INDONESIA’S G20 PRESIDENCY Between Hope and Reality

Khairul Fahmi
Khairul Fahmi, Co-Founder of the Institute for Security and Strategic Studies (ISESS). In 1993, he studied at the Political Science Study Program of Airlangga University, Surabaya. His interest in defense and security issues grew when he attended college. In 2001 he started a study group in security and strategic issues with a number of college friends. Previously, Fahmi was a journalist at Elshinta Radio and Managing Editor at In 2013, he decided to focus fully on managing the Institute for Security and Strategic Studies (ISESS), to this day

Domestically, there is actually another motive behind the government’s serious preparations, namely, the belief that a successful G20 presidency will boost investment and accelerate economic development. Indonesia wants to attract investors to help finance its strategic development projects, which will require enormous financial support. Indonesia is clearly looking forward to using the G20 to raise its profile in the eyes of potential global investors. 

It seems that this domestic target was more successful in marking several important milestones. For example, in early November, Indonesia successfully hosted the G20 Religion Forum (R20), followed by the G20 Business Forum (B20) a day before the summit. And last but not least, Indonesia has also been able to increase international visits to Bali, a major tourist destination which has been hit hard by the pandemic. 

So, even though Indonesia’s G20 presidency cannot be considered a failure, we still have to take a critical note: that Indonesia has very high expectations but unfortunately this is not in line with its limited mediation capacity in the international arena, compounded by a complex geopolitical landscape and dynamics. 

However, Indonesia doesn’t need to be disappointed and discouraged if in the end the Bali’s G20 joint communiqué fails to produce many concrete achievements. American linguist and philosopher Noam Chomsky, in his interview with Democracy Now, said the G20 is actually only an illusion of togetherness, whose goal is to create an image of cooperation and harmony between developed and developing countries. 

Chomsky further said the world has major crises that need to be addressed together, such as the pandemic and climate change. The G20 seems like the perfect bridge that brings influential countries together to overcoming such crises but in fact, according to Chomsky, it’s all just a gimmick because in the end the G20 agenda is steered by the major powers. 

We can see how the U.S., China, and Russia, in every G20 meeting, always received more attention in their sideline meetings, which were often dominated by discussions on geopolitical issues. It is also not uncommon for the G20 meetings to raise matters that are not directly related to the international economy, such as at the 2020 edition when the EU criticized Saudi Arabia’s alleged human rights violations. 

In fact, even if there is an agreement that appears to benefit developing countries, the G20 resolutions are never binding, so there is no consequence for nan-fulfilment. The G20 is packaged as a stage to produce change, when in fact global economic hegemony is still in the hands of several major powers. 

Read: Elon Musk heaps praise on Indonesia: Big country, bright future

However, this does not mean that Indonesia is powerless. As a middle-level power, Indonesia has the advantage of maintaining its existentialism by striking a “graceful” balance between the developed countries’ competing interests. One way is by persuading big countries to provide more support for agendas that are in line with the interests of developing countries. 

Luhut Binsar Pandjaitan said that Indonesia had allocated at least Rp674.8 billion for its G20 presidency. Of course, we don’t expect that much money to be spent just to achieve pseudo-pride, but to produce something that is more profitable and beneficial for the country. 

This means that we also have to be more realistic in viewing the G20 forum as a venue to ensure Indonesia’s survivability on the global stage. This is the most realistic view for us or future Indonesian leaders to adopt in this major international gathering. 

Indonesia’s G20 presidency comes to an end with all its pluses and minuses. It’s time to welcome Indonesian’s 2023 ASEAN chairmanship where we have more levers to pull, as a regional heavyweight. (Khairul Fahmi)