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On January 21, The Asia Foundation formally launched the Mainland/Hong Kong Platform for More Effective Philanthropy to strengthen the charity sectors in mainland China and Hong Kong. As mainland philanthropy grows rapidly, efforts to strengthen governance and improve transparency are becoming increasingly aligned with similar efforts in Hong Kong, where an already-vibrant charity environment offers many useful comparisons. In this context, this Mainland/Hong Kong Charity Platform supports a series of dialogues and exchanges among practitioners and experts on priority issues within their respective charitable sectors.
The Platform is led by an Advisory Council of mainland and Hong Kong philanthropic leaders, drawn from the worlds of business, academia, and civil society including Chien Lee, Asia Foundation trustee and a private investor based in Hong Kong (pictured at right), and co-chaired by Asia Financial Group President, Bernard Chan (pictured at left), and former Ministry of Civil Affairs Director-General, Wang Zhenyao. During its first year, the Platform will focus on steps to improve the respective charity sectors’ regulatory environments and on how charity organizations can advance self-regulation practices. At the Advisory Council’s inaugural meeting, members discussed challenges facing both charity sectors, particularly with regard to mutual needs and perceptions.
The Asia Foundation recently hosted U.S. Ambassador to Bangladesh Dan W. Mozena, for an informal lunch discussion at its San Francisco headquarters, followed by a public event hosted by the Foundation’s Washington, DC office. Ambassador Mozena also participated in the South Asia Women Parliamentarians Conference, jointly organized by The Asia Foundation and USAID in Dhaka last July and pictured above. Members of the Bay Area Bangladeshi diaspora, including Silicon Valley executives, investment advisors, and members of the academic community, attended the lively and informative lunch in San Francisco. The Washington event, held at Carnegie Endowment for International Peace, focused on “Bangladesh Challenges and Opportunities,” and Ambassador Mozena provided an update on political and economic developments in the country.
In the three decades since independence, Bangladesh has made tremendous improvements in basic infrastructure, social services, and economic opportunities. In part, due to a strong civil society and a commitment by its political and religious leaders, Bangladesh continues to expand opportunities to its 150+ million citizens. Yet, Bangladesh still faces many challenges, particularly in the functioning of its political institutions. Climate change also is having a profound impact on its ecosystem, and overcrowding of its urban centers combined with low-income levels means many continue to live in poverty.
Ambassador Mozena said he and his staff are working closely with the Bangladesh government and civil society to bolster food security and nutrition, improve health, and increase capacity to cope with climate change, natural disasters, and other security challenges. Ambassador Mozena said he’d had the privilege of visiting all of the country’s 64 districts.
While in San Francisco, The Asia Foundation’s well-respected blog In Asia conducted a Q&A with Ambassador Mozena to discuss Bangladesh’s goals to become a middle-income country, its need for an “education revolution,” the role Bangladeshi-Americans in the Silicon Valley can play in development, and why Ambassador Mozena says Bangladesh – the nexus of inter-regional trade – is an emerging “Asian Tiger.” Read more.
A new report on barriers to women in business, the result of a joint initiative of The Asia Foundation, the Department of State, and the Asia-Pacific Economic Cooperation (APEC) was publicly released on March 11 at the U.S. Mission to the United Nations in New York. Held in conjunction with the 57th Commission on the Status of Women, The Asia Foundation’s Nina Merchant-Vega and Kate Bollinger presented key findings from Access to Trade and Growth of Women’s SMEs in APEC Developing Economies: Evaluating Business Environments in Malaysia – Philippines – Thailand.
The research, which included quantitative and qualitative research in each Southeast Asian country, suggests a distinct set of economic, political and social factors that affect women-run and -owned small and medium-sized enterprises (SMEs). Some of the most telling findings stress the significant benefit that support networks and role models have on businesses. The report found that women-owned firms that interact with business associations are on average 38 percent larger than those that do not.
However, across countries surveyed, a higher percentage of women business owners compared to men reported never interacting with business associations. The full report and video featuring interviews with women entrepreneurs is available here.
