The Habibie Center was founded by the former president of Indonesia, Bacharuddin Jusuf Habibie and his family as an independent, non-governmental and non-profit organisation. With a vision to advance modernisation and democratisation efforts in Indonesia based on morality, cultural integrity, and religious values.

Indonesia honours Prof. B.J. Habibie not only as a technology pioneer but also as the “Father of Indonesian Democracy” for his significant role in leading and accelerating the democratic transition process in Indonesia. He made a major contribution to educating the public about democracy, particularly by perceiving it not merely as a political machine but as a foundation to establish strong nations with reliable human resources. Habibie recognised the necessity of creating an institution devoted to fostering and advancing the democratic concept in the country. The realisation came with the establishment of the Habibie Center in Jakarta on 10 November 1999.

“The success of national development can be characterised by achievements in the economic field, coupled with the harmonious progress of socio-cultural aspects, mutual support, and a commitment to justice.”

– Bacharudin Jusuf Habibie

The Habibie Center (THC) envisions  a modern and democratic Indonesian society based on the morality and integrity of sound cultural and religious values. THC has two missions, first, to establish a structurally and culturally democratic society that acknowledges, honours, and promotes human rights; and second, to promote and advance effective human resources management and the socialisation of technology.

These missions  form the basis for the establishment of the four institutes:

The Institute of Democracy and Human Rights (IDH), 
The Institute of Democratisation through Science, Technology, and Innovation (IDESTI), 
The Institute of Democracy, Economy, and Ecology (IDEE), and 
• The Institute of the Maritime Continent (IMC).

The work of the four institutes under the centre serves as a solid basis for its programs and activities.

B.J. Habibie concluded his presidency in 1999, but that didn’t stop him from continuing his mission to strengthen democracy in Indonesia. As the third president, Habibie acknowledged that democracy is a concept that must be developed to move towards a modern Indonesia. Shortly after his presidential term, he convened intellectuals and established the Habibie Center on 10 November 1999. 

The Habibie Center is committed to preserving democracy through various activities and programs that promote public engagement on current issues, as well as providing thorough input in the form of research publications and policy advocacy.

 The Habibie Center Remains Important Today

Recognising the dynamic nature of democracy, the organisation is dedicated to advancing and refining the concept of democracy in Indonesia. This endeavour demands simultaneous and persistent actions from all segments of society. Two decades after reform, Indonesia faces numerous democratic challenges and complex issues such as corruption, nepotism, money politics, fake news and disinformation, human rights violations, and intolerance towards minority groups. The decline in the quality of democracy set an alarm to safeguard the government administration, ensuring it continues to uphold legal standards and the principles of reform.

The Habibie Center served as a platform for the people to monitor the ongoing journey of democratisation through collaboration with diverse institutions, national figures  and experts. The Habibie Center aspires to play a pivotal role in shaping a vibrant, democratic, ethical, and equitable future for Indonesia and the global community. 

People are at the Core

The primary strength and valuable resource of The Habibie Center lies in the people that are involved in the Center and their extensive connections. The network has evolved since its establishment and has expanded over the years, providing a competitive advantage in effectively sharing its research to relevant stakeholders, institutions and policy makers. This growth has been instrumental in enabling The Habibie Center to fulfil its mission and collaborate seamlessly with pertinent stakeholders.

Dr. Ilham Akbar Habibie, the first son of B.J Habibie has taken on the leadership role as the Chairman of the Board of Trustees, carrying forward the responsibility. Meanwhile H.E Umar Hadi serves as the Advisory Board, Prof. Ilya Avianti as the Chairman of the Supervisory Board, Prof. Dewi Fortuna Anwar, Chairman of the Board of Directors and Dr. Mohammad Ansori as the Executive Director.

But the Programs are How the Results are Delivered

The Habibie Center will persist in advancing its initiatives and reinforcing prior accomplishments while remaining dedicated to the vision and mission of the founder, B.J. Habibie, advocating for democratisation and human rights in Indonesia. B.J. Habibie expanded the idea of democracy beyond its conventional scope, viewing it as a proactive and preventive mechanism rooted in the interpretation of democracy as a political vehicle. Subsequently, this conceptualisation was applied across four different institutions:

1) Peace and Development 
THC has conducted some interventions in Poso, Central Sulawesi, to Disengage Former Combatants and Communities Associated with Terrorist Groups. Between June 2021 and March 2022, The Habibie Center (THC) team, with robust support from the Sasakawa Peace Foundation (SPF), conducted a field assessment in Poso, designing and developing a psychosocial intervention module for a disengagement program targeting ex-combatants and the community in Poso. Additionally, the THC team engaged in discussions and consultations with experts from Indonesia and Japan, enhancing the intervention plan to effectively address the challenges in Poso.

