Born in 1922 in Sawahlunto, West Sumatra, Soedjatmoko (no first name, no title) studied in Medical School in the Netherlands East Indies. During the Japanese military occupation in World War II he was expelled for anti-Japanese student activities. Until the end of the war he continued his connections with the anti-Japanese underground in Java. When in 1945 the Indonesian revolution for independence began, he was appointed head of the foreign press section in the new Ministry of Information and was concurrently appointed editor of the weekly magazine HET INZICHT published in Dutch by the Ministry. Its aim was to continue to dialogue with the Dutch while fighting continued. He was also one of the two co-founders of the political and cultural weekly SIASAT.
When in 1947 it become obvious that the Dutch colonial government was planning military actions against the fledging Indonesian Republic, Soedjatmoko together with two others, was sent to the United States in order to prepare against such eventuality, and to assist in the presentation of Indonesian case before the UN Security Council. From 1947 to 1951 he was a member of Indonesia Delegation to The Security Council, and in the last two years, its Alternate Permanent Representative. After the international recognition of Indonesia’s Independence he studied at Harvard‘s Littauer School of Public Administration but was sent, before graduation, to London as Indonesia’s first Charge d’Affaires. In 1953 he left government service, in order to go back to journalism and politics. He rejoined the weekly SIASAT as its editor and became associate editor of its sister publication, the daily PEDOMAN. From 1953-1961 he was also director of PEMBANGUNAN Book Publishing company. In 1955 he became an elected member of the Constituent Assembly for the Indonesian Socialist Party, and remained a member until the Constituent Assembly was dissovled by President Soekarno in 1960. In 1956 he was made advisor/member of Indonesia delegation to the First Asia-Africa Conference (the Bandung Conference). In 1960 PEDOMAN and SIASAT were banned and their printing plant conficated by decree of President Soekarno.
During 1961-1962 Soedjatmoko was visiting lecturer at Cornell University and served briefly as a consultant to the Rockefeller Foundation. After his return to Indonesia he was not allowed to travel until the end of Soekarno era in 1965.
In 1967 he became personal advisor to the Minister of Foreign Affairs Adam Malik (until 1977). In 1968 he was appointed Ambassador to the United States, which post he held until 1971. Upon his return he became adviser to the Chair of the National Planning Board (BAPPENAS) for cultural and social affairs. He continued to serve that capacity until his appointment as Rector of the United Nations University in Tokyo (1980-1987).
Soedjatmoko has had long association with the United Nations. Apart from having served as a delegate to the Security Council during the Indonesian revolution for independence, he was vice chair of the Indonesian mission that returned Indonesia to UN membership, in 1966 (Indonesia had left the UN in 1964). He was a special consultant to the UN Economic and Social Commission for Asia and the Pacific, assigned to bring about the merger of its three research and training institutions, which led to the establishment of the intergovermental Asia Pacific Development Centre (APDC) in Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia. From 1977 until his appointment as Rector he was a member of the Program Advisory Committee of the Human and Social Development Program of the UN University.
Apart from his government and diplomatic service, and his political and journalistic career, a large number of Soedjatmoko’s writings on international development and politics as well as history and cultural issues have been published in various scholarly and intellectual journals and books, in Indonesia and abroad.
He has co-edited An Introduction to Indonesian Historiography, eds., Soedjatmoko, Mohammad Ali, G.J. Resink and George McT. Kahin, Ithaca, Cornell University Press 1965.