In order to share findings more broadly, The Asia Foundation is holding a Businesswomen’s Networking Workshop in Malaysia in May with businesswomen from across the region. In September, the Foundation will present the findings at APEC’s Women’s Economic Forum in Bali, Indonesia, and, in October, Asia Foundation President David D. Arnold will join the APEC CEO Summit.
The Young Lotus Circle held its inaugural event, generously sponsored by Lin and Stephen Jamison, on March 7 at Soho Photo Gallery in New York City. Despite a looming snow storm, about 50 young professionals turned out to mingle, network, and learn about The Asia Foundation’s anti-trafficking programs from Women’s Empowerment Program Associate Director Kate Francis. The Young Lotus Circle is a diverse group of committed young professionals working together, and alongside The Asia Foundation’s Lotus Circle, to empower women and girls across Asia. Through social events, discussions, and fundraisers, The Young Lotus Circle aims to improve the social, economic, and political opportunities of women and girls to strengthen societies in developing Asia.
The Asia Foundation has joined Beyond Access, an international coalition of organizations that seeks to activate an underutilized force in development efforts: public libraries. As established public institutions, libraries have the reach, legitimacy, and staying power that other institutions don’t.
With support from the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation, Beyond Access is an initiative of IREX, EIFL, IFLA, Makaia, Facilitating Change, Development Gateway, The Asia Foundation, TASCHA, the Riecken Foundation, and READ Global. Beyond Access supports capacity-building efforts and partnerships between libraries, local community organizations, and governments to meet development goals.
The Asia Foundation recently participated in a Beyond Access needs assessment of Burma/Myanmar’s public libraries, which included site visits to a wide variety of libraries, from a village reading room to the National Library, and meetings with government officials.
The Asia Foundation will help to grow the Beyond Access membership base; identify exemplary libraries to showcase at Beyond Access’s Asia conference in Bali, Indonesia in October 2013; and recommend library delegates for the Mekong ICT Camp, an independently run workshop in Thailand, to train librarians on how technology can be utilized to better serve their communities.
“The Asia Foundation brings a deep understanding of the Asian development landscape, as well as relationships with libraries throughout the region through its Books for Asia program. They’re an ideal partner in Asia for achieving Beyond Access’s goals,” says Ari Katz, deputy director for technology and civil society at IREX, who manages the Beyond Access program.
In Tokyo on April 12, Asia Foundation President David D. Arnold, and Akihiko Tanaka, President of the Japan International Cooperation Agency (JICA), signed a Memorandum of Understanding (MOU) sealing a new strategic partnership to advance their shared development goals in Asia. The Asia Foundation and JICA will work together to promote inclusive and sustainable development, as well as regional stability and prosperity. The two institutions will explore opportunities to widen their areas of cooperation by implementing projects and programs in peacebuilding; governance and law; capacity-building; gender equality; environment and disaster management; economic development and regional economic cooperation; and South-South cooperation, including partnership with Asian donor institutions. Said President Tanaka at the signing: “Thus far, The Asia Foundation and JICA have worked together mainly in Afghanistan. This MOU will strengthen our collaboration in other Asian countries facing security and governance challenges. I have high expectations that this partnership will broaden and deepen our engagement with a range of Asian development partners.”
Hong Kong School Donates to Books for Asia in Memory of Student
In early 2012, Island School in Hong Kong was saddened by the tragic death of one of its students. Chloe Lai was a talented writer and avid reader who was never without a book. In planning for the school’s annual Charity Week, Phil Tudor, head of Fleming House, the student community to which Chloe belonged, felt that a donation to a charity that valued books and knowledge would be a fitting tribute to Chloe’s memory. He contacted Books for Asia and, together, they selected @ My Library, an innovative library in Luang Prabang, Laos, that helps educate youth from rural villages, as the right institution to support. Fleming House intends to raise funds for @ My Library for four years to commemorate the time Chloe would have spent at Fleming House. Fleming Charity Week, which took place in October last year, featured a bake sale, races, and a carnival, and collected 15,000 HKD (US$1,900) for the Chloe Lai Fund
Asia Foundation and Nagendrans Host LankaCorps Fellows
LankaCorps is a unique Asia Foundation fellowship program that provides an opportunity for young leaders of Sri Lankan heritage to live and work in Sri Lanka as volunteers engaged in development activities benefiting the country. The fellowship was designed to provide these young adults the opportunity to professionally and personally engage with the development of post-conflict Sri Lanka, and to bridge the gap between the diaspora and Sri Lanka. Based on the enthusiasm and stories shared by the inaugural class last month in San Francisco and Los Angeles, the program has proven successful on both counts.
