Former President of Indonesia / Chairman, Green Growth Institute
PROF. DR. SUSILO BAMBANG YUDHOYONO – commonly known by his acronym “SBY” – is the sixth President of the Republic of Indonesia, and also the country’s first directly-elected President. He assumed the Presidency after winning the 2004 elections, making him the first Indonesian President directly elected by voters (previous Presidents were voted by Parliamentarians). In 2009, he was re-elected to a second term after winning the majority of votes (60.80%) in the first run-off in a 3-candidate Presidential race. Significantly, despite the impact of the 2008 global financial crisis on the Indonesian economy, President Yudhoyono was re-elected in 2009 by a greater number of popular votes than he received at the 2004 elections. Pundits have said that he is the most voted democratic ruler in world history.
Born in Pacitan, East Java, on September 9, 1949, President Yudhoyono has assumed a number of self-transformations: from student to soldier, soldier to reformist general, 4-star general to cabinet Minister, Minister to politician, and politician to President. He graduated from the Military Academy in 1973 at the top of his class. He quickly rose through the ranks in the army – earning him the reputation as “a thinking General” with strong reformist credentials. He served a distinguished military career, which included a tour as chief of the United Nations Military Observer in Bosnia and Herzegovina (UNMIBH).
He retired early from the military service in 1999 – five years ahead of his official retirement when he was appointed as Minister of Mining and Energy. He then served as Coordinating Minister for Political, Social, and Security Affairs in the National Unity Cabinet under President Abdurrahman Wahid (2000-2001). He was re-appointed as Coordinating Minister for Political and Security Affairs under President Megawati Soekarnoputri (2001-2004), when, in the aftermath of the 2002 Bali bombing, he quickly established a reputation as Indonesia’s “anti-terrorism tsar”.
President Yudhoyono has an extensive academic background. While joining the US Army Command and General Staff College, Fort Leavenworth, he completed his Master Degree in Management from Webster University in St. Louis, US in 1991. In addition, in the midst of running his Presidential campaign, he completed his Doctorate Degree in Agricultural Economics from Bogor Institute of Agriculture in 2004. He has also received a Doctor Honoris Causa (HC) degree in law from Webster University in 2005, a Doctor (HC) in Political Science from Thammasat University, Thailand in 2005, a Doctor (HC) in Media and Governance from Keio University, Japan in 2006, a Doctor (HC) from Tsinghua University, Beijing – China in 2012, a Doctor (HC) in Leadership of Peace from University Utara Malaysia in 2012, and Doctor (HC) in Leadership & Public Service from Nanyang Technological University, Singapore (2013), Doctor (HC) from Syiah Kuala University, Aceh in Law of Peace in 2013, Doctor (HC) from Ritsumeikan University, Kyoto in 2014, and Doctor (HC) from Soka University, Tokyo in 2014. On June 12, 2014, the Indonesian National Defence University conferred upon President Yudhoyono a professorship in peace and security studies.
President Yudhoyono is also known as a “crisis management President”. This is because he has led Indonesia through some very difficult trials and tribulations: the Asian tsunami of 2004, a series of earthquakes, forest fires and other natural disasters, terrorism, global financial crisis of 2008, the rise of oil price and separatist conflicts. His efforts have paid off: Indonesia maintained 4.5 % GDP growth at the height of the global financial crisis and grew at 6.5 % in 2011 (the third highest growth among the G-20 economies, after China and India). During his presidency, Indonesia joined the G-20 Summit in 2008, the premier global economic forum. An accomplishment on its own, knowing that ten years before, Indonesia’s economy was in dire straits. On the issue of separatism, Aceh is at peace and has been rehabilitated from the tsunami destruction. Today, Indonesia is blessed with a stable and vibrant democracy with the largest middle-class in Southeast Asia.
