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G20 Indonesia: Steps Towards Sustainable Environmental Sustainability



Currently, Indonesia is still struggling to improve, ensure, and protect the environment. There are several environmental problems that are still Indonesia’s homework, namely Pollution of the air, soil, water that has not been completed. Then the denuded forests because they are often cut down for land clearing and excessive use of wood have resulted in the problem of forest and land fires, which are still at a stalemate. In fact, the forest is a reservoir of germplasm and water for life. Deforestation also causes floods and landslides during the rainy season every year. Indonesia’s environmental issues that have not been resolved until now are the extinction of flora and fauna due to imbalance in the ecosystem and also illegal hunting of animals. River pollution and abrasion are also still environmental problems every year. The sea which is starting to be filled with garbage also threatens marine life which then has a bad impact on energy and protein sources as well as people’s livelihoods, not to mention the problem of clean water scarcity that some Indonesians experience every year. Although Indonesia has pocketed these environmental problems, they have not yet reached the stage of extinction and cannot be handled. Indonesia also has a biodiversity that has large biological resources, so it has a higher responsibility in protecting the environment.

In addition, Indonesia also has ambitions to achieve the SDGs, especially in environmental safety and sustainability programs. Therefore, it takes great effort and good support and cooperation for this achievement.

Closer to G-20 Indonesia 2022

This year is important year for Indonesia, in addition to being the right time for health and economic recovery which is expected to continue, Indonesia will also become the holder of the G-20 Presidency, with the theme Recover Together, Recover Stronger. Indonesia wants the whole world to achieve a stronger and sustainable recovery together. The G-20 is a great opportunity for Indonesia in pushing strategic agendas that will have a positive impact on national and global interests. The G-20, starting from December 1, 2021, will end on November 30, 2022, and will be attended by both developing and developed countries. In essence, the G20 is a multilateral cooperation forum consisting of 19 main countries and one economic area, namely the European Union (EU). The G-20 represents more than 60% of the world’s population, 75% of global trade, and 80% of the world’s gross domestic product (GDP). Since its formation in 1999, the G-20 has resolved several economic problems, one of which was the 2008 financial crisis that caused the world’s giants to collapse. The G-20 consists of two tracks, namely the financial track and the Sherpa track. The types of G20 meetings have 3 types of meetings, namely Summits which are meetings at the regional head level, then Ministerial and Deputies Meetings, namely meetings held in each of the main focus areas of the forum. The last one is the Working Group, which is an association of expert members from G 20 countries who deal with specific issues related to the broader G20 agenda, which is then included in the ministerial segment and finally at a high-level conference, in other words to reach a conference. High level requires careful planning. The G20 Presidency of Indonesia has 4 pillars, they are:

Strengthening the partnership environment

Drive productivity

Increase resilience and stability

Ensuring sustainable and inclusive growth

 Stronger global collective leadership

Environmental Issues in Indonesia’s G-20

Environmental issues are part of the Sherpa track agenda. The Sherpa track is a G-20 track that discusses non-financial economic issues, namely all issues related to energy, development, tourism, digital economy, education, labor, agriculture, trade, health, anti-corruption, environment and climate change. The environmental and climate sustainability working group aims to pursue new, inclusive and resilient models for accelerating the transition to energy, green economy and environmental sustainability. Climate change adaptation, resilience and nature-based solutions aim to combine emission reduction and adaptation, combat biodiversity loss, improve air quality and increase energy efficiency. Indonesia’s G-20 presidency cannot be separated from the continuation of the presidency of the previous years. The Communique, which is the final result of the G20 presidency, is in the form of a statement and cooperation document from G20 members that contains a commitment and a joint statement which will then be submitted to the public. During the Saudi Arabian presidency, the G20 communiqué contained the control of land degradation and damage to coral reef habitat and marine debris as well as the control of covid 19. This was marked by the global initiative on Reducing Land Degradation and Enhancing conservation of forestry Habitats and the launch of the global Coral Reef Research and Development Acceleration Platforms.