On March 22, The Asia Foundation hosted the 2012 inaugural class of LankaCorps Fellows at our San Francisco headquarters for an informal luncheon, “Exploring Their Roots While Giving Back.” The next day, the group made a presentation to members of the Sri Lankan community in Los Angeles at the home of Dr. Naj Nagendran and his wife Gwen. Over the course of this 48-hour “reunion tour” the fellows – Mr. Sivashankar Krishnakumar, Ms. Seshma Kumararatne, Ms. Sabina Martyn, and Ms. Ann Selvadurai – shared their life-changing LankaCorps experiences with engaged and inquisitive audiences. A new class of young leaders will embark this summer to live and work for six months in Sri Lanka as 2013 LankaCorps Fellows. To learn how to apply or support LankaCorps visit our LankaCorps page.
A.W. “Tom” Clausen, long-time supporter and Trustee Emeritus of The Asia Foundation, passed away on Monday, January 21, at the age of 89. Mr. Clausen joined the Foundation’s Board of Trustees in 1990 at the invitation of the Foundation’s then president, Bill Fuller, and served as an active member until becoming a Trustee Emeritus in 2003. Mr. Clausen was a champion of developing countries. During his long banking and public service career, he visited 119 countries and exercised his leadership skills to improve the lives of individuals around the world. Mr. Clausen was the retired Chairman and Chief Executive Officer of Bank of America Corporation and its wholly-owned subsidiary, Bank of America. He joined Bank of America in 1949 and became President and Chief Executive Officer in January 1970. Mr. Clausen left the Bank in the spring of 1981 to become President of The World Bank, a position he held until 1986, when he returned to Bank of America Corporation as Chairman and Chief Executive Officer. He was the recipient of awards from the governments of Italy, Japan, Senegal, South Korea, Spain, and Venezuela.
Visualizing Afghanistan Top Video at Social Media Week
On February 22, USAID honored The Asia Foundation’s “Visualizing Afghanistan: A Survey of the Afghan People” at its Social Media Week 2013 “#Popcorn + International Development,” held at USAID Headquarters in Washington, DC. The Foundation’s video on the project—which showcases Asia Foundation filmmaker Jon Jamieson and highlights the Foundation’s digital work in Afghanistan—was selected by USAID and screened at the event as a top video from the international development community.
Six new members joined the Foundation’s board earlier this year: John Foster, Hong Seok-Hyun, Timothy Kochis, Chong-Moon Lee, Clare Lockhart, and Adil Najam. President David D. Arnold welcomed them: “This impressive new group of trustees represents a diverse set of backgrounds, expertise, and experiences that will inform and contribute to the overall work of the Foundation.”
John Foster is chairman and managing director of Healthpoint Capital, a private equity firm focused on the orthopedic and dental device businesses and a 37-year veteran of private equity investing. He has served as a trustee of the Asia Society, Asian Cultural Council, Burke Rehabilitation Hospital, and the National Committee on United States-China Relations, and was a former member of the Board of Directors of Avon Inc. and Corning Inc.
Dr. Hong Seok-Hyun is chairman and CEO of the JoongAng Media Network, the largest media group in Korea. He served as president of the World Association of Newspapers from 2002 to 2005, and as president of the Korea Association of Newspapers from 2003 to 2005. He was the Korean Ambassador to the United States in 2005.
Tim Kochis is the former CