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At a reception on March 29 in New York City, The Asia Foundation and Books for Asia announced a brand-new technology start-up fund, Access4Asia and debuted the film, “Kabul ER: The Power of a Book.” Special guest Dr. Vartan Gregorian, former President of the New York Public Library and current President of the Carnegie Corporation of New York, spoke to the crowd of publishers, donors, Asian government representatives, and executives from the philanthropy, education, and technology sectors at The Greenhouse at Scholastic.
The Asia Foundation’s longest-running program, Books for Asia impacts 9 million people each year through book donations to universities, research institutes, and libraries in 18 developing countries. Speaking at the event, Dr. Gregorian shared his personal story of how books changed his life: “as a young boy in Iran, books provided me salvation and imagination. Without books and access to stories, I wouldn’t be here today. I am eternally grateful to The Asia Foundation for taking the power of books around Asia.” Viewers were transfixed by the film, “Kabul ER,”which examines the crisis in Kabul’s public hospitals – frontlines of care for Afghans – and the near total lack of access to current medical textbooks there. Last year Books for Asia donated 4,000 medical textbooks and reference materials to Afghan health institutions.
“There is an information crisis in all the countries we work in,” said Books for Asia’s Naita Saechao. Building on its vast network of Asian partners, Books for Asia’s Access4Asia will support promising technology projects incubated by its in-country staff that further the program’s mission to improve access to information in developing Asia. “We know that an educated population is better equipped to combat poverty and disease, and to promote economic development and stability,” said Asia Foundation President David D. Arnold. Publishers, partners, and donors who attended the New York event included high-level representatives from: Wiley, W. W. Norton, Simon & Schuster, Penguin, LexisNexis, Pearson Foundation, Association of American Publishers, and OOCL. Watch a slideshow of highlights from the event.
Climate change combined with rapid population growth and urbanization is placing intense pressure on South Asia’s most precious resource: water. Per capita water availability in the region has decreased by 70 percent since 1950, according to the Asian Development Bank. South Asia is also home to three of the most densely populated river basins in the world – the Indus, Ganges, and Brahmaputra – which support an estimated 700 million people. The basins straddle national borders, and relations among countries in the region are mired in tension, including around water sharing. As water scarcity intensifies, effective management of these river basins is increasingly critical to long-term peace, stability, and economic development in the region.
A new grant from the Skoll Global Threats Fund will help The Asia Foundation address these challenges in the Teesta River Basin – one of the region’s most contested sub-basins, which straddles the border of India and Bangladesh. With the involvement of civil society partners from both countries, our work will focus on increasing effective cooperation on water governance decisions. The first step involves conducting a stakeholder mapping and political economy analysis to better understand the power dynamics behind decision-making and policy implementation in the basin. The study will provide insights into the realities of water governance, which will help to inform civil society engagement and provide recommendations for further actions. The long-term goals throughout South Asia are to reframe the debate on water governance to include social, human, and environmental perspectives, improve transboundary civil society collaboration, and increase transparency and accountability in water governance.
The Lotus Circle is a community of philanthropists working with The Asia Foundation to empower girls and women across Asia.
Last year, The Lotus Circle and The Asia Foundation honored Dr. David Ho with the first-ever Lotus Leadership Award at a sold-out event in New York City. He was recognized for his contributions to the health and well-being of Chinese women and children through his pioneering HIV/AIDS research.
On June 7, 2012, in the Loeb Boathouse in Central Park, the second annual Lotus Leadership Award will be presented to Dr. Sakena Yacoobi, Founder and Executive Director of the Afghan Institute of Learning, for her groundbreaking and visionary work empowering communities to bring education and health services to disenfranchised Afghan women and girls. The Asia Foundation’s decade of partnership with National Geographic Society to provide Afghan girls and women educational opportunities, and to improve devastated girls’ schools in Afghanistan, will also be recognized.
The Lotus Leadership Awards were created by Lotus Circle Advisors Gina Lin Chu, Carol Rattray, Missie Rennie, and Masako Shinn. This year, Lotus Circle Advisor and Head of North America Asian Clients Group at Citi Private Bank, Ida Liu, will chair the awards luncheon.
