Sharon Wiharta, Challenges Forum, Folke Bernadotte Academy; Non-Resident Fellow, Center for Strategic and International Studies, Jakarta (Sharon.firstname.lastname@example.org)
Last updated January 2016
|Active armed forces||Helicopters & fixed-wing transport||Defense Budget||UN Peacekeepers||UN Contribution Breakdown||Other Significant Deployments|
World Ranking (size): 13
Navy: 65,000 (inc. 20,000 Marines & 1,000 naval aviation)
Air force: 30,100
|6 Attack helicopters
22 Medium transport helicopters
39 multi-role helicopters
15 Medium fixed-wing transport
|2015: Rp94.9tr (est.)
(0.69% of GDP)
(0.83% of GDP)
(0.74% of GDP)World Ranking (2016): 26
(31 Dec. 2015)
(6th largest Asian contributor; largest ASEAN contributor)
|MINURSO 5 experts
MINUSCA 215 (209 troops, 6 experts)
MINUSMA 146 troops
MINUSTAH 7 police
MONUSCO 191 (176 troops, 15 experts)
UNAMID 981 (813 troops, 7 experts, 7 police, 154 FPU)
UNIFIL 1,296 troops
UNISFA 3 (2 troops, 1 expert)
UNMISS 8 (1 troop, 3 experts, 5 police)
UNMIL 1 expert
|IMT, Philippines: 13
(6 milobs, 7 civilians)
|Defense Spending / Troop: US$17,869 (compared to global average of approximately US$65,905 and regional average of approximately US$12,733)|
Part 1: Recent Trends
Indonesia is a relatively new but now major contributor of UN peacekeepers. In early 2015, the government pledged to deploy 4,000 peacekeepers and to reach the UN’s top 10 contributor list by 2019. Although Indonesia first provided UN peacekeepers in the 1950s, it was subsequently largely absent during the New Order regime of President Suharto until the early 1990s, primarily because the military was responsible for internal security. Given its leading role in the peace process in Cambodia, Indonesia deployed nearly 2,000 peacekeepers to UNTAC (1992-94). Indonesia then retreated from UN peacekeeping until 2006 when it deployed about 1,000 uniformed personnel to five UN missions. Since then, Indonesia has demonstrated a sustained and significant commitment to UN peace operations, through increasing deployments and active and engaged participation in policy development. In 2007 Indonesia broadened its contribution to include police personnel, deploying 6 individual police officers to UNMIS in Sudan. In 2008, it deployed its first Formed Police Units (FPUs) to UNAMID in Darfur and has maintained its commitment there ever since. The national police, POLRI (Kepolisian Republik Indonesia) is keen to expand its contributions, particularly FPUs and female police officers, and has increased its international training efforts for its cadre of police officers. During the peacekeeping summit in September 2015, Indonesia further pledged an infantry battalion, a helicopter unit and a formed police unit of 100 (including 40 female officers).
The nature of Indonesia’s deployment has continued to evolve: whereas it used to primarily deploy in support capacities such as medical and engineering units in the less risky areas of a mission, Indonesia now deploys more mechanized infantry battalions and other assets that have a more “frontline” function, and to more challenging mission environments.
Regionally, Indonesia has also actively promoted peacekeeping issues within the Association of Southeast Asian Nations (ASEAN). In 2004, Indonesia proposed an ASEAN peacekeeping force as an element of the nascent ASEAN Security Community, established with the aim of resolving regional conflicts and maintaining regional security. However, the peacekeeping force initiative did not gain much support within ASEAN, in part because several countries still held dear the “non-interference” principle. Instead member states agreed to establish the ASEAN Peacekeeping Centers Network (APCN) and foster greater cooperation among South East Asian countries on peacekeeping issues in global forums such as the UN. The initiative for a peacekeeping force was revived under the Malaysian Chairmanship in 2015, but still did not move forward.
Indonesia’s emergence as a significant supporter and major provider of uniformed UN peacekeepers is attributable to the presidency of Susilo Bambang Yudhoyono (2004–14). During his time, Indonesia had an active foreign policy agenda and he was personally committed to UN peacekeeping. The modernization of its armed forces and acquisitions of more sophisticated equipment and weaponry are also contributing factors to Indonesia’s growing capability to deploy to complex and non-permissive mission environments. Under the new government of President Joko Widodo, this political commitment to enhance Indonesia’s contribution to UN peacekeeping has continued. It was solidified through the enactment of Foreign Minister Ministerial Decree 5/2015 on the “Roadmap Vision 4000 Peacekeepers 2015–2019.” One of the reasons for this ambition is the prestige associated with being a top-ten contributor, but also because Indonesia is still keen to shape its international image as that of a positive middle power, and wants to be “an active contributor to peace and security.”
