples around the world where the collision between civilizations led to wars, conflict and oppression. But I do believe that in our time we have much greater opportunity to change the course of history for the better. The challenge for our Alliance is how to end the divisions and fault lines that in the past had caused so much suffering to humanity.

In our imperfect world, there are plenty of people who, for their own reasons, are suspicious of differences and diversity, and make them as a basis for discord.  People who are intolerant of others’ viewpoint, exclusive in their approach, and with false righteousness impose their will on others. The human race has been paying for the cost of intolerance for a very long time.

You would think that after more than 180 million deaths and so much hunger, disease and pain endured as a result of armed conflicts in the 20th century, humankind would renounce war forever. But no, we have not escaped its grip.

I must admit that 10 years after I assumed duty as President of Indonesia, I see troubling signs that the world is not necessarily in a better shape.

How so ?

  • Relations between the major powers, after roughly a decade of stability and cooperation, are now in a dangerous downward trend.
  • In many parts of the world, including here in Asia, strategic rivalries are rising.
  • In Europe, the Ukraine crisis is changing the geopolitical equation
  • In the Middle-East too we see rapid geopolitical shift that has created a lot of turbulence.  
  • The Arab Spring has not led to peaceful and stable democratic transitions, and indeed has led to intensified conflicts. 
  • Palestine remains farther away from the promise of independence in the two-state solution.
  • Islam phobia is growing in the West.  
  • Within the Islamic world, we see a volatile Sunni – Shiite fault line, with all the attendant political and security implications.
  • Radicalism has continued to grow, and so will the risks of terrorism now that ISIS has become the wealthiest terrorist group in our time.

Some say that this is all heading towards a “new Cold War”.  Whatever it is, to me it already feels like “hot peace”. And it will not get cool on its own. This is where the international community and the UNAOC can play a critical role to help remedy this worrying situation.

There are surely limits to what the Alliance can do.  But if we can substantively advance the 4 pillars of our cooperation — on youth, media, migration and education — then our Alliance WILL make a difference in fighting prejudice, ignorance, extremism and injustice worldwide.

There are a number of constructive things that the Alliance can do.  Let me cite a few.

The Alliance can help to restore strategic trust, to replace the trust deficit between nations.  This, I admit, is not easy and indeed can be very hard.  It requires courage and risk taking.  But this is exactly how Indonesia and Timor-Leste, with such a painful history, has managed to evolve from enmity to one of the best bilateral relations in Asia.

Here is where I thank my good friend who is here with us today, Prime Minister Xanana Gusmao for his leadership and for partnering with me in the last 10 years to restore strategic trust between our nations. If Indonesia and Timor-Leste can overcome our troubled past, so can other nations.

Our Alliance can also promote reconciliation.  Here in Indonesia, 10 to 15 years ago, we too  experienced the power of reconciliation to heal broken communities. We employed reconciliation to end the conflict in Aceh, in Poso, in Maluku, and in Papua.

Reconciliation is a special art: it requires leadership.  It requires sustained efforts, and a generous spirit of forgiveness, willingness to compromise.  It also requires willingness to forgive. A winner-takes-all, or a might-is-right mentality, will NOT work.

Most importantly, the Alliance must continue to CONNECT and OPEN UP minds. We must do all we can so that others can see the virtue of our cause, and believe in the beauty of mutual respect and togetherness.  And we must make sure these values are passed on to succeeding generations.

This is why we are right on track in stressing on educating the hearts and minds of the people — as a tool for nation-building but also for promoting peace. Education, especially during a child’s early years, is key in shaping his or her positive attitude.

The point cannot be missed : tolerance, open-mindedness, respect for others, do not happen by itself.  They must be taught, trained and instilled in our people.  Remember: a bigot can emerge even from a tolerant family, and vice versa.  We must therefore never tire to open up our children’s minds, and inculcate in them the values of diversity and unity.

To open up minds, our Alliance must also seek to raise the quality of dialogue between civilizations, cultures, faiths and ideologies and then to advance it beyond words and into the realm of effective action.

All views should be brought into the dialogue—even radical ones. For if moderates talked only with moderates, there will be no change. The voices of the moderates should be strengthened, but it is equally important that the grievances of those who have been alienated and who feel left out should be given a hearing. Their grievances should be addressed, with patience and determination, I believe we will be able to achieve this objective.

A large part of the dialogue that is taking place today is not in the form of seminars and workshops.  Much of that dialogue is in the form of reportage and opinion writing that is carried by the traditional mass media.

As to the Internet, there is no arguing that it is effective in quickly and widely disseminating basic data. It can also be a ruthless agent for the viral spread of prejudice and advocacy of violence. Many a terrorist has been recruited through social media. At the very least, therefore, advocates of a reasonable dialogue between cultures and faiths should make optimal use of the Internet, particularly social media.

In this, there is no such thing as a late learner.  I am one of them.  As I stepped into my 60’s, I did not know what Twitter was. But everyday people around me were discussing “tweets” that they just read, so I decided to open up a twitter account.  I now have a modest 5.3 million followers, and almost daily I sent tweets that would keep my people informed as opposed to misinformed.  And on my Facebook account, I have built connection with 3.5 million other Facebookers. It is one example how social media is significantly changing politics.

We must also engage and empower the global phenomenon of diasporas.  It is estimated that there are around 200 million first born immigrants around the world.  They reside in east, west, north and south.  They generally do well in life – immigrants usually do – but they also have a great of compassion and cultural understanding.

This is what I saw first-hand among the Indonesian diaspora in Timor-Leste, which I visited last week. When I prayed with them in a local mosque in Dili, I reminded them to strengthen solidarity not only among Muslims but also with the Catholic community that forms the largest population of Timor-Leste.

Ladies and Gentlemen,

Despite all the challenges that we continue to encounter in building harmony among cultures, faiths and civilizations, I remain optimistic that through sustained efforts we can achieve this objective.

For once, in this century we are seeing the advent of a positive trend — that of global conscience.

I can admit that I did not see or feel it when I was growing up, or when I worked in the military. I grew up in the fifties and sixties in the anti-colonialism era.  And for much of my military career, I lived in the Cold War era. But the world changed, and I see and feel it now, this evolving global compassion.  Perhaps this has something to do with the rise of the middle class worldwide.  Citizens of the world are now becoming connected and empowered. They do not worry about the basic necessities; they worry and care about the things they see on television or read in the papers no matter how far away from their home, and they want to do something to make a difference.

This sense of global conscience is taking root not just in New York, London or Oslo, but in China, India, Korea, Qatar, Mexico, Brazil, South Africa, Indonesia and many other countries.

This means that care and compassion now can come from everywhere, and go in all directions.

Global compassion is not utopia.  It is a very real force for good. This is what we are striving for in ASEAN. We are now transforming towards a caring and sharing community under the ASEAN Community. We will live in a more peaceful world if we can make this idea a global norm.

As a final thought, here in Bali, harmony is at the center of the Balinese way of life.  It is called Tri Hita Karana, the three harmonies of life.

One, Harmony between human and God.

Two, Harmony between human and nature.

Three, Harmony between all human beings.

Miss one of the three, and life would be incomplete. Achieve all three, and life will be fulfilled.

I thank you.

Wassalaamu’alaikum warahmatullahi wabarakatuh,

Om Shanti Shanti Shanti Om.