JAKARTA, INDONESIA — Indonesia’s controversial decision to vote against the Responsibility to Protect (R2P) resolution at the United Nations General Assembly (UNGA) on 18 May has become a contentious topic of late.
Indonesia was one of the 15 nations that voted ‘No’ on the resolution aimed at preventing war crimes, genocide, and other types of humanitarian crimes.
The resolution gained support from 115 countries, including several other ASEAN members such as the Philippines, Malaysia, and Thailand. As many as 28 countries chose to abstain.
‘Unnecessary’ for R2P to have standing annual agenda item: Indonesia, on voting against resolution
Indonesia clarified its decision to veto the R2P resolution, claiming that it does not oppose the idea of the R2P.
Indonesia’s Foreign Ministry in its statement said that it is unnecessary for the R2P to have a standing annual agenda item.
“In our view, within – and specifically within the framework of the prevention of genocide, war crimes, ethnic cleansing and crimes against humanity, that the [so-called] three pillars of R2P are solid enough to withstand any and every assault,” the Ministry wrote.
R2P: What it is, how it will benefit UN Member States, and what its downsides are
The R2P resolution is an international principle aimed at ending atrocities, ethnic cleansing, and other types of war crimes among the Member States.
At the World Summit back in 2005, all UN members endorsed the resolution, which was included in the 138th and 139th paragraphs of the summit’s Output Document.
The principle stipulates three main responsibilities: To protect civilians from genocide and ethnic cleansing; to encourage and aid individual states in meeting all those responsibilities; and to prepare to take appropriate collection action in accordance with UN Charter in case a state fails to protect its population.
Theoretically, the principle has a mission to protect innocent civilians in times of conflict.
However, the R2P — for the sake of humanitarian intervention — may fail to carry its mission, as demonstrated by what happened in Libya and what is going on in Syria.
The Syrian war, which broke out in 2011 and stemmed from dissatisfaction with the Bashar al-Asaad regime, turned out to be the contestation of foreign interests.
Russia and Iran supported the incumbent, while Western countries sought to topple the Assad regime — walking the tightrope between either supporting or overthrowing the regime, or protecting civilians.
Indonesia’s refusal to vote in favour of R2P: How does it affect its response to regional crises such as that in Myanmar?
Indonesia has distributed aid to help Rohingya Muslims and strengthened cooperation with Myanmar instead of invoking R2P, as a result of lobbying by both secular human rights and Islamic organisations.
However, the country’s transition from military rule to a civilian government has greatly limited its approach in dealing with Myanmar, as Claire Smith and Susannah Williams posited in a paper titled “Why Indonesia Adopted ‘Quite Diplomacy’ Over R2P in the Rohingya Crisis: The Roles of Islamic Humanitarianism, Civil-Military Relations, and ASEAN“.
Similar to Myanmar, Indonesia has been dealing with “managing civil–military relations, and multiple ethno-nationalist conflict sites”, which gives both nations “a sense of a shared political history with Myanmar”, said Smith and Williams.
Another significant factor behind Indonesia’s tempered response to the Rohingya crisis, they added, is the attempt to “avoid an international perception of pro-Muslim bias” against a Buddhist-majority Myanmar, particularly given Indonesia’s reputation as a secular multi-ethnic state that adheres strongly to ASEAN’s non-interference principle.
ASEAN, however, has been slammed for being too rigid with its non-interventionist stance, which observers perceive has halted efforts to protect Rohingya Muslims.