President Yudhoyono has placed the environment at the top of his national and foreign policy agenda, arguably making him the most “green” President in Indonesia’s modern history. He has called his development policy as “pro-growth, pro-job, pro-poor, pro-environment”. This 4-track philosophy has uniquely characterised President Yudhoyono’s economic construct and is aptly coined “SBY-nomics”. Consequently, President Yudhoyono has introduced strict environmental laws which oblige development activities and business activities to follow high and strict environmental standards.
President Yudhoyono became very active on global diplomacy on climate change. In 2007, Indonesia successfully hosted the Conference of Parties (COP) 13 – known as the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change – in Bali. Those who attended the conference would remember his, and UN Secretary General Ban Ki-moon’s dramatic last minute intervention at a time when the Conference nearly broke down as a result of negotiating stalemate – that intervention helped end the deadlock and led to the adoption of the Bali Action Plan. President Yudhoyono was never shy to break ranks when he felt he needed to. In addressing the threat of greenhouse gas emission, he always stated that “developed countries must take the lead, but developing countries must also do more”. When developed and developing countries were stuck in climate negotiations on how much to cut emission, President Yudhoyono made the surprising “26-41” announcement, which stated that Indonesia, without waiting for agreement between developed and developing countries, was committed to reduce emission voluntarily by 2020 by 26% with national means and 41% by international cooperation. This became a game changer in the global climate change negotiations and led other developing countries to also announce corresponding targets of emission reduction.
President Yudhoyono has also been a strong advocate of sustainable forestry. He has clamped down on illegal loggers. In 2009 President Yudhoyono launched a national campaign to plant 1 billion trees. The campaign succeeded in planting some 3.5 billion trees in just 3 years. In 2010 President Yudhoyono and Prime Minister Jens Stoltenberg of Norway signed a landmark agreement on reducing emission from deforestation and peat degradation that included a moratorium on nature forest and peat land, in a cooperative programme worth USD$1 billion. As a result of this moratorium, Indonesia was committed to preserve 64 million hectares of natural forest. In 2007, President Yudhoyono initiated the Forestry-11 (F-11) process, a coalition of rainforest nations that include Indonesia, Brazil, Costa Rica, Congo, Cameroon, Colombia, Democratic Republic of Congo, Malaysia, Papua New Guinea, Peru, Guyana, Guatemala, and Suriname. The F-11 aims to be part of the global climate solution based on the proposition that, in the words of President Yudhoyono, “until man can produce a machine that can re-absorb CO2 from the atmosphere, then the rainforests would be the only tool that can function as carbon sinks, and therefore we must protect these rainforests at all costs”.
President Yudhoyono also became a champion of the marine environment. In 2007, President Yudhoyono spearheaded the Coral Reefs Triangle Initiative (known as the CTI) at the APEC Summit in Sydney. After securing diplomatic recognition of the importance of the CTI in the APEC Declaration, President Yudhoyono continued to actively nurture the CTI process until it became a formal inter-Governmental cooperation involving Indonesia, Malaysia, Philippines, Timor-Leste, Papua New Guinea and Solomon Islands. The CTI now serves as a vehicle among these governments to safeguard the region’s valuable marine and coastal biological resources for sustainable growth and the prosperity of current and future generations. Under his leadership, Indonesia also hosted the first World Ocean Conference in Manado in 2009. Presently, President Yudhoyono has also been actively championing the concept of “blue economy” – which promotes sustainable use of marine and water resources to promote economic development – among his international peers. Under his leadership, Indonesia joined the Global Green Growth Initiative (GGGI) and became one of its founding members.
President Yudhoyono is also a recipient of several international awards. On May 23, 2014, President Yudhoyono received “Global Statemanship Award” from the World Economic Forum for his contribution to the Indonesian economic development as well as to global efforts in achieving strong, balanced, sustainable, and inclusive growth. For the same reason, in May 2013, the Appeal of Conscience Foundation in New York honoured the President with “World Statesman Award.” In the same period, the Nature Conservancy, WWF and WRI jointly honoured President Yudhoyono with the “Environment Leadership Award” for his initiative and contribution in advancing regional collaboration to protect marine and coastal biodiversity. Also in the same period, the President received “The 21st Century Economic Achievement Award” from the US–ASEAN Business Council.