At the Italian presidency in 2021, the G-20 members agreed to do 4 things, namely 1. Strengthening actions to contain and control habitat destruction 2. Strengthening the commitment to achieve land degradation reduction and strive to achieve land degradation neutrality 3. Strengthening action for conservation, protection and restoration, and sustainable use of biological diversity. 4. Strengthening the commitment to end illegal unreported and unregulated fishing. As well as handling marine debris, including strengthening existing instruments and developing global instruments related to marine debris and plastic waste in the sea. As for the Indonesian presidency, there are three main issues of the Environment and Climate change that are priorities. This commitment is expected to help control the global temperature increase of 1.5 degrees Celsius according to the target in the Paris agreement. The three priority issues are: First, support sustainable recovery Second, increased land and sea-based actions Third, increasing the effectiveness of the use of resources implemented for environmental protection and climate change control purposes. These three issues were brought up as an effort to restore the environment after the pandemic. In addition to the priority issues above, the G-20 also supports the post 2020 global biodiversity framework, ecosystem restoration that focuses on reducing land degradation and increasing sustainable conservation and restoration of terrestrial habitats, specifically peatlands, mangroves and other ecosystems. In addition, the G-20 also supports global commitments to water resource management including sustainable lake management, watershed management and encouraging water resource efficiency to achieve water security in support of SDGs 6 Not only that, the G-20 also seeks to create sustainable and innovative funding to support the restoration of unique ecosystems and marine ecosystems, also strengthen marine debris action plans and further actions in the protection of coastal and marine ecosystems based on land and oceans with a focus on participation community.

In the Plenary G-20 Environment Deputies Meeting and Climate Sustainability Working Group (1st EDM-CSWG) which ended on March 23, 2022, 7 priority issues were discussed, namely land degradation, biodiversity loss, marine litter, water, sustainable consumption and resources efficiency. , sustainable finance and marine protection. Six issues have been resolved by seeking input from G-20 EDM member countries, while the issue of sustainable consumption and resource efficiency will be implemented in June 2022 at the second meeting.

Why Choose the Issues above? The choice of environmental issues in the G20 is not without clear reasons. The issues raised have been carefully thought out and estimated in accordance with global and local interests. As a country with high biodiversity, Indonesia has a high influence in voicing the use of biological resources that is sustainable, conservative, and with fair profit sharing. The selection of the issues that have been mentioned are also very popular issues in the environmental management arena in other international forums, biodiversity, ecosystem restoration, marine debris management and coastal ecosystem protection, mangrove and mangrove forest conservation, management and conservation of clean water. the essence of today’s global environmental problems that cannot be postponed any longer. G-20 presidency this time is a signal for sustainable environmental protection. If it can be implemented properly, there will be many benefits that will be felt, both material and non-material. This will speed up the recovery of the post-pandemic environment, creating a healthier and cleaner environment with good water resistance.

Uswah Alaydrus (孙美琳) from Indonesia. She received a Master of Law in International Relations from the School of International and Public Affairs, Jilin University, China. She is member of Tsunami Disaster Mitigation Researcher Center (TDMRC) and independent analyst emphasis on Environmental In International Relations Issues. She is also founder of Uswah Home Education Centre for Kids.

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Southeast Asia

Amending the Malaysian Immigration Law: The Rohingya Refugees in Malaysia



photo: © UNHCR/Vincent Tremeau

Denied citizenship in Myanmar, the Rohingya refugees fled to various counties including Malaysia. However, the Rohingyas in Malaysia have been challenged by the Malaysian legal system and also the fact that Malaysia is not a signatory to the 1951 Convention Relating to the Status of Refugees and its 1967 Protocol. So far, Malaysia does not have any formal legislative or regulatory mechanism to protect asylum-seekers and refugees. Due to this, the refugees in Malaysia are labelled as “illegal immigrants” which puts them at risk of refoulement. The Rohingyas in Malaysia have been subjected to harassment, extortion, imprisonment, and even deportation. One such instance was of forty Rohingya men who were imprisoned during the pandemic for entering Malaysia without a valid permit.