Part 2: Decision-Making Process
Indonesia’s contribution to peace operations is governed by several legislative frameworks. The first is the Constitution of the Republic of Indonesia 1945. It states that a key national objective is to participate in preserving world orderliness based on freedom, eternal peace and social justice. The initiation of Indonesia’s “independent and active” (bebas aktif) foreign policy doctrine in 1948 provided a basis for its contribution to maintaining international peace and security. The Foreign Relations Act No. 37/1999 and State Act 2/2002 for the National Police also contribute to the legal framework that enables Indonesia’s participation in peace operations. State Act 34/2004, which determines the role and duties of the armed forces (TNI Tentara Nasional Indonesia), provides for the TNI’s involvement in peace operations under the category of “military operations other than war.” The Act makes clear that while the TNI is to be actively involved in peacekeeping operations, it is strictly not to engage in war against any of the conflict parties in the host country. In addition, the 2008 Defence White Paper outlines the TNI’s participation in international peace operations as part of Indonesia’s national defense development.
In recent years, the government has enacted several regulations to strengthen the mechanisms to facilitate Indonesia’s contribution to peace operations. Presidential Decree 85/2011 established the Coordinating Team for Peacekeeping Missions (TKMPP, Tim Koordinasi Misi Pemeliharaan Perdamaian) in order to streamline the deployment process. The Ministry of Foreign Affairs has the lead responsibility for coordinating Indonesia’s peacekeeping deployments. It leads the TKMPP, which gathers several ministries and agencies: Ministry of Defence, Ministry of Interior, Ministry of Law and Human Rights, Ministry of Finance, Ministry for National Development Planning, TNI, National Police, State Intelligence Agency. Presidential Decree 86/2015, which broadens Indonesia’s peacekeeping participation to include missions mandated by regional organizations and other international organizations, is a significant change to the previous Presidential Decree 7/2008, which affirmed that Indonesia can only participate in peacekeeping missions mandated and led by the UN. The 2015 decree also outlined some of the main criteria for Indonesia to contribute to a mission, and clarified the financial procedures for deploying to peacekeeping operations.
The final decision to deploy is made by the Executive branch (i.e. the President), with notification to the Parliament. When the UN makes a request for peacekeepers to the Indonesian Foreign Ministry, the ministry convenes the TKMPP to weigh the political, legal and technical dimensions of the request, and relays its recommendations to the President, who then approves the decision. It typically takes between 6-12 months from the initial UN request for Indonesia to deploy its personnel.
Part 3: Rationales for Contributing
Political Rationales: Indonesia’s active participation in UN peacekeeping operations is born out of its ambition to be a significant regional and global power. Since the financial and political crises of the late 1990s, Indonesia now seeks to re-assert its international influence and it views peacekeeping contributions as a key element of this. In particular, Jakarta thinks its increasing contributions will enhance its prospects for a non-permanent seat on the Security Council in 2019–2020. Becoming a Security Council member is thought to be an effective way to encourage UN reform – a long-standing Indonesian policy priority – and to increase Indonesia’s role in international peace and security. Beyond the Security Council seat, Indonesia expects to be able to leverage its contributions and wield greater influence in other UN decision-making fora, particularly those pertaining to peacekeeping, as well as attain more senior UN positions and mission leadership roles.
Socio-cultural factors, including religion, also shape Indonesia’s political rationales to participate in UN operations, and are thus an important consideration. At times, despite its secular state ideology, Indonesia seeks to feature its Islamic identity in its foreign policy decisions to maintain its Muslim solidarity. This is partly to satisfy domestic religious constituents. For example, this can be seen in the effort to maintain a larger number of military personnel in UNIFIL than in other UN missions, which to some extent relates to Indonesia’s support for the Palestinian cause.
Economic Rationales: Although the main rationale for Indonesia’s contributions is political, there are some tangible economic benefits. At the individual level, the UN reimbursements received is a significant incentive. The reimbursements also help ease the burden of maintaining military equipment since the national budget allocated for overall defense spending is still low. An indirect economic rationale is Indonesia’s desire to develop its military industry (owing to previous vulnerabilities to international sanctions). Indonesia has recently produced Anoa, a wheeled armored vehicle that its contingents use in peacekeeping missions. Several troop-contributing countries, such as Bangladesh, Malaysia, and Nepal have reportedly expressed interest in buying the Anoa because of its adaptability and its relatively low cost.