Other books in English by Soedjatmoko: Development and Freedom, the Simul Press, Tokyo, 1980 (also published in Japanese and Indonesian); The Primary Freedom in Development, University Press of America, Lanham, Maryland 1985. Other books in Indonesian: Dimensi Manusia dalam Pembangunan (The Human Dimension in Development), LP3ES, Jakarta 1983 and Etika Pembebasan (Ethics of Liberation), LP3ES, Jakarta 1984; Pembangunan dan Kebebasan (Development and Freedom), LP3ES, Jakarta, 1984; Soedjatmoko dan Keprihatinan Masa Depan (Soedjatmoko and Concern for the Future), Tiara Wacana, Yogyakarta, 1991; Kebudayaan Sosialis (Socialist Culture), Melibas, 2001; Krisis Daya Cipta Indonesia: Polemik Soedjatmoko versus Boejoeng Saleh (Indonesia’s Crisis of Creativity: Polemic between Soedjatmoko and Boejoeng Saleh), Ombak, Yogyakarta, 2004; Asia di Mata Soedjatmoko (Asia in Soedjatmoko’s Eyes), Kompas Media Nusantara, Jakarta, 2009; Menjadi Bangsa Terdidik Menurut Soedjatmoko (Becoming an Educated Nation According to Soedjatmoko), Kompas Media Nusantara, Jakarta, 2009. In 2002, M. Nursam wrote Pergumulan Seorang Intelektual: Biografi Soedjatmoko (Struggles of an Intellectural: A Biography of Soedjatmoko) published by Gramedia, Jakarta.
Soedjatmoko had also played an active role in international debate on global issue. He was a member of Independent Commission on Disarmament and Security Issues (the Palme Commission), the Independent Commission on International Humanitarian Issues and the Club of Rome. He was a long serving Trustee of the Aspen Institute of Humanistic Studies and the Ford Foundation. He had also served the Board of the Institute for Environment and Development and served on its advisory Council.
He served on the Board of Governors of the International Development Research Center (IDRC) Canada 1973-1977, as well as on the Board of Governors, Asian Institute of Management 1972-1975, and was a member of the Board of Visitors, Department of Economics Boston University 1980-1987. He was a member of the Society for International Development’s North South Roundtable, as well as of the International Institute for Strategic Studies in London.
From 1971-1980 he was, together with John D. Rockefeller III and Sabura Okita, Co-Convenor of the Asia Society’s annual Williamsburg meetings on problems of Asia and the Pacific.
He has also been involved with a number of other cultural and academic organizations. He was, for example, an international Fellow of the American Academy of Arts and Sciences, an Honorary member of the Siam Society, Bangkok Thailand, was a member of the Jakarta Academy and had twice been member of the Agha Khan Award for Architecture Master Jury.
In 1978 Soedjatmoko was the recipient of the Ramon Magsaysay Award for International Understanding (sometimes referred to as the Noble Prize of Asia). The citation included the following: “The lot of independent thinkers amidst the political tumult of developing Asia is precarious. It is a measure of Soedjatmoko’s positive commitment that concern for himself has no inhibited forthright expression. Nor has he allowed his membership to numerous leading international forums and organizations to divorce his concern form reality of Indonesian village life” His writings, as the citation noted, have added “to the body of international thinking on what can be done to meet one of the greatest challenges of our time: how to make life more decent and satisfying for the poorest 40% in South Eastern and Southern Asia. In the process he is stimulating others to sharpen their perception and make government and private sector efforts more relevant.”
In 1985 Soedjatmoko was a recipient of the Asia Society Award, presented to four Individuals who made outstanding contributions in their own fields to greater understanding of the Asia Pacific region. He was also the recipient of honorary degrees from Yale University, Georgetown University, Cedar Crest College and Williams College in the United States; Kwansei Gakuin University in Japan; Asian Institute of Technology in Thailand; and, Universiti Sains Malaysia in Malaysia.
In Indonesia, Soedjatmoko received the Education, Public Service and Science Award from the Minister of Education and Culture, Mashuri, in 1971; the Bintang Mahaputera Utama from President Soeharto in 1995; and, the Bintang Budaya Parama Dharma from President Joko Widodo dan the Minister of Education and Culture, Muhadjir Effendy, in 2017.
Soedjatmoko married Ratmini Gandasubrata in 1957. They have three daughters: Kamala Chandrakirana, Isna Marifa, Galuh Wandita.
Updated from Soedjatmoko’s notes of February 23, 1988