Earlier this year, The Asia Foundation announced the election of five members to our Board of Trustees: Karl Eikenberry, Geoffrey Garrett, Sunder Ramaswamy, Masako Shinn, and Alice Young. “I am delighted to welcome this exceptional group of global leaders to our Board of Trustees,” said Michael H. Armacost, Chairman of the Board. “Each new member brings deep-rooted expertise and unique accomplishments in their respective fields.”
Former U.S. Ambassador to Afghanistan and retired Army General Karl Eikenberry brings extensive expertise, particularly on Afghanistan, having served two tours there, including leading the civilian surge directed by President Obama to set the conditions for transition to full Afghan sovereignty. The ambassador also served as the Director of Strategic Planning and Policy at U.S. Pacific Command in Hawaii, as Defense Attaché to the People’s Republic of China, and several operational assignments in Korea. He is fluent in Mandarin and has an advanced degree in Chinese history from Nanjing University. Geoffrey Garrett, a dual citizen of the U.S. and Australia, is founding CEO of the United States Studies Centre and Dean of the University of Sydney Business School and was a Fulbright Scholar at Duke University, where he earned his Master’s and Phd. Sunder Ramaswamy is the President and Frederick C. Dirks Professor of International Economics at the Monterey Institute of International Studies. Over the past 20 years, he has held visiting positions at distinguished universities in India and the United States. His principal fields of specialization are Development Economics, International Economics, Issues in Applied Microeconomics, and Quantitative Methods. Masako Shinn is the founder of Graphis Asia, a publisher of books and magazines on Asian design, and is one of The Asia Foundation’s Lotus Circle Advisors. Shinn is also a trustee of the Japan Society, on the Board of the Sackler Gallery, and has served on the Kennedy Center’s President’s Advisory Council on the Arts. Alice Young is a returning Asia Foundation trustee, serving from 2003-2011. She is Partner and Chair of the Asia Pacific Practice Group of Kaye Scholer LLP International Law Firm. Young was named by Crain’s in their list of the “Top 100 Minority Executives” and by Avenue Asia magazine as one of the most influential Asian-American corporate lawyers in the United States.
To mark International Women’s Day in March, The Asia Foundation brought prominent speakers from Asia to Washington, DC, to discuss “Women’s Changing Roles in Asia,” as part of our Asian Perspectives Series. Panelists included Dr. Hetifah Syaifudian Siswanda, a member of the Indonesian Parliament; Ms. Seng Takakneary, the President of the Cambodian Women’s Entrepreneurship Association; and the Honorable Sapana Pradhan Malla, Gender Advisor to the Prime Minister in Nepal. The discussion covered gender equality and local governance, conflict resolution, entrepreneurship, and women and Islam. They also then met with Melanne Verveer, U.S. Ambassador-at-Large for Global Women’s Issues. As Director of the Department of State’s office on Global Women’s Issues, Amb. Verveer coordinates foreign policy issues and activities relating to the political, economic, and social advancement of women around the world.
Ms. Malla is a member of the technical subcommittee of Nepal’s constitution drafting committee, where she is dedicated to ensuring a comprehensive women’s rights agenda within Nepal’s constitutional framework. She was a driving force behind passage of legislation to criminalize marital rape, as well as in drafting the Gender Equality Amendment Act, Gender-Based Violence Act, and a model Human Trafficking Act. Dr. Hetifah chairs the Standing Committee on Education, Science and Technology in the National Council of Women’s Organization of Indonesia, and is a Board Member of the Indonesian Women in Parliament Caucus, where she promotes Indonesian women’s participation in politics and building the capacity of other women across Indonesia. Ms. Seng is Founder and Managing Director of Sentosa Silk, which employs disabled artisans to produce export-quality handcrafted silks. She is also President of the Artisans Association of Cambodia and works to help women and artists succeed in Cambodia’s growing economy. In a recent interview with Cambodia Daily, Ms. Seng said, “The role of Cambodian women needs to change.”
