This summer, The Asia Foundation released findings from its landmark opinion poll, “Law and Justice in Timor-Leste: A Survey of Citizen Awareness and Attitudes Regarding Law and Justice – 2008.” The report reveals that confidence in traditional justice mechanisms remains slightly higher (85%) than in the newer formal court system (76%), yet confidence overall in the justice sector has decreased.
The nationwide poll compared citizens’ perceptions of law and justice today against their perceptions as documented in a 2004 Asia Foundation survey. The two surveys are the only records of their kind for comparison of the establishment of rule of law in Timor-Leste. While there have been a range of notable achievements in the formal justice sector since the country’s official declaration of independence in 2002, serious challenges remain. It is widely believed that coordinated government and international assistance efforts have improved citizens’ access to justice. The public now desires a greater presence of local courts: 85% of the 2008 survey respondents say they would want an official from the formal court system to come to their area, compared to just 54% in 2004.
However, formal legal frameworks of the state have not reached many. When asked, “Who is responsible for making the rules that govern people’s lives?” two out of three respondents say that traditional leaders versus state institutions are responsible. Attitudes condoning domestic violence have worsened. In the 2004 survey, 75% of respondents said a man who hit his wife is categorically wrong. In the 2008 survey, only 34% felt this way.
“The survey gives policymakers insight into people’s perceptions about their options and obstacles for accessing justice in Timor-Leste, and we can’t progress as a country without knowing that,” says Fernanda Borges, a Member of Parliament and Chair of Parliament Committee A: Constitutional Affairs, Judiciary, Public Administration.
The survey was supported by the Justice Facility (a bilateral program of Timor-Leste and Australia) and the U.S. Agency for International Development; designed by The Asia Foundation; and conducted by Insight Consulting, a local organization. A copy of the survey is available on our website.
Sixteen new Luce Scholars, members of the 36th class, are now beginning their 10-month fellowship placements with organizations in China, Hong Kong SAR, Indonesia, Japan, Korea, Taiwan, Thailand, Vietnam, and, for the first time, the Lao PDR. Since the program was started by the Henry Luce Foundation in 1974, the long list of organizations that have hosted more than 550 Luce Scholars – promising young American leaders in their twenties – is a “who’s who” of notable Asian universities, think-tanks, technical institutes, NGOs, media outlets, companies, and arts/cultural organizations. The organizations mirror the range of interests of the Luce Scholars from year to year, ranging from economic development, law, legislative affairs, and foreign policy to environment, human rights, health, the arts, and science and technology. The Asia Foundation has administered the Asia portion of the program since its inception.
The 2009-2010 class includes two scholars heading to mainland China, Michael Chaitkin at Renmin University’s School of International Studies and Mark Wehling at Peking University’s Guanghua School of Management. Host organizations in Hong Kong include Reset HK Ltd., hosting Nicholas Anderson, and the Hong Kong Academy of Performing Arts’ School of Film and Television, where Jeffrey Miller is placed. Katherine Otto’s host organization in Indonesia is Rumah Cemara/Bandung Plus Support and Lauren Weeth is with the Indonesian Planned Parenthood Association/Jogjakarta. Jeremy Jangord will be in Japan at the Tokyo Visual Arts College’s Department of Photography. Korean placements include Nathaniel Gleicher at the National Information Society Agency, Andrew Gruen at OhMyNews, and Brittan Heller at Gong-Gam, Korean Public Interest Lawyers’ Group. The first-ever Luce Scholar in Laos, Micah West, will be with the Lao Bar Association in Vientiane. In Taiwan, Jason Ferguson will be with the Women’s Research Program in the National Taiwan University’s Center for Population and Gender Studies. Jelena Djordjevic will be with the Community Organizations Development Institute, and Rachel Harper with the Population and Community Development Association in Thailand. In Hanoi, Jennifer Cimaglia’s host organization is the Vietnam Institute of Archaeology and Yongjun Heo’s hosts are the Institute for Population and Development Studies and the Community Health and Development Organization (LIGHT).
Nominated by American universities and selected by external review panels comprised of Asia experts and former Luce Scholars, the scholars are exposed to the work and social culture of their respective countries and gain firsthand understanding of Asia through placement at the host organizations. Once there, they assist with activities that may include research, teaching, program implementation, business planning, reporting, and public outreach.
Human trafficking is one of the most serious human rights challenges confronting the world today. Across Asia, women are lured with false promises of jobs or marriage, and then forced into sex work or other exploitative labor situations. Controlled with threats, lies, drugs, and physical force, victims of trafficking are often held in slave-like conditions, unable to escape. The Asia Foundation’s presence across the Asia-Pacific region for more than 50 years, and its network of over 60 local counter-trafficking partners in Cambodia alone, gives us the unique ability to work both nationally and across borders to combat this egregious human rights violation. As a leader in the fight against human trafficking for more than a decade, we have supported initiatives to combat trafficking in source, transit, and destination countries throughout Asia, including Cambodia, Indonesia, Japan, Laos, Mongolia, Nepal, Pakistan, the Philippines, South Korea, Thailand, and Vietnam.
In Cambodia, the Foundation helped establish a National Task Force on Trafficking in Persons and supported the government’s High Level Working Group to Combat Trafficking in coordinating NGO and government counter-trafficking initiatives. The Foundation, in collaboration with the government’s Ministry of Social Affairs, Veterans and Youth Rehabilitation, created the Policy on the Protection of the Rights of Victims of Human Trafficking and the Minimum Standards on the Protection of the Rights of Victims of Human Trafficking. These two documents ensure victims have access to appropriate services from the moment of rescue through rehabilitation and reintegration.
Nandita Baruah is the Chief of Party for The Asia Foundation’s Counter-Trafficking in Cambodia program. Baruah has more than 18 years of experience working on many challenges in community development, including human trafficking. She is deeply committed to the rescue and rehabilitation of trafficking victims and in her role at the Foundation she works closely with police, social workers, lawyers, and the government of Cambodia to protect victims and prosecute traffickers.
In July, Baruah helped organize a major Inter-country Consultative Dialogue conference in Phnom Penh on anti-trafficking. The conference ended with the five participating countries, Thailand, Vietnam, South Korea, Malaysia, and Cambodia, issuing a set of 14 recommendations that outline policies expected to improve cooperation and standardize the implementation of trafficking laws. The conference marked the first time that these five countries had gathered to address the problem of cross-border human trafficking.
“Working to help people who have suffered the worst forms of abuse, indignity, and trauma is never easy. But when we meet the survivors who are getting a second chance at life because of our intervention, it makes tackling these serious challenges worthwhile.”
– Nandita Baruah
Chief of Party
Counter-Trafficking in Persons Program
L.Z. Yuan Fellow in Media and International Relations
The late Lun-Zun Yuan, a long-time Senior Advisor for The Asia Foundation’s China Program, was born in Shanghai in 1909, became a reporter at the Shanghai Evening Post, wrote for BBC radio during the 1930s, and in 1949 he became a founding editor of the Hong Kong Standard. The L.Z. Yuan Fellowship was established in his honor in 1999 to help young Chinese journalists gain a broader understanding of international affairs, with the hope of leading to closer U.S.-China relations. Ms. Yu Yihan, recipient of the L.Z. Yuan Fellowship, is editor of International News at the Shanghai Oriental Post, one of the largest daily newspapers in Shanghai. The fellowship’s two-month program focused on economic recovery and included an intensive course on U.S. foreign policy, a Washington Post internship, where she observed how a major newspaper built up its web section and dealt with the challenges of a diminished staff, and an observation tour of New York City, Des Moines, Houston, and San Francisco.
