Implementing Ethical Leadership in Indonesia Foreign Policy to Resolve Myanmar’s Rakhine State Crisis

In today’s globalized world, all nations are interconnected socially, economically, and politically.  As a result, the dilemma of considering ethics when implementing foreign policy often arises. Many theorists argue that ethics and moral would be considered when implementing foreign policy. The obligations and moral responsibilities of nation State’s were confined to their citizens and this was reflected in the process of foreign policy making. Strategies were also chosen by the State to safeguard its national interests through achievement of its goals in international relations.

In this regard, as I mentioned in my previous blog, in order to contribute to the ecosystem of peace, stability, and prosperity in the region and in the midst of the uncertainty of resolving the humanitarian crisis at Myanmar’s Rakhine State, Indonesia has been actively involved to terminate conflicts and violence as well as seek solution of the problem. Indonesia took the initiative to assist the resolution of the crisis in Myanmar’s Rakhine State. While ASEAN and most of the ASEAN countries did not exert adequate pressure to the Myanmar leaders to take back the Rohingyas and ensure peace and security in Myanmar’s Rakhine state,

Then the question raised, is Indonesia’s foreign policy to assist Myanmar’s Rakhine State as a part of Indonesia’s ethical and moral responsibility since ethics and morality are inextricably linked to the practice of foreign policy making ?.

Indonesia’s Ethical Leadership

Actually, the consideration of ethics and moral in foreign policy is not a new idea.  In the modern era, the establishment of United Nations on 24 October 1945 become one of the good example on how foreign policy was established based on ethics and moral principles and values. The nation states used normative ethics to consolidate their own power in establishing the United Nations.

In Indonesia, ethics and morals itself have existed since the proclamation of Indonesia’s independence in 1945. As stated in the Preamble of the Indonesian Constitution 1945 “Independence is the inalienable right of all nations, therefore, all colonization must be abolished in this world, as it is not in conformity with humanity and justice”.

From these Preamble of the Constitution, we acknowledge that Indonesia as a nation has been built with ethic and moral as its underlying foundation since the very beginning. Ethic provides a moral ground upon which a leader should be based their judgment and action in the era of moral relativism, the doctrine that knowledge, truth, and morality exist in relation to culture, society, or historical context, and are not absolute.

For that, it is not a wonder if Indonesia was one of the first countries to arrive in Myanmar and Bangladesh in the aftermath of the “new cycle of violence” in August 2017. During the visit in in September 2017, Minister of Foreign Affairs Retno Marsudi proposed the Formula 4+1 to restore peace and allow humanitarian access to Myanmar’s Rakhine state. In the proposal, the Minister calls for the end of all forms of violence; the restoration of security and stability; protection of all persons; the opening of humanitarian access; and the implementation of the recommendations contained in the Kofi Annan’s Advisory Commission on Myanmar’s Rakhine State.

Paying attention to the proposal submitted by Minister Retno Marsudi, there appears to be an ethical and moral approach in drafting humanitarian policies towards Myanmar. It seems that Indonesian involvement in Myanmar’s Rakhine States crisis can be read as  an effort to carry out the mandate of the Constitution 1945 as well as to show moral responsibility to solve the humanitarian problem there.

In an ethical perspective, what Indonesia has done basically reflects Indonesia’s foreign policy that relies on normative ethics, particularly ethics of utilitarianism, an ethical theory which states that the best action is the one that maximizes utility. Like several other varieties of ethics, utilitarianism is consequentialist. So what Indonesia do for Myanmar’s Rakhine State is to improve lives or mitigate suffering. At the same time, Indonesia’s foreign policy towards Myanmar is also part of Indonesia’s foreign policy priorities to improve Indonesia’s role in regional and international forums.

Policy recommendation

Related to role of ethic leadership in the relativisme era and the fact that Indonesia as a nation has been built with ethic and moral as its underlying foundation since the very beginning, I would suggest some policy recommendations to the Indonesian leaders concerning the role of ethic leadership in foreign policy in the relativism era, as follow:

  1. Based on ethic of utilitarianism, Indonesia should always remind itself that Indonesia’s foreign policy can not be separated from the effort to fight for Indonesian national interest.
  2. In order to realize its national interests, Indonesia could continue its effort to become a leader by involving countries in the region, ASEAN and other regional cooperation organizations as well as facilitating dialogue between disputants in the region.
  3. In order to enhance Indonesia’s leadership role in global forums and show its leadership in the region, Indonesia may demonstrate its ethical leadership in order to contribute to the ecosystem of peace, stability, and prosperity in the region and global.

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