There are certain inconsistencies in the Malaysian legal system in meeting the standards set in international law for the treatment of refugees. Malaysia’s Federal Constitution, which provides the main provisions relating to non-discrimination and equality is inadequate as a non-citizen’s right to equality is protected but not their right to non-discrimination. A differentiation between rights available to citizens and non-citizens that are inherent within the Constitution negatively impacts the rights of non-citizens. Malaysia’s lack of proper domestic legislation for the protection of refugees is another inconsistency within the legal system of the country. Malaysia’s immigration law deals with the treatment of refugees. This law does not have principles of international law embedded within it. An example of the same is the principle of non-refoulement. This principle guarantees that no one should be returned to a nation where they might face torture, cruel, inhuman or degrading treatment or punishment and other irreparable harm. Within domestic law protecting refugees could enhance the domestic laws to a substantial level. Section 6 of the Immigration Act 18959/63 (Act 155) iterates that a person shall not enter Malaysia without a valid permit, and Section 6(3) reiterates that whoever contravenes subsection 1 shall be guilty of an offence and receive due punishment including being liable to whipping of not more than six strokes. In this regard, caning as a punishment imposed on refugees, albeit the factor that only adult males under the age of fifty-five are subjected to caning, would amount to torture, and would also violate human rights. Apart from this, a vast amount of powers are conferred on authorities under the Immigration Act, which could lead to arbitrary actions, and since there is also a lack of opportunity to review or challenge the decisions of the court regarding the status of refugees, this must be addressed. Despite having relief to gain restitution via employment tribunals and civil law lawsuits, there are several impediments to accessing justice along with financial hardships that make it difficult to utilize.

Given the limited protections in Malaysia, in my research I have proposed the following legislative amendments:

-The Malaysian Government should consider granting refugees basic rights and not penalising them under the Immigration Act. Punishments such as caning should not be given to the refugees.  Since revisions were made to the Immigration Act in 2002, a total of 47,914 migrants have been subjected to caning for immigration violations.

-The Malaysian Government should ensure the protection of women and children refugees through protective measures against sexual abuse and violence. Such a concern has been seen in detention centres. As Malaysia is a part of the United Nations Convention on the Rights of the Child and the Convention on the Elimination of All Forms of Discrimination Against Women, it needs to provide certain protective provisions. For women and children, alternatives for detention must also be provided under the Immigration Act. Detention should not be seen as the first practice, but rather as the last resort. Detention has an impact on the health and psychological well-being and alternatives such as placement with host families, bail schemes, and support from guarantors or sponsors should be looked into. Even if detention remains the practice, the period of time should be shortened, and there should be a right to appeal.

-Ratifying the Refugee Convention and the accompanying Protocol, or passing a law that governs refugee issues would contribute to the betterment of Rohingya refugees in Malaysia.

In conclusion,  while the Malaysian government has experimented with a variety of policy approaches, more coherence and protection are needed. The Government should consider these amendments and work toward a successful approach to protect the Rohingya refugees which could also lead to the betterment of society in Malaysia.

The report can be accessed on this link

MAHASETH, H., & BANUSEKAR, S. (2022). Living in the Shadows: Rohingya Refugees in Malaysia. Asian Journal of International Law, 1-8. doi:10.1017/S2044251322000091

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Southeast Asia

Expanding the India-ASEAN Cyber Frontiers



The recently concluded India-ASEAN Foreign Minister’s Dialogue (also known as the ‘Delhi Dialogue’) celebrated thirty years of the India-ASEAN relationship. The current year, designated as the ASEAN-India Friendship Year, highlights the significance of strengthening the partnership in an increasingly dynamic regional and geopolitical landscape. For India, ASEAN stands at the core of its vision for the Indo-Pacific,  as well as for its Act East Policy. For the ASEAN, India presents the solution for solidifying strategic autonomy as the great power competition between the US and China unfolds in the region.

It is argued that the great power competition is now about ‘technology’. According to this view, power transition theories emphasize the ‘innovation imperative’, and technological progress determines the viability for the ‘continuous rise’ of the rising powers. For India and ASEAN, capability and capacity building in this domain is now paramount to securing national interests.  

At the Delhi Dialogue, the Foreign Minister of Singapore remarked that the digital revolution is creating a complete revamp of the means of production and wealth generation for the future. He stressed that “if ASEAN can complement India’s natural leader in the arena, the two can remake not just the next two decades, but at least the next half-century”.

In the cyber domain, India and ASEAN face common challenges and vulnerabilities. While digital infrastructure in Southeast Asia (SEA) has been regularly exploited as launchpads for cyber-attacks worldwide, India has been at the top of the list of victims.

India-ASEAN in the cyber domain

Indian and ASEAN strategies in the cyber domain converge to a great extent. In discussions related to cyberspace governance in the United Nations (UN), both have adopted a balanced approach. Like India, the ASEAN countries want to safeguard cyber sovereignty (the view led by China and Russia), while supporting the multi-stakeholder approach (the view led by the US and Europe). It has been argued that ASEAN countries’ policies are focused more on avoiding social disruptions and controlling the spread of disinformation, than on technology issues. While the latter remains important, the former aspect has gained increasing significance for New Delhi in recent years.

Unlike the US and some of the Western allies, ASEAN countries have so far refrained from using cyber attribution as a political tool. This is similar to India’s policy which has not yet adopted the ‘naming and shaming’ approach towards its cyber adversaries, despite a few instances of indirect inferences by officials and leaders.

A major challenge for India and ASEAN has been China’s exploitation of cyberspace. Over the years, China-based threat actors have wreaked havoc in cyberspace, with motives ranging from commercial espionage to political espionage. An exponential increase in China-linked cyberattacks is witnessed in India and SEA countries whenever disagreements and conflict arise on borders (e.g., the Galwan valley clashes) or in the maritime domain (e.g., the South China Sea dispute).

India-SEA cyber relationship has broadened and deepened over the past decade, both on bilateral and ASEAN levels. India has been part of deliberations on cybercrime, Information and Communications Technology (ICT) security, and emerging technologies at the ASEAN Digital Minister’s Meeting and the ASEAN Defence Minister’s Meeting.

Bilaterally, India-Singapore relations have significantly improved, with the Indian Prime Minister hailing the ‘warmest and closest’ relationship between the two lions (countries). Singapore is among the most active SEA countries in cybersecurity discussions at the UN. It participates in both the UN Group of Governmental Experts (UNGGE) and the Open-Ended Working Group (OEWG) on ‘Developments in the Field of Information and Telecommunications in the context of international security’.

India-Malaysia relations have also improved since the new leadership took reign in 2021. In April 2022, the two countries reviewed the entire gamut of bilateral relations and agreed on a faster revival of ties in the post-covid period. Malaysia is deemed ‘neither a technology powerhouse nor a prolific hacker’. However, Malaysia has worked towards developing a strong national cyber strategy and uses global cooperation mechanisms for enhancing its capabilities in fields like foreign intelligence gathering.

As a natural leader in SEA, Indonesia has championed the ASEAN Outlook on the Indo-Pacific (AOIP). Though Indonesia lacks a comprehensive national cybersecurity strategy, Indonesia’s leadership in the ASEAN framework remains important for developing frameworks for collective cyber resilience. For India, these present excellent case studies for developing an active cyber diplomacy approach and fostering global cooperation mechanisms in the cyber domain.

Way Ahead

ASEAN provides the SEA countries with an avenue for advancing strategic autonomy in an increasingly competitive Indo-Pacific. The ASEAN centrality in the region is respected by the West which now seeks to engage the ASEAN countries diplomatically, economically, and politically.  ASEAN centrality has also meant that Chinese aggressiveness has driven other regional middle powers like India, Australia, and Japan towards ASEAN, thus elevating its stature further. However, in recent decades, China has made significant inroads in the SEA markets and is now seen as an important political partner as well. Despite concerns over increasing Chinese imprints on SEA’s digital domain, Chinese technological capabilities and policies attract several SEA countries.

The US-China rivalry puts India and SEA at risk in cyberspace as the rivalry will percolate towards allies and partners. In this light, the need is for developing a third way in the cyber domain – a Cyber Non-Aligned Movement (NAM). India-ASEAN engagement can address the technological gaps and cybersecurity issues, without being drawn into the rising great power competition in the region. The partnership can encompass digital infrastructure, 5G technology, cyberspace governance, and the       construction of a new South-South paradigm in cyberspace.

As fears of a ‘Digital Cold War’ emerge in the Indo-Pacific, a Cyber NAM can be a significant diplomatic effort towards a peaceful and secure cyberspace.

(Views are personal)

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Southeast Asia

Vietnam’s role in eliminating Khmer Rouge in Cambodia



Khieu Samphan (left) and Nuon Chea in the Trial Chamber of the Extraordinary Chambers in the Courts of Cambodia (ECCC). File photo. Photo: ECCC

Right from the time of Ho Chi Minh, Vietnam has adopted a liberal socialist welfare state emulating the erstwhile USSR. Within the historical narrative related to Indochina region the atrocities committed by Khmer Rouge has been listed as one of the darkest periods of history in Cambodia. Khmer Rouge after coming to power were suspicious of Vietnamese intentions and has developed an antagonistic attitude towards Vietnam. There have been skirmishes between the armed forces of the two countries and Khmer Rouge was strongly supported by China at that time. The establishment of People’s Republic of Kampuchea after the defeat of Pol Pot which was a replacement for the authoritarian Pol Pot regime. Led to the re institution of the state institutions and the protection of the religion and trade. The support which was given to the other opposition parties by the US which have fled Cambodia and shortage refuge in Thailand. 