Drawing on the assessment and discussions, The Habibie Center successfully implemented the intervention in its inaugural year (April 2022-March 2023). Notably, this intervention directly benefited at least 60 individuals by enhancing their knowledge, skills, and expanding the reach of their micro-businesses. The program also facilitated connections between families of former terrorists and various groups and government officials in Poso. 

2) ASEAN Studies 
The ASEAN Studies Program was established on 24 February 2010 as a centre of excellence in ASEAN placing high value on democracy and human rights, with the aim of becoming a distinguished hub for matters pertaining to ASEAN. The Habibie Center, through its ASEAN Studies Program, collaborates with experts, practitioners and other institutions sharing a similar objective, aspiring to play a role in peace and stability in the region.

3) Energy Transition 
The Energy Transition Program was initiated in 2022 as an instrument to strengthen research and advocacy for a just energy transition in Indonesia. With the increasing global awareness of the demand for net-zero emissions in accordance with the Paris Agreement signed in 2015, of which Indonesia is a ratified member, the Energy Transition Program reflects The Habibie Center’s commitment to contribute to the energy transition towards achieving net-zero emissions in Indonesia. The program aims to contribute to Indonesia’s efforts to achieve a 23% renewable energy mix by 2025 and 31% by 2030, a 29% reduction in emissions through domestic efforts and up to 41% through international cooperation by 2030, and net-zero emissions by 2060. To achieve these goals, The Habibie Center has produced a guidebook on a just energy transition, which is expected to provide insights into the alignment of energy transition, economic resilience, and national insight in order to achieve the democratisation of energy in Indonesia.

In addition to the guidebook on a just energy transition, The Habibie Center organises engagements with various stakeholders in Indonesia through Focus Group Discussions, Call for Papers, and national energy transition conferences to raise awareness of shared responsibility for achieving net-zero emissions.

4) Habibie Democracy Forum 
The Habibie Center, guided by the vision and mission of its founder, Prof. B.J. Habibie launched Habibie Democracy Forum (HDF) on November 15th, 2023, for the first time, to commemorate two decades of direct election mechanism in Indonesia (2004-2024) and in connection with the General Direct Election agenda in February 2024. 

The theme for this first Habibie Democracy Forum was “Expanding Civic Spaces for a Stronger Democracy in Indonesia and Beyond”. This theme was chosen in response to the global trend of limiting freedom of expression, association, and assembly, which are vital elements of a thriving democracy.

The Habibie Democracy Forum assembled a diverse array of participants, encompassing political parties, civil society organisations, academics, media, and groups representing youth and women, who have strong concerns for democracy and human rights in Indonesia. This forum also engaged with prominent figures such as the vice president of Indonesia, Ma’ruf Amin and former vice president, Jusuf Kalla as the keynote speakers. HDF will be held annually in November, as the main agenda of The Habibie Center’s anniversary.

Fearlessly Upholding Correct Values

I have been involved with The Habibie Center from its inception. The idea came over an informal lunch at the Merdeka Palace shared by President B.J. Habibie, the late Dr. Ahmad Watik Pratiknya and myself who had both worked as assistants to the Vice President and later President Habibie. President Habibie stated that after leaving the presidency he wanted to continue to advance democracy in Indonesia which he had barely started as president. The motto “Democracy Must Never Stop”–which is a literal translation of the Motto in Indonesian “Demokrasi Tak Boleh Henti”—to the English version of the Motto actually used by THC, which is “Democratisation Must Go On”

– Dr. Ahmad Watik Pratiknya was the first Executive Director of THC and was largely responsible for building the center. Prof. Dewi Fortuna Anwar was the first Director of Program and Research.

Taking the stance that every issue falls within the realm of democracy and human rights, The Habibie Center fearlessly engages with a broad spectrum of subjects, including national politics, democracy, ASEAN, peace and development issues. As an independent non-governmental organisation, we commit to our vision to uphold the values and principles of democracy and good governance in Indonesia by maintaining a non-partisan stance without engagement in practical politics or affiliation with any political party. 

The Habibie Center gets support from various donors who share similar values and aspirations to promote democracy and human rights in Indonesia and beyond.

The Habibie Center office is located in South Jakarta, at Kemang Selatan 98, East Cilandak Jakarta – or visit their website to find out more.

NOW! Jakarta

NOW! Jakarta

The article is produced by editorial team of NOW!Jakarta