Institutional Rationales: Within the military and police establishment, being a major provider of uniformed UN peacekeepers (along with key enablers) greatly enhances their prestige internationally, and to some extent rehabilitates their negative image among the Indonesian population cultivated during the New Order era (during President Suharto’s regime). During this time, the military and the police were guilty of committing human rights violations and instilled a culture of fear among the population. Military reform following the end of the New Order regime, and the resolution of various internal conflicts such as those in Aceh and Moluccas gave rise to approximately 400,000 soldiers remaining idle. The government thus has a need to find an effective way to manage these idle capacities. Participation in contemporary UN peacekeeping is viewed as a good opportunity to maintain troop capabilities and a useful force projection exercise. Equally, international deployments are increasingly viewed within the military and the police as strengthening staff professionalism. There is growing evidence of returning military and police personnel adopting norms and standards learnt while on deployment.
Security Rationales: These do not feature prominently in the decision-making process.
Normative Rationales: Indonesia is a firm advocate for multilateralism and a strong supporter of the UN, especially UN peacekeeping. Not only is it a major provider of uniformed personnel and enablers, it is often an active actor in peacekeeping policy discourse and in the development of strategic guidance. One such initiative was the Civilian Capacities initiative at the UN. Indonesia co-chaired several policy dialogue meetings, and was a co-sponsor for the General Assembly resolution on civilian capacities. On the policing front, POLRI has been quite engaged in the development of the UN Police’s Strategic Guidance Framework (SGF) process. Indonesia often convenes the regional outreach meetings on key peacekeeping issues. Most recently, Indonesia hosted the Asia-Pacific meeting in July 2015 on Peacekeeping in support of the US-led Peacekeeping Summit initiative.
Part 4: Barriers to Contributing
Discomfort with the expanding UN peacekeeping agenda: The rapid developments in the peacekeeping agenda have led to what is termed a “conceptual stretch” among emerging powers, including Indonesia, that aim to strictly uphold the application of the traditional principles of peacekeeping. It is not discomfort with the expanding UN peacekeeping agenda per se, but rather a concern that the implementation of the expanding agenda has diluted the main peacekeeping principles which Indonesia strongly believes are the bedrock to the legitimacy and success of UN peacekeeping. In addition, Indonesia prefers the term “peacekeeping operations,” rather then the broader term “peace operations,” and so is likely to raise concerns over the HIPPO report recommendations to focus on peace operations because it is concerned that this may be a backdoor to include peace enforcement missions.
The application of the “non-use of force” principle, not least in the context of civilian protection mandates, is contentious for Indonesia. In earlier years, Indonesia took a conservative and principled position on the “non-use of force except in self-defence” principle and objected to the interpretation of the term “self-defence” to include “pre-emptive strike” or “anticipatory self-defence.” Over the years and with deeper experience in missions that operate in non-permissive environments, Indonesia recognizes that a more proactive self-defence is sometimes necessary. It also accepts the rhetoric and practice of robust peacekeeping. However, there is a general perception within the government that recent developments in UN peacekeeping have eroded the principle of non-use of force. Indonesia believes that threshold of robust peacekeeping has been firmly crossed through deployments such as the Force Intervention Brigade (FIB) in MONUSCO. The government has since called for a clearer definition of the term “robust peacekeeping,” and for a sharper distinction between peacekeeping and peace enforcement. Indonesia’s concern regarding the loose application of the “non-use of force” principle is that it affects a mission’s perceived impartiality, and in turn, the safety and security of the peacekeepers. It is unlikely that Indonesia will choose to participate in future models akin to the FIB and will probably raise strong objections to future operations, especially if they occur in UN missions where Indonesia is a significant contributor.
The protection of civilians mandate has added a layer of complexity to debates about the use of force. Indonesia broadly accepts that civilian protection is one of the central tasks of contemporary peace operations, and that increasingly, UN operations have robust mandates to protect civilians. However, Indonesia is concerned that POC implementation has and can go beyond the mission’s mandate.
Financial costs: Financial costs are currently not a prohibitive barrier for Indonesia to provide uniformed peacekeepers. The upward trend of deployment is set against the context of relative strong economic growth at home. However, as the economy shows signs of slower growth, it remains to be seen if financial costs will become a bigger barrier for Indonesia to sustain its current (or higher) deployment level.