In 2011, the United Nations named him as the “Global Champion for Disaster Risk Reduction” for making disaster risk reductions an integral part of Indonesia’s development process. In 2010, President Yudhoyono received the Gold Standard Award and was named Asia’s Top Political Communicator by Public Affairs Asia, based in Hong Kong. In the same year, President Yudhoyono received the “Global Home Tree Award” for his commitments to preserving Indonesia’s vast forests. President Yudhoyono also received the United Nations Environment Programme (UNEP) Award for Leadership in promoting Ocean and Marine Conservation and Management.
In 2012, President Yudhoyono was appointed by the UN Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon as Co-Chair of the High Level Panel of Eminent Persons for post-2014 Development Framework, together with President Ellen Sirleaf Johnson of Liberia and Prime Minister David Cameron of the United Kingdom. The Panel was mandated to advise the UN Secretary-General on a bold, ambitious and at the same time practical development agenda beyond 2015. After almost one year of work which included intensive consultations with a wide range of stakeholders, in May 2013 on behalf of the other Co-Chairs and members of the Panel, President Yudhoyono presented the final outcome document of the panel to the UN Secretary-General and to the UN General Assembly. The final outcome document is entitled “A New Global Partnership: Eradicate Poverty and Transform Economies through Sustainable Development”. It sets out a universal agenda to eradicate extreme poverty from the face of the earth by 2030, and deliver on the promise of sustainable development.
As an intellectual and prolific writer, President Yudhoyono has authored a number of books and articles. Among his academic writings are: Revitalisasi Ekonomi Indonesia: Business, Politics and Good Governance (Revitalizing Indonesia’s Economy: Business, Politics and Good Governance) published by Brighten Institute in 2002 and Mengatasi Krisis-Menyelamatkan Reformasi (Coping with the Crisis – Securing the Reform), published by Puskap in 1999. He has also published Selalu Ada Pilihan (There is Always A Choice), which is a compendium of reflections on presidency, leadership and political philosophy. As an eloquent speaker, President Yudhoyono has injected fresh ideas in a wide range of issues, from harmony among civilizations (JFK School of Government, Harvard University 2009), geopolitical architecture (Shangri-La Dialogue 2012), to Sustainable Growth with Equity (CIFOR, Bogor 2012).
President Yudhoyono is a naturally gifted artist and poet. In 2004, he published book of poetry called Taman Kehidupan (Garden of Life), and another one Membasuh Hati (Cleanse the Soul) in 2010. He is also an accomplished songwriter and has composed around 20 songs, some of which are translated into English.
For his outstanding services, President Yudhoyono was decorated with 35 medals and awards, including Bintang Maha Putra Adipurna, and Bintang Republik Indonesia Adipurna, the highest Indonesian national medals for those who excel beyond the call of duty, and the United Nations Peacekeeping Forces (UNPKF) Medal. He is also the laureate of several National Orders of Merit and bearer of special honorary titles from foreign countries, namely Brunei Darussalam, Saudi Arabia, Malaysia, Australia, Papua New Guinea, Timor-Leste, the Philippines, and Singapore.
President Yudhoyono is married to First Lady Hj. Kristiani Herrawati, and the couple is blessed with two sons. The eldest is Major (Inf.) Agus Harimurti Yudhoyono, and like his father, was the best graduate of the Military Academy in 2000. Major (Inf.) Agus Harimurti Yudhoyono is a Mason Fellow who graduated with a Masters in Public Administration (MPA) from the Kennedy School of Government, Harvard University in 2010. The youngest is Edhie Baskoro Yudhoyono. He has a Master degree in Political Economics from Nanyang Technological University, Singapore. He is a member of the Democratic Party and was elected to the Indonesian House of Representatives in the 2009 legislative elections.
President Yudhoyono’s term in office ended on October 20, 2014 after serving two full Presidential terms, which made him the longest serving President in Indonesia’s democratic era.
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