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Southeast Asia

Revisiting Indonesia’s Communication Strategy in Amplifying “New Bali” Tourism Project



Bali has been praised into top tourist destination in the world for decades. Surfing on Kuta beach, enjoying tropical fruit drinks while watching the sunset, and exploring local villages are some of favorite activities that tourists usually do when visiting Bali. The beauty of the Bali Island and the local cultures it possesses have even succeeded in making Bali for the second time occupy the first position on the TripAdvisor Travelers’ Choice Award in 2021, after previously winning it in 2017.

The advantages of tourism industry bring economic benefits to Indonesia. Tourism plays an important role in the contribution of Indonesia’s gross domestic product, which is around 4.3%. However, due to the pandemic, the Indonesian tourism ministry stated that 75% of foreign tourist arrivals had decreased. As a means to revitalize the tourism industry, the Indonesian government launched the “5 new Bali” campaign in providing 5 travel destinations that are assigned to be the next Bali. The five super priority destinations are Lake Toba in North Sumatra, Borobudur Temple in Central Java, Mandalika in West Nusa Tenggara, Labuan Bajo in East Nusa Tenggara, and Likupang in North Sulawesi.

Public Diplomacy As “A Tailor-Made” Approach

Hans Tuch defines public diplomacy as a government’s communication process of engaging with foreign publics in order to increase understanding of its country’s concepts and principles, institutions and cultures, as well as national goals and policies. Shaping the international community’s perception about the potential of tourist destinations in Indonesia, apart from aiming to maintain a positive image of Indonesia, it also aims at other Indonesia’s national interests, such as economic recovery in tourism industry which not only centered in Bali.

In practice, there is no standard form of public diplomacy activities carried out by the state as an international actor. We can understand that historically, the implementation of public diplomacy activities was carried out flexibly and adapted to the resources of each country. In terms of tourism, Indonesia has three main sources that have the potential to become supporting tools in public diplomacy activities, beautiful archipelago, Indonesian popular cuisine, and local culture. Through this article, we will try to revisit the Indonesia government’s communication strategy from the aspect of public diplomacy in an effort to promote the “5 new Bali” project to international community, especially in the momentum of the Indonesian G20 Presidency.

Consisting of various beautiful tropical islands, Indonesia has hosted several international events. This opportunity is certainly used by Indonesia government to maximize its public diplomacy agenda in promoting the “5 new Bali” Project on the international stage. For example, in 2018 when Indonesia hosted the IMF-World Bank meeting, the Indonesia government offered several tour packages to the meeting delegates. Just imagine, with the number of meeting participants reaching 36,339 delegates, Indonesia can get a “free promotion” if the delegates upload it to their social media or through the power of word-of-mouth when the delegates return to their respective countries. Indonesia does not need to spend a lot of money to advertise. However, because at that time the meeting was held in Bali, the tour packages that were most in demand were Bali.

To avoid repeat the same mistake, Indonesia has specifically made several super priority travel destinations as locations for a series of G20 side event meetings so that they are not concentrated only in Bali. This is designed so that these destinations get exposure for their potential of local tourism. Local culture is the main value in Indonesia’s G20 presidency. For example, the 1st Education Working Group (1st EdWG) meeting was held in Yogyakarta. On the sidelines of the meeting, the delegates were invited to one of the icons of Yogyakarta tourism, namely the Yogyakarta palace to have dinner with 11 traditional cuisines. In addition, the delegates were also invited to experience the Pateha tea ceremony (Royal High Tea). On another occasion, the delegates of the Environment Deputies Meeting and Climate Sustainability Working Group (EDM-CSWG) learning “membatik”, the local term for painting on Batik, the traditional fabric of Indonesia that was part of UNESCO’s Intangible Cultural Heritage of Humanity.

Indonesia was born under a lucky star, because in the same year it also hosted the MotoGP Grand Prix which was held at the Mandalika Circuit, one of the locations included as a super priority tourism destination for the “5 new Bali” project. The Indonesia government through the Ministry of Tourism and Creative Economy immediately took quick action by initiating a program for the music community in Mandalika to perform at the MotoGP event. The program is devoted to the local music and art community in Mandalika in order to receive intensive assistance in the process of creating art works. Hoping that these local music communities can give an impressive performance when all eyes on the mandalika circuit because of the MotoGP Grand Prix.

