Simon Maxwell

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Yogyakarta, Indonesia, 25-27 May 2010

I was in Yogyakarta for two working days, mainly to make a presentation at the Asia-Europe (ASEM) development conference, but also to share a platform with Andris Piebalgs, the EUEuropean Union Development Commissioner, and Dirk Messner of the German Development Institute, at a pre-meeting for all EUEuropean Union Delegation heads from Asia. Dirk also participated in the ASEM meeting, along with Dirk Willem te Velde from ODI.

The ASEM work was the culmination of eight months’ work, helping to shape the agenda and participating in detailed planning meetings. Dirk Messner has been a partner from the beginning. He and I made an initial presentation in Brussels back in early November. We then brought in Dirk Willem te Velde and worked with two other members of the team to produce a background paper which: made the case for a new strategic relationship going beyond aid (me); proposed a work programme on climate change (Dirk); looked at issues of social policy (Graham Meadows): and addressed a series of policy coherence issues, including trade, finance, migration and agriculture (Dirk Willem). These topics provided the sessions for a conference attended by some forty country delegations from the two regions, as well as international organisations and NGOs: 200 people altogether. The background paper is available here, along with the two page ‘Statement’ agreed at the end and which will feed into the Heads of State meeting in Brussels later in the year.

It is fair to say that some aspects of our original master-plan materialised and some did not. The conference did provide a useful opportunity to air the issues and there were some very good contacts, among the Asians we secured to act as discussants on our papers, but also many others.

The final statement does not do much more than just list the topics. However, the ECEuropean Community people were pleased to have the wider agenda beyond aid recognised and hope to build some momentum leading up to the Heads meeting.

ASEM is an interesting construct. Japan and Korea are members, as well as most Asian developing countries. Russia and Australia are about to join. The region is leading the world out of recession, will be crucial to fighting climate change, and has a common interest with Europe in global issues like financial stability. My idea after the meeting is to see whether we can’t find a way to have a shadow ASEM of think-tanks, which would provide the opportunity for a less diplomatically-constrained kind of conversation and relationship. Now we have the European think-tanks group, we can create wider groupings, also with other regions.

Some of the best discussions and contacts were on climate change. Dirk Messner gave a good presentation, building on his work with the German Council on Global Issues. Norway, by the way, has just this week given Indonesia $US 1 billion for REDD-related purposes related to deforestation.

I learned from para 15 of the Council Conclusions from March of the discussion on the 2020 strategy document, which I read on the plane, the Council plus foreign ministers will discuss ‘global issues’ in September.

One other thing on Europe. I read the new World Bank Paper on donor ranking on the plane (see here) and was interested that the ECEuropean Community ranks as low as 23 out of 38. Not good news when discussion of the new Financial Perspectives is just starting. I didn’t realise there was such an industry developing on this topic.

I think that’s all. Yogyakarta is beautiful. I will long remember the view over the trees from the hotel to  Mt Merapi, a live volcano smoking gently into the morning air; and the exquisite performance of the Ramayana, performed under the night sky, with the floodlit towers of the Hindu temples as the backdrop.

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