Pakistan: A Nation in Turmoil
Asia Foundation Pakistan and Afghanistan expert Jon Summers addressed the World Affairs Council in San Francisco in July, uncovering lesser-known aspects of Pakistan’s complex story: its dynamic, rising middle class; educated elite; vibrant civil society; and hardworking workforce determined to reach their economic potential. According to Summers, while the nation suffers from dire short- and long-term challenges – including ongoing terrorist threats and attacks, an estimated 3 million displaced people now living in temporary camps, and sobering statistics on poverty, illness, and illiteracy – there is far more to the story. For more on Pakistan’s economic development, read “Drivers of Change” at http://asiafoundation.org/publications/pdf/445, a study supported by The Asia Foundation that examines the causes of Pakistan’s ongoing development challenges, as well as potential solutions to address their root causes.
Asia Foundation Announces New Matching Grant
This month, The Asia Foundation, the National Geographic Society, and the Sheridan-Urbanski Family announced a new fundraising effort that will support critical improvements in girls’ schools in Afghanistan. The effort consists of raising $80,000 that will be matched one-to-one by generous donations from The National Geographic Society and the Sheridan-Urbanski Family to reach a goal of $160,000. These funds will pay for much-needed reconstruction and repairs at girls’ schools, both to meet the needs of current students and to prepare for classroom expansion that will enable more girls to enroll. Past support from the National Geographic Society has enabled the Foundation to foster healthy learning environments such as rebuilding the Rabia-e Balkhi Girls School in Kabul. The Foundation is pleased to have the Sheridan-Urbanski Family as a new partner in our ongoing efforts to improve girls’ education in Afghanistan. To learn more, visit www.asiafoundation.org.
Give2Asia Responds to Typhoon Morakot in Taiwan
Taiwan suffered its deadliest storm in half a century as Typhoon Morakot lashed the island for days in early August, killing at least 400 people and creating thousands of evacuees. Give2Asia, The Asia Foundation’s philanthropic affiliate, is working with its network on the ground in Taiwan to address the needs of those affected by the recent storms. Give2Asia promotes the work of local groups, which will be providing immediate assistance and helping with long-term recovery for these communities. Learn more about Give2Asia’s response to Typhoon Morakot in Taiwan.
Asia Foundation’s Rebecca Darling Receives Environment Award
Mongolia’s Minister of Nature, Environment and Tourism, Minister Gansukh, awarded a medal to Rebecca Darling, director of the Foundation’s environment program, Securing our Future, for her outstanding leadership to promote responsible mining and land use practices that strengthen the conservation of Mongolia’s natural and water resources. Read more about our work in Mongolia.
On August 16, The Asia Foundation’s Books for Asia program donated 35,000 new books to schools in the Mindanao province of Lanao Del Sur in the Philippines. After a distribution ceremony attended by two dozen officials from the provincial government and 740 public schools from across the province, a team from The Asia Foundation visited Datu Saber Elementary School – a primary school for students in grades 1 to 4. Datu Saber is one of the poorest areas in the Islamic City of Marawi, capital of Lanao Del Sur Province. This area is known for its volatile clan wars, or rido. Sometimes rido conflicts force schools to suspend classes, members of warring families to leave the community, or even children to transfer to other schools in fear of attack or ambush. When students are transferred, many problems arise with enrollment, shortage of books and other materials, and overcrowded school buildings and classrooms. Dr. Nordina M. Sarip, Assistant Schools Division Superintendent of Lanao Del Sur 2B in Malabang says, “I really appreciate the updated books which are colorful and attractive, especially to the students in the lower grade levels. For those students that have been affected by clashes, the books can help bring back their enthusiasm to study when they return to school.”
The donation in Lanao Del Sur was made possible by the support of publishers, including the McGraw Hill Companies, Houghton Mifflin Harcourt, and Pearson Education. The Asia Foundation’s Books for Asia program has distributed more than 13 million books and journals to public and private institutions across the Philippines since 1954. Books for Asia donates books to all three of the island groups – Luzon, Visayas, and Mindanao.