The government instituted by Vietnam and the government in exile with Norodom Sihanouk as president and his deputy as Prime Minister, were seen as the two power centres. Vietnam has supported the re-establishment and restoration of public life in Cambodia in the late 1980s because of economic hardships and strong economic boycott adopted by the United States has led to more hardships to the Cambodian citizens. As a result of which Vietnam has justified its intervention in Cambodia to protect the citizens and the hardships brought about by Pol pot regime. Subsequently Vietnam withdraw its forces from Cambodia in 1989. In terms of protection of religion particularly Buddhism and restoration of monasteries large number of Vietnamese have helped Cambodians to adhere to the religion. However, withdrawal of Vietnamese forces led to a power struggle between different factions of Cambodia. 

Following the negotiations in 1991 there was a agreement between different fractions which led to the formation of the coalition government under supreme National Council which was headed by Norodom Sihanouk and brought about representatives of the three factions representing different political orientations and royal representatives.  The effective control of Cambodia was in the hand of the Phnom Penh regime and the conclusion of a peace agreement in 1991 led to first establishment of peace and protection of human rights across Cambodia. 

The disarming of Cameroon was a major issue for the UN operations particularly UN Security Council and therefore it was thought that is structured de-weaponization of the rival factions should be done. Under the UNSC and its mandate way back in 1992-93 the national elections were held in July 1993. These were seen as one of the most free and fair elections across Cambodia. The election of FUNCINPEC led to the return of Prince Norodom Sihanouk to the seat of power. The Khmer Rouge resistance was eroded because of the lack in foreign funding and subsequently thousands of supporters defected to the government and joined Cambodian army. Vietnam has been instrumental in looking into the safe transition and exchange of power between different factions. 

While much of the history has been documented but the Vietnamese army sacrifices to free Cambodians from brutal Khmer Rouge regime was not celebrated in the way it should have been. It was seen that more than 30,000 Vietnamese troops were killed before final withdrawal in September 1989. The Vietnamese soldiers underwent serious hardships and were supported by the Cambodians who were helping them in a limited way.  

Vietnam’s sending of troops to Cambodia in late 1978 was primarily to protect the millions of Cambodians who have fled the urban centres to rural locations because more than 202 million people have died and executed by the Khmer Rouge regime. The Vietnamese army despite limited rations and supplies have tried to protect the population and because of the Vietnamese attack the Pol Pot fled from Cambodia. Immediately after driving US from Saigon, the engagement of Vietnam in Cambodia was seen as the draining of Vietnamese resources as many of the refugees had started trickling into Vietnamese borders. While Vietnam has fought against French and the Americans their role in Cambodia has been underplayed and many of the Vietnamese soldiers who returned from Cambodia felt that they were not given due recognition by new Cambodian government. 

Even Cambodia has been ignorant of the fact that Vietnam was the one country which rescued them from the hardships of regime. In fact, the friendship monument in Phnom Penh clearly reflects the Vietnam’s role in driving Pol pot away. It was also a redemption of Vietnam’s glory and history which showcased that Vietnam could play a significant role in the Indochinese history. If one investigates the four years that they had ruled Cambodia, the brutal regime was responsible for forcing millions of people to work in community farms, but this forced social engineering was detrimental to the society and economy of Cambodia. The bloodshed also had aftereffects because many families died from exhaustion, disease, and starvation. 

One of the important aspects of Pol pot regime was the support from the hill tribes and they are known respect for Buddhism as a religion. Pol pot was instrumental in isolating people and abolished money, religion, and private properties. In the history of Cambodia Khmer Rouge regime, the South 21 jail in the capital was seen as notorious because more than 17,000 men, women and children were detained in that centre during the rule of the regime. The full horrors of the regime were discovered when the documented stories and oral history narrated by people in their diaries and verbal communication highlighted the deplorable conditions of living and the killing fields which brought Cambodia to the verge of complete economic downturn and retreating the country to the primitive age. 

The UN established tribunal decided and brought Khmer Rouge leaders to justice. In November 2018 the UN administered tribunal give sentences to Pol pot brother Khieu Samphan for crimes against humanity and genocide. The Pol pot regime also conducted ethnic genocide against Cham  and Vietnamese minorities. In fact, the role that Vietnam has placed in computing history needs to be revisited and loaded for its efforts in protecting the Cambodians as well as other ethnic minorities. 

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