RI, UK link up on education human resources development

Margareth S. Aritonang and Agnes Anya



The United Kingdom’s decision to more closely engage with Southeast Asian nations as a way to seize post-Brexit opportunities is paying off, marked by a fruitful visit of two Indonesian ministers to London to explore cooperation on education and human resources development.

Foreign Minister Retno LP Marsudi and Education and Culture Minsiter Muhadjir Effendy have been in the UK since Sunday to celebrate the 70th anniversary of Indonesia-UK ties this year.

During her visit, Retno had a series of meetings with several high-level authorities, including the prime minister’s special trade envoy for Indonesia, Richard Graham, National Security Advisor Mark P. Sedwill and Deputy Prime Minister David Lidington.

With Lidington and Minster of State for Asia and the Pacific Mark Field, Retno oversaw an agreement signed by Muhadjir to improve cooperation on education and human resources development, which President Joko “Jokowi” Widodo spelled out as the main focus for his second term in office. “[Muhadjir] is here to discuss vocational education because for the next five years, President Jokowi’s focus is human resources development, [as opposed] top the previous five years [when his focus was] on infrastructure. Here is where we are; we want to cooperate with the UK,” Retno said on Monday evening after the anniversary celebration in London.

In the education sector, Indonesia and the UK currently cooperate in the UK-funded Chevening and Indonesia-funded Dharmasiswa scholarships.

Prior to the agreement on vocational education, the UK had been eyeing cooperation with Indonesia as part of its strategy to get closer to Southeast Asian nations. The ambitious strategy, along with a plan to assign a dedicated envoy to ASEAN, is part of London’s efforts to secure opportunities in a booking economic region as it seeks to conclude an agreement to leave the European Union.

UK’s outgoing Ambassador to Indonesia Moazzam Malik recently told The Jakarta Post that the UK was home to globally renowned universities and could “support Indonesia’s journey” to improve its human resources as several UK-based education institutions “are interested and eager to collaborate internationally.”

Apart from education, Retno’s mission in London also covered cooperation in the fields of defense, counterterrorism, maritime issues and trade, she said on the sidelines of Monday’s Indonesian Night celebration.

During the event, Indonesianand British artists performed traditional music and dances from Bali and Central and West Java in a bid to represent Indonesia’s diverse cultural traditions.

To emphasize the importance and the promising future of diplomatic ties, Retno noted in her opening remarks how the UK had become “a special friend of Indonesia”.

“This is indeed the very recognition that I specially flew into the country for 14 hours form Jakarta [on] a direct flight with Garuda Indonesia; to attend the commemoration of diplomatic relations between Indonesia and its partner country,” Retno said.

Throughout her speech, Retno highlighted how 70 years of diplomatic relations had mutually benefited the two countries. She cited London’s support to Indonesia to secure a seat on the United Nations Security Council this year.

However, she also said boundaries still remained between the countries. Retno made this message clear in her remarks when she mentioned the significance of respecting each other’s domestic affairs and territorial integrity as the foundation for strengthening the partnership.

The relationship between Indonesia and the UK goes beyond the formal 70 years with the arrivals of Sir Francis Drake in Maluku in 1579 – a historical moment that was highlighted in front of Monday’s international audience.