Lack of fit with legislative, procurement and operational timelines: Current administrative and financial procedures have a strong bearing on how quickly Indonesia can respond to a UN deployment request once the political considerations have been dealt with. Government budgeting cycles and procedures are often planned at least a year in advance, and once budgets are allocated, it is difficult to respond rapidly when a situation arises. The government is looking into how domestic financial arrangements can be made more nimble in order to respond more effectively to UN requests.
Part 5: Current Challenges and Issues
There has been strong political will to be a firm supporter of UN peacekeeping, expressed mainly through personnel contributions. The government has recently outlined its ambition to deploy up to 4,000 peacekeepers by 2019, and has taken several steps – procedurally, legally, and relating to equipment – to enhance its contributions. It can be expected that Indonesia will continue to ride this momentum in the short- to medium-term. The ostensible domestic challenge is the financial aspect.
The Indonesia National Defense Forces Peacekeeping Training Centre, established in 2014, is responsible for recruiting the military personnel to be deployed to peacekeeping operations, and to prepare them for the missions through pre-deployment trainings. It also conducts bilateral joint exercises.
Part 6: Key Champions and Opponents
UN peacekeeping is a policy issue that receives wide and strong support at all levels of government. The main stakeholders such as the TNI and POLRI are keen to increase their deployments. There is also a general favorable public perception for and of UN peacekeeping. The biggest stalwart of peacekeeping in Indonesia is former President Yudhoyono, who because of his personal commitment, made peacekeeping a top foreign policy issue for Indonesia. Several former blue helmets have ended up in various high-ranking positions both in the military and police. The highest-ranking Indonesian UN official is the current Force Commander of MINURSO, Major General Imam Edy Mulyono.
In terms of think tanks and training institutes, there are few think tanks and research institutes that examine peacekeeping issues. The Centre for Strategic and International Studies is the leading research institution that studies Indonesia’s role in peacekeeping and peacebuilding. In 2014 the Indonesian Peace and Security Centre (IPSC) was inaugurated in Sentul, West Java, and among other things, accommodates the Indonesia National Defense Forces Peacekeeping Training Centre.
Part 7: Capabilities and Caveats
Indonesia possesses or is in the process of developing specialized capacities to be deployed to UN peacekeeping missions. One capacity that Indonesia already possesses and contributes is helicopters. Currently, there are three units in MINUSMA, and a further three units in UNAMID. In terms of police functions, Indonesia currently deploys FPUs to UNAMID and POLRI is keen to deploy more. Although the number of female peacekeepers is low, there is recognition that Indonesia possesses a niche capacity in this regard (i.e. female, Muslim peacekeepers). Both the military and the police plan to recruit, train and deploy more women, but there are some cultural barriers to overcome to achieve this goal.
Part 8: Further Reading
Alexandra, L. & S. Wiharta, Indonesia and Peace Operations: Baseline Report (Jakarta: CSIS, 2015).
Hutabarat, L., “Indonesian Participation in the UN Peacekeeping as an Instrument of Foreign Policy: Challenges and Opportunities,” Global & Strategis, 8:2 (July-Dec. 2014).
Fortuna Anwar, D., ‘Indonesia’s Peacekeeping Operations: History, Practice, and Future Trend’ in Asia-Pacific Nations in International Peace Support and Stability Missions (eds. Chiyuki Aoi, Yee-Kuang Heng)
 Unless otherwise stated, data is drawn from IISS, The Military Balance 2015 (London: IISS/Routledge, 2015).
 Armed Forces spending is a country’s annual total defense budget (in US dollars) divided by the total number of active armed forces. Figures from IISS, The Military Balance 2015.
 “Indonesia reaffirms support to Lebanese and Palestinian people,” Xinhua News, 16 Aug 2006; Leonard C. Sebastian, “Indonesian Peacekeepers in Lebanon,” IDSS Commentaries 98/2006, 13 September 2006.
 Nani Afrida, “A new era of well-trained peacekeepers beckons,” The Jakarta Post, 20 December 2011.
 Statement by H.E. Adiyatwidi Adiwoso Asmady, Deputy Permanent Representative of the Republic of Indonesia to the UN on Agenda item: 34 “Comprehensive Review of the whole question of Peacekeeping Operations in all their aspects” at the General debate of Fourth Committee, 2 November 2007.
 Statement by H.E. Ambassador Desra Percaya, Permanent Representative, Permanent Mission of the Republic of Indonesia to the UN, Security Council Open Debate “Peacekeeping operations: new trends,” New York, 11 June 2014.