Public Diplomacy Approach That Should Be Avoided: Hit and Run Strategy

Public diplomacy has a different essence from traditional diplomacy. While traditional diplomacy is primarily aimed at reaching agreements in a formal way (government-to-government), public diplomacy aims to increase awareness or engage with international community. This is why public diplomacy is often called “playing a long game” because to get international public attention in depth, it takes endurance and consistency. Indonesia’s G20 presidency provides a large platform for Indonesia to maximize public diplomacy activities. However, Indonesia needs to think about how to to promote the “5 new Bali” project after the G20 momentum. Environmental sustainability and building generic relationships can be two added values in the amplification of the “5 new Bali” project.

Environmental sustainability is key in the era of the modern tourism industry. According to the 2021 Agoda Sustainable Travel Trends Survey, 26% of respondents consider the government is the most responsible for environmental sustainability in the tourism industry. Based on this, the Indonesia government needs to show its concern and efforts in protecting the environment. One manner by consider the use of renewable energy in building tourism infrastructure. All single-use plastics should be banned completely. The issue of animal conservation can also be used by Indonesia to build a positive tourism image, one of which is conservation on the Komodo Island. This is an important benchmark that Indonesia can consider, because Komodo is an animal that can only be found in Indonesia so that it can attract the attention of the international tourist. Moreover, Komodo Island is only 2 hours away from Labuan Bajo which is included in the “5 new Bali” projects of super priority tourism destination.

Last but not least, the Indonesian government needs to build a more “generic” relationship with the international public. The government must work with non-governmental actors such as well-known international influencers to promote destinations that are included in the “5 new Bali” project. This collaboration with influencers is very important in the promotional strategy, because it will lead to higher brand awareness due to the large number of fans. With influencers, promotion will also be more effective because the public will not be skeptical of the “advertising” of this “5 new Bali” project and encourage decisions to purchase tourism packages. Another way that can be used is to hold international events. Glorious success for Indonesia government with the MotoGP 2022. In the future, Indonesia should be able to hold concerts in collaboration with international artists in tourism destinations that are included in the “5 new Bali” project. Hoping that with these two added values, the Indonesia government can continue to amplify the “New Bali” tourism project in a sustainable manner, even though the G20 momentum has ended.

Kenny Meigar is a Public Relations Practitioner in Indonesia. He pursued his bachelor degree in International Relations at Universitas Islam Indonesia and continued his career journey as a public relations consultant. His interests are strategic communication, public diplomacy, and nation branding.

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Southeast Asia

Reclaiming our future



The Asia-Pacific region is at a crossroads today – to further breakdown or breakthrough to a greener, better, safer future.

Since the Economic and Social Commission for Asia and the Pacific (ESCAP) was established in 1947, the region has made extraordinary progress, emerging as a pacesetter of global economic growth that has lifted millions out of poverty.

Yet, as ESCAP celebrates its 75th anniversary this year, we find ourselves facing our biggest shared test on the back of cascading and overlapping impacts from the COVID-19 pandemic, raging conflicts and the climate crisis.  

Few have escaped the effects of the pandemic, with 85 million people pushed back into extreme poverty, millions more losing their jobs or livelihoods, and a generation of children and young people missing precious time for education and training.

As the pandemic surges and ebbs across countries, the world continues to face the grim implications of failing to keep the temperature increase below 1.5°C – and of continuing to degrade the natural environment. Throughout 2021 and 2022, countries across Asia and the Pacific were again battered by a relentless sequence of natural disasters, with climate change increasing their frequency and intensity.

More recently, the rapidly evolving crisis in Ukraine will have wide-ranging socioeconomic impacts, with higher prices for fuel and food increasing food insecurity and hunger across the region.

Rapid economic growth in Asia and the Pacific has come at a heavy price, and the convergence of these three crises have exposed the fault lines in a very short time. Unfortunately, those hardest hit are those with the fewest resources to endure the hardship. This disproportionate pressure on the poor and most vulnerable is deepening and widening inequalities in both income and opportunities.

The situation is critical. Many communities are close to tipping points beyond which it will be impossible to recover. But it is not too late.

The region is dynamic and adaptable.

In this richer yet riskier world, we need more crisis-prepared policies to protect our most vulnerable populations and shift the Asia-Pacific region back on course to achieve the Sustainable Development Goals as the target year of 2030 comes closer — our analysis shows that we are already 35 years behind and will only attain the Goals in 2065.

To do so, we must protect people and the planet, exploit digital opportunities, trade and invest together, raise financial resources and manage our debt.

The first task for governments must be to defend the most vulnerable groups – by strengthening health and universal social protection systems. At the same time, governments, civil society and the private sector should be acting to conserve our precious planet and mitigate and adapt to climate change while defending people from the devastation of natural disasters.

For many measures, governments can exploit technological innovations. Human activities are steadily becoming “digital by default.” To turn the digital divide into a digital dividend, governments should encourage more robust and extensive digital infrastructure and improve access along with the necessary education and training to enhance knowledge-intensive internet use.

Much of the investment for services will rely on sustainable economic growth, fueled by equitable international trade and foreign direct investment (FDI). The region is now the largest source and recipient of global FDI flows, which is especially important in a pandemic recovery environment of fiscal tightness.

While trade links have evolved into a complex noodle bowl of bilateral and regional agreements, there is ample scope to further lower trade and investment transaction costs through simplified procedures, digitalization and climate-smart strategies. Such changes are proving to be profitable business strategies. For example, full digital facilitation could cut average trade costs by more than 13 per cent.

Governments can create sufficient fiscal space to allow for greater investment in sustainable development. Additional financial resources can be raised through progressive tax reforms, innovative financing instruments and more effective debt management. Instruments such as green bonds or sustainability bonds, and arranging debt swaps for development, could have the highest impacts on inclusivity and sustainability.

Significant efforts need to be made to anticipate what lies ahead. In everything we do, we must listen to and work with both young and old, fostering intergenerational solidarity. And women must be at the centre of crisis-prepared policy action.

This week the Commission is expected to agree on a common agenda for sustainable development in Asia and the Pacific, pinning the aspirations of the region on moving forward together by learning from and working with each other.

In the past seven-and-a-half decades, ESCAP has been a vital source of know-how and support for the governments and peoples of Asia and the Pacific. We remain ready to serve in the implementation of this common agenda.

To quote United Nations Secretary-General Antonio Guterres, “the choices we make, or fail to make today, will shape our future. We will not have this chance again.”

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Southeast Asia

Return of the Marcos and Great-Power Competition



PNA photo by Joey O. Razon

Ferdinand Marcos Jr., more commonly known as “Bongbong,” won an outright majority in the recent presidential election in the Philippines. Son and name-bearer of former Philippine dictator Ferdinand Marcos paved the way for the country’s most notorious political dynasty’s shocking return to power. In the words of Filipino columnist Benjamin Pimentel, “It’s as if Kylo Ren emerged and the Empire is back in power.”

In announcing his desire to work for all people, Ferdinand Marcos Jr. said the world should judge him based on his presidency, not his family’s past.

“To those who voted for Bongbong, and those who did not, it is his promise to be a president for all Filipinos. To seek common ground across political divides, and to work together to unite the nation.” saidVictor Rodriguez, spokesperson for Marcos, in a statement.

However, the pragmatic words seem to have failed to sway the opposition as he faces countless accusations of election irregularities. Their opponents are horrified by Marcos’ brazen attempt to reinvent historical narratives from his family’s era in power. A protest against Marcos was staged by approximately 400 people outside the election commission on 10th May, primarily by students.

Human rights group Karapatan urged Filipinos to reject Marcos’ new presidency, which it sees as a product of lies and disinformation designed “to deodorise the Marcoses’ detestable image”.

HISTORY OF MARCOS: People Power” Uprising

Ferdinand Marcos Jr is not a new name in the Philippines’ political scenario. The “bloodless revolution” of 1986 in the Philippines that ousted the infamous dictator Ferdinand Marcos, was none other than Ferdinand Marcos Jr.’s father.

The world leaders at the time praised the mass demonstration after hundreds of thousands marched along EDSA streets to protest a fraudulent election. Through the People Power” Uprising, Filipinos proved that a peaceful uprising can challenge a ruthless dictatorship and overthrow military rule.

Marcos Jr and his family escaped to Hawaii following the rebellion and after his return to the Philippines in 1991, Marcos Jr served in congress and the senate. With his return to the Malacañang Palace in 2022, the world anxiously watches whether history will repeat itself or democracy will prevail as Marcos Jr. relentlessly defends his father’s legacy, refusing to apologise or acknowledge the atrocities, plunder, cronyism, and extravagant living, which resulted in billions of dollars of state wealth disappearing during the dictatorship.

MARCOS JR’S FOREIGN POLICY: Continuity or Change?

Considering his political alignment with Rodrigo Duterte, the outgoing President, who has been exceedingly vocal about his anti-Washington, pro-China stance, it is no secret Marcos Jr. favours Beijing. According to Richard Heydarian, a South China Sea observer and professor of political science, “Ferdinand ‘Bongbong’ Marcos Jr. is the only candidate who has signalled almost perfect continuity with the incumbent populist pro-China president in Malacañang.”

However, Marcos Jr seems to be a President that might play the game more strategically compared to his successor. Among Marcos’s many accolades for his father, one was maintaining a strong security alliance with Washington. Even though, he is politically aligned with Duterte who sought to pivot away from the United States and towards China, Marcos will seek a balancing act. Philippines under Marcos will continue engaging with China, in-line with Duterte’s Pro-China Policy but at the same time will engage, and even bolster a closer tie with the USA, to safeguard Philippines’ sovereignty amidst an aggressively rising China.

When asked if he would ask the American’s help in dealing with China, Marcos Jr said, “No. The problem is between China and us. If the Americans come in, it’s bound to fail because you are putting the two protagonists together.” This statement shows a sense of maturity and solid understanding of the ground realties of the region. Marcos Jr. seems to be the President that keeps his country’s national interest at the very core of all his decisions. He understands how easy it is for a small country to be stuck in the middle of a great-power competition, and that more often and not, it harms the small country’s interests. He envisions Manila as neither heavily dependent on Washington for its security needs nor become a pawn in China’s greater geopolitical ambitions. He wants to have an independent foreign policy, regardless of deepening U.S.-Chinese competition. One that predominantly benefits his country, Philippines.

In contrast to Duterte, Marcos Jr has a very warm and embracing approach towards the USA. Being treaty allies, Marcos Jr refers to their alliance as “a very important one.” He maintained that the alliance “has stood us in good stead for over a hundred years and that will never disappear from the Philippine psyche, the idea and the memory of what the United States did for us and fought with us in the last war.”

Marcos Jr seems to be a realist who understands that in International Politics, states must “engage whenever possible, and contain wherever necessary.” On asked about Chinese assertiveness in the South China Sea, he argued that “Philippines will not cede any one square inch to any country, particularly China, but will continue to engage and work on our national interest.”

To summarise, Marcos will, in all probability, modify Duterte’s foreign policy in a way that maximizes the strategic benefits for the Philippines and avoids confrontation with the USA and China.

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Southeast Asia

President Ho Chi Minh’s reflections about international peace



President Ho Chi Minh had a dissimilar way of approaching international peace, and he held a view that the way western nations look into revolution and resurgence, particularly in colonial era, was different from what the people aspired. He took note of developments in colonial societies particularly when Turkish women were protesting against the invasion of Western nations and imperialism, and referred to Indian women protests against British domination way back in 1912. In fact, writing way back in 1918, he stated that the defence of India act was the suppression of genuine domestic grievances because it provided the right to arrest and detain suspected Indians. He was always very supportive of the workers and peasants’ movement across the world.

While congratulating the first Prime Minister of India Jawaharlal Nehru on organising the Asian relations conference, he stated that China and India were the big brothers of Vietnam and the most ancient civilizations.  Writing way back in March 25th 1947, he opined that solidarity will make the three countries the mightiest defenders forwards peace and democracy. He argued that Vietnam was aspiring for unification and independence, and hoped that the Asian countries will come to their support. He stated that it is pertinent for the neighbours to have friendly relations, and alluding to the five principles (Panchsheela) of Nehru-Chau Enlai joint statement, he added that the five major principles which were enlisted in the joint statement between China and India, and Myanmar and China need to be replicated in the larger Asian context.

After the conclusion of the war with French in 1954, he clearly stated that the major challenges for Vietnam was proper implementation of the Geneva accords and sustaining the economy to upgrade the living standards of the people of Vietnam. Responding to a question asked by a journalist related to Geneva accords implementation in Vietnam, he stated that France being a major country and a colonial power, it is pertinent that the ceasefire agreement is implemented fully and this will ensure trust between the signatories. It is also important that scrupulousness in such kind of agreement so as to bring about peace and tranquillity.

He had time and again alluded to the five Panchsheela principles whenever he was giving any interview to the journalists and scholars. He clearly stated that there is need to respect sovereignty and territorial integrity, refrain from violation of each other’s territorial borders, non-interference in internal affairs, equal treatment for mutual benefits and peaceful coexistence. He opined that taking inspiration from India-China agreement, Vietnam would be willing to implement a similar kind of five principles with other countries, primarily Cambodia and Laos. Related to the illegal occupation of Goa by Portugal, he criticized the illegal occupation of Goa by Portuguese and the support that the US has provided to Portugal for continuing illegal occupation.

He talked about solidarity among Asian and African people and stated that for peace to exist the Geneva agreement should be implemented in full. After the first Indochina war, he stated that it is important that the peace as per the provisions of Panchsheela should be implemented at all levels. He has always alluded to Buddha and Mahatma Gandhi while talking about peace, clearly demarcating the role of culture and religion in maintaining peace. He was clearly against western imperialism and occupation of territories by force by any major power. He was also very clear and in one of the letters written on the eve of an interview given to New Delhi people in India, he clearly specified that the situation of world development particularly after the independence of many developing countries was beneficial for the peace movement. He stated that more than 1200 million Asian African people were in the line of peaceful forces and these people were liberated including those in erstwhile Soviet Union and other socialist countries. He lauded the role played by Asian African countries in peace protection and always supported fight against colonialism and Asian people’s solidarity. He was completely against military race, prohibition against nuclear weapons and hydrogen bomb, dismissing aggressive military forces and demolishment of military bases in foreign countries.

His views with regard to arms reduction and working together to reduce the scourge of nuclear bomb were very specific. While responding to the welcome address during the banquet dinner hosted by president of India Rajendra Prasad in 1958, he stated that “the pugnacious forces has been conspiring to push the mankind to the destruction of war. They are ceaselessly fighting to keep and consoled at peace, India made a big contribution. Peaceful forces are more powerful able to prevent the war but the pugnacious forces do not give up their conspiracy to wage their war.” He was really appreciative of any of the peace initiatives undertaken by any country and he has repeatedly thanked international committee which was chaired by India for supervising and controlling Geneva accord implementation in Vietnam.

President Ho Chi Minh was appreciative of the fact that the essence of Buddhism and culture would strengthen the spirit of love towards the country, national solidarity, and bring about cultural essence which will bring closer the eastern and western cultures. He stated that in terms of Buddhism the core philosophy is peace and the construction of the country.

President Ho Chi Minh was specifically influenced by Buddhism and he had stated that the people should practice the life of holy learning and Buddhist simplicity. Even though president Ho Chi Minh did not write and reflected about Buddhism but his life and career were intertwined with the core philosophy of Buddhism. He was very much interested in implementing the idea of peaceful humanity under Buddhism and ushering in Buddhist consciousness in every society. Ho Chi Minh had an idea that the human affection would help in self-improving human ethics and closer bonding with a larger population. Ho Chi Minh’s ideology included mercy, non-egoism, altruism, self-improvement, exercise of moral ethics, and solidarity spirit among masses. The acknowledgement of Buddhism as the core fundamental of life was slowly acknowledged by the Vietnamese people too and as per Ho Chi Minh, he had acquired the Buddhist ideas from family, national tradition, and the Buddhist way for liberating the country.

Taken into cognizance President Ho Chi Minh objective of peace, he was very much concerned with regard to ethics, solidarity, guaranteeing supreme benefits of the nation, bestowing rights and benefits to the people and ingrained self-consciousness which would bring about sincere affectionate, straightforward introspection. This will help in self-criticizing and unifying characters for the larger benefit of the society. He stated that the national solidarity should be in Sync with the international solidarity. In this context it is important to reflect on the Russia Ukraine crisis and he has been very instrumental in referring to Mahatma Gandhi for his approach towards peace and self-suffering. However, Ho Chi Minh was very attached to this concept of abhorrence of repression of the people and was very critical of any kind of imperialism which would subdue people from realising their ambitions and goals. Ukraine crisis also shows a new kind of geopolitics which will define the world order but he was also critical of the fact that international solidarity should be progressive and aspire for a long-lasting peace.

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