Dr. Soedjatmoko became Rector of the United Nations University in September 1980. He was appointed by the Secretary-General of the United Nations, in consultation with the Director-General of UNESCO, to succeed Dr. James M. Hester who had been the University’s first Rector. In 1985, Dr. Soedjatmoko was appointed to a second term.
A scholar of international development and politics, Dr. Soedjatmoko published numerous articles in scholarly journals as well as books on the social, economic, cultural and political aspects of development. Among those titles published in English are The Primacy of Freedom in Development (1985) and Development and Freedom, based on his Ishizaka Lectures in Japan, published in 1980.
Dr. Soedjatmoko also played an active role in the international debate on global issues. He was a member of the Independent Commission on Disarmament and Security Issues (Palme Commission), the Independent Commission on International Humanitarian Issues and the Club of Rome. He also served on the Boards of the Aspen Institute, the World Resources Institute, the International Institute of Environment and Development, the Steering Committee of the North South Roundtable, the International Council of The Asia Society and the Council of the International Foundation for Development Alternatives in Switzerland. He was a longtime member of the International Institute of Strategic Studies, London, and was for 12 years a member of the Board of Trustees of the Ford Foundation. He had also been involved with a number of other cultural and academic organizations, for example, he was an International Fellow of the American Academy of Arts and Sciences, an Honorary Member of the Siam Society (Bangkok, Thailand), and a member of the Jakarta Academy, and was twice a member of The Aga Khan Award for Architecture Master Jury.
From 1971 until he assumed the UNU Rectorship, Dr. Soedjatmoko was Adviser for Social and Cultural Affairs to the National Development Planning Agency of Indonesia. From 1968-1971 he served as Indonesian Ambassador to the United States. Prior to this Ambassadorship, and again afterwards, he was Personal Adviser to the Minister of Foreign Affairs of Indonesia. An earlier phase of his career was in Indonesian journalism, as Director of Pembangunan Publishing Company, Editor of the weekly Siasat, and Associated Editor of the daily newspaper Pedoman. From 1956-1959 he was an elected member of Indonesia’s Constitutional Assembly.
Dr. Soedjatmoko had a long association with the United Nations, having been a member of the Indonesian delegation to the Security Council from 1947-1950 and Alternate Permanent Representative of the Indonesian delegation to the UN from 1950-1951; in 1966 he was Vice-Chairman of the Indonesian Delegation to the General Assembly. Later he was a special consultant to the UN Economic and Social Commission for Asia and the Pacific and from 1977-1980 a member of the Programme Advisory Committee of the former Human and Social Development Programme of the UN University.
In 1978 he was the recipient of the Ramon Magsaysay Award for International Understanding (sometimes referred to as the Nobel Prize of Asia). The citation included the following: “The lot of the independent thinker amidst the political tumult of developing Asia is precarious. It is a measure of Soedjatmoko’s positive commitment that concern for himself has not inhibited forthright expression. Nor has he allowed his membership in numerous leading international forums and organizations to divorce his concern from the realities of Indonesian village life.” His writings, 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 per cent in Southeastern and Southern Asia. In the process he is stimulating others to sharpen their perception and make government and private efforts more relevant.”
In 1985 he was a recipient of The Asia Society Award, presented to four individuals who have made outstanding contributions in their own fields to greater understanding of the Asian/Pacific region. In 1986 he was chosen to receive the Universities Field Staff International Award for Distinguished Service to the Advancement of International Understanding.
Soedjatmoko was born in Sawahlunto, Sumatra on 10 January 1922. He studied at Medical College in Jakarta, Indonesia and at the Littauer School of Public Administration at Harvard University in the United States. In 1961-1962 he was Guest Lecturer in South East Asia History and Politics at Cornell University (USA). He was the recipient of honorary degrees from Yale University, Cedar Crest College and Williams College in the United States; Kwansei Gakuin University, Japan; Asian Institute of Technology, Thailand; and Universiti Sains Malaysia, Malaysia.
In October 1987, after he retired from the Rectorship, he was awarded an honorary degree by Georgetown University, D.C. In introducing him, Elliot Richardson, former US Secretary of State, said that what had impressed him most of all about Soedjatmoko’s career was that “one is talking to a man who has transcended the narrow limitations that divide people”. In December 1989, while lecturing to college students at his old university in Jakarta, Soedjatmoko suffered a heart attack and died at age 67.
Soedjatmoko was married in 1957 to the former Ratmini Gandasubrata. They have three daughters.