Near stagnation in so many villages of Southeast and
South Asia has allowed population growth to exceed development. Resulting spread of
malnutrition combined with underemployment or unemployment compounds frustration,
especially among the young. Despite well-meant national and international planning and the
billions of dollars committed to development both internally and from external aid, most
rural poor throughout the region feel increasingly left behind.
None of the political-economic formulas so far attempted in post independence Asia has
proven truly satisfactory, either materially or humanly. Far more crucial than shortage of
funds for construction of economic infrastructures is the dearth of ideas that can
mobilize the vast underused manpower and harness this to popular aspirations. Too often
internationally designed development schemes relate only marginally to local human and
physical reality. Because funding generally dictates conception of the project, the best
of technical efforts may be circumscribed thereby. The crisis in relations between
developed nations of the northerly latitudes and aspiring peoples further south actually
is less one of money than lack of agreement upon sound strategies for building healthy
It is in this arena that SOEDJATMOKO, as a creative social historian of contemporary
trends, is making his greatest contribution. Encouraging both Asians and outsiders to look
more carefully at the village folkways they would modernize, he is fostering awareness of
the human dimension essential to all development.
Born 56 years ago in Sawahlunto, Sumatra, SOEDJATMOKO first set out to train himself as a
doctor. Because of political activities he was expelled from medical school in Jakarta
during World War II by Japanese occupation authorities. At the start of the Indonesian
fight for independence, he joined the foreign press department of the revolutionary
government's Ministry of Information and later the Ministry of Foreign Affairs. One of
three young people chosen to represent their unrecognized government at the United Nations
and in the United States, he participated in debates at the United Nations Security
Council at Lake Success until international recognition of Indonesian independence was won
in 1949. He then represented the new nation in the United Nations and elsewhere abroad and
took time at his own expense to study differing political systems in Eastern and Western
Europe, Russia and America.
Home again in the 1950s SOEDJATMOKO became the editor of the weekly Siasat, associate
editor of the daily Pedoman and was elected a member of the Constituent Assembly. With
like-minded intellectuals he challenged President Sukarno's "guided democracy"
as it became increasingly a vehicle for thought control and moved toward a closed society.
When Indonesia in 1966 rejoined the United Nations he lent influential guidance, later
serving as ambassador to the United States before he returned to become Special Adviser on
Social and Cultural Affairs to the Chairman of the National Development Planning Agency.
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. While primarily a man of ideas rather than administrative
action, his writings have added consequentially 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 percent in southeastem and southem Asia. In the
process he is stimulating others to sharpen their perception and make government and
private efforts more relevant.
In electing SOEDJATMOKO to receive the 1978 Ramon Magsaysay Award for International
Understanding, the Board of Trustees recognizes his persuasive presentation of the case
for developing Asia's basic needs in the councils of world decision making.