Skip to main content Skip to secondary navigation
Main content start

Indonesian President Joko Widodo encourages international sustainability collaboration in dean’s lecture

President Joko Widodo of Indonesia spoke as part of the Stanford Doerr School of Sustainability’s dean’s lecture series, where he discussed sustainability in Indonesia and the needs of the developing world.

President of Indonesia, Joko Widodo spoke at Stanford about his country's commitment to sustainability. (Image credit: Saul Bromberger)

President Joko Widodo of Indonesia emphasized his country’s commitment to sustainability and encouraged global leaders to support developing nations’ sustainability efforts as part of the Stanford Doerr School of Sustainability’s dean’s lecture series on Wednesday, Nov. 15.

Indonesian President Joko Widodo speaking at Stanford
President of Indonesia Joko Widodo spoke at Stanford about his country's commitment to sustainability. (Image credit: Saul Bromberger)

Faculty, staff, students, and postdoctoral researchers gathered in Schwab Residential Center and via livestream to hear from Widodo, who was first elected in 2014 to lead the nation of almost 300 million people and 17,000 islands. The talk was the third installment of the lecture series, which began in fall 2022.

Dean Arun Majumdar opened the event, describing Stanford as a “crossroads of international talent,” including many students and alumni from Indonesia. He urged listeners to think of sustainability as a defining challenge that transcends industries and nations.

“This is not just an American issue or a European issue. This is a global issue,” Majumdar said. “Issues related to the Global South, where they’re facing most of the brunt of climate change, are very important to us. We have to listen. We have to understand the challenges and work together to co-develop solutions that are adaptable to the local conditions.”

On Nov. 13, just prior to Widodo’s visit to Stanford, Widodo and U.S. President Joe Biden announced a new comprehensive strategic partnership between the two countries. While in California, Widodo also attended the Asia-Pacific Economic Cooperation organization’s APEC Economic Leaders Week in San Francisco, which had the theme of “Creating a Resilient and Sustainable Future for All."

Arun Majumdar, Dean of the Stanford Doerr School of Sustainability, spoke about linkages between the school and Indonesia's sustainability goals. (Image credit: Saul Bromberger)

Majumdar said he was delighted by Biden and Widodo’s announcement and saw potential for Stanford to help bring the collaborative vision to reality. While the school will not build any physical institution in Indonesia, representatives from the Stanford Doerr School of Sustainability and Indonesia have agreed to explore opportunities to work together on research and education projects in areas where there are linkages between Stanford scholarship and Indonesia’s sustainability goals. These could include projects such as low-carbon economic development, financing the transition to a more sustainable society, meeting pressing food priorities, and building a new, sustainable capital city, Nusantara.

Creating connection

Anin Bakrie (GSB MBA ’01), taking the stage to introduce Widodo, compared the possibilities of Nusantara to the growth of Silicon Valley and thanked Widodo for his inspiring leadership.

“We believe in the next 20 years or so, we will hit the golden moment of Indonesia,” Bakrie said. “This is one of the reasons why all of us here … really would like to bridge the gap between our aspiration, our vision, and what Stanford can offer.”

Widodo greeted the crowd with “Go Cardinal,” noting that he’d selected his tie in Cardinal red.

“You must be curious: Is that important?” he said. “Yes, of course, because I want to be connected to all of you who are a smart, young, diligent generation.”

This moment of connection was a reminder of the importance of connecting to nature as well, Widodo said through an interpreter. 

“Now, we know that the world is unwell at the moment,” Widodo said. “Climate change and energy transition are urgent issues, but the question is: Do all countries in the world have the commitment to carry out their responsibilities and take a role?”

He assured listeners of Indonesia’s commitment to sustainability, noting the country’s reduced emissions and deforestation rate and its work to rehabilitate forests and mangroves. But Indonesia and other developing countries “need large investments as well as technology transfer and collaboration,” he said. 

Widodo said energy should be affordable for all communities. He criticized the current state of climate finance, saying that financing should not add the burden of debt to poor and developing countries.

Indonesia has “tremendous green energy potential” across its vast landscape, Widodo said. Before flying to the United States, he visited Indonesia’s most populated province, West Java, to inaugurate the largest floating solar power plant in Southeast Asia.

The country plans to build similar projects in other cities, including Nusantara, Widodo said. Plans for the new capital include smart forests and green energy. A botanical center is already in progress – a “showcase of Indonesia’s transformation,” he said.

Though he said Nusantara won’t be complete for 15 or 20 years, he encouraged Stanford students to visit and see the process.

Widodo closed by emphasizing the importance of collaboration to face the effects of climate change.

Oussama Khatib, Weichai Professor in the School of Engineering, spoke with Joko Widodo, President of Indonesia, about the possibility of using remotely operated robots in regions far from urban centers. (Image credit: Saul Bromberger)

“Collaboration is absolutely necessary, and concrete strategic steps are absolutely needed,” he said. “Without it, it will be impossible for us to safeguard the sustainability of the one and only Earth that we love. We can no longer take an easy walk. We can no longer take a slow walk. We must run fast.”

Following the talk, Widodo toured a robotics lab, where he learned about some of Stanford’s sustainability-related research. He also heard from Oussama Khatib, the Weichai Professor in the School of Engineering, whose lab has developed a remotely controlled robot that Khatib said could benefit people who are located far from urban centers. 

The goal of the dean’s lecture series is to bring together scholars and thought leaders for discussion regarding the frontiers of research, education, practice, and impact related to an area or theme in sustainability. Previous installments have included David Pellow of the University of California, Santa Barbara, and a roundtable about environmental justice.

Explore More