Asia Foundation President Tours Vietnam National Library
David D. Arnold visited the National Library of Vietnam, a key Books for Asia partner, in February. Accompanied by Country Representative Kim Ninh and Books for Asia Officer Dinh Kieu Nhung in Vietnam, Arnold viewed the library’s expansive collection of English-language books and reading rooms guided by Director Phan Thi Kim Dzung. Since 1993, Books for Asia has distributed more than 350,000 books throughout Vietnam. The National Library of Vietnam is Books for Asia’s local counterpart and helps to distribute books to other Vietnamese libraries, most notably public provincial libraries and university libraries throughout the country.
Ninth Consecutive Four-Star Rating from Charity Navigator
The Asia Foundation has been awarded a four-star rating for sound fiscal management and commitment to accountability and transparency. This marks the ninth consecutive year the highest rating has been awarded to the Foundation by Charity Navigator, an independent evaluator of charities. Only 1 percent of the charities have received at least nine consecutive four-star evaluations. Last fall, Charity Navigator launched a new two-pronged ranking system that decreased the number of four-star charities by 20 percent. Each year, Charity Navigator releases its ratings to provide donors with information needed to give them greater confidence in the charitable choices they make.
SLIDESHOW: Advancing Women in Asia
The phrase “gender equality as smart economics” has become the mantra of such women leaders as Secretary of State Hillary Clinton and UN Women Executive Director Michelle Bachelet. While parts of Asia are booming, this does not always lead to greater opportunities for women. Many women across Asia still lack access to education, face significant challenges in earning an income or starting a business, are vulnerable to human trafficking, and struggle to participate in policy decisions that affect their families. This slideshow explores how we are helping women in Asia fight these obstacles.
VIDEO: Kabul ER: The Power of a Book
In Afghanistan, physicians at training hospitals across the country struggle to update their skills and provide adequate care to patients because of a lack of equipment, materials, and up-to-date medical texts and reference materials. In 2011, Books for Asia provided over 4,000 medical texts to healthcare institutions in Afghanistan – including Kabul Medical University. Watch this film on the reference materials shortage facing many physicians at training hospitals in Kabul, Afghanistan.
VIDEO: Engaging Stakeholders for Environmental Conservation in Mongolia
As Mongolia seeks to expand its mining industry, key questions arise regarding natural resource use in a country that still maintains a strong nomadic culture with close ties to the land. Since 2006, we have been promoting and supporting responsible use of water and mineral resources in Mongolia. This film shows our approach to informing and empowering key stakeholders to participate in decision-making that has direct consequences on how citizens, government, and industry engage with each other.
On March 8, 2012, Dr. Ashraf Ghani spoke at a private informal lunch at Asia Foundation headquarters in San Francisco to brief gathered guests on the upcoming transition in Afghanistan. A former grantee and long-time friend of The Asia Foundation, Dr. Ghani, Afghanistan’s former Finance Minister and former Special Advisor to the UN Secretary General on Afghanistan, now chairs the Afghan Transition Coordination Commission. The Commission oversees the transition of security, governance, and economic development responsibilities for Afghanistan, from the international community to Afghan government institutions, through 2014. Foundation Trustee Theodore Eliot, U.S. Ambassador to Afghanistan from 1973-1978, who has known Dr. Ghani since his time in Kabul, introduced Dr. Ghani and moderated the discussion. Dr. Ghani said the crucial thing is for Afghans to voice their vision for the future, and for the country to focus on economic development.
The Henry Luce Foundation is supporting the second phase of a longstanding program providing master’s degree fellowships and U.S. study tours for nine emerging leaders from China’s Ministry of Foreign Affairs; two-month internships in China for nine master’s degree candidates from the Fletcher School of Law and Diplomacy and Johns Hopkins School of Advanced International Studies; and five-month travel grants to China for three assistant professors to pursue research for a planned publication. The innovative project, administered by The Asia Foundation, works to improve mutual understanding and enhance prospects for greater cooperation on global issues, such as foreign aid policy, humanitarian intervention, and climate change.
The new program will expand and increase opportunities for Americans to visit and study and work in China, and builds on more than 30 years of Asia Foundation programs on U.S.-China relations. The Young Diplomats Program alumni network now includes 86 Chinese diplomats and dates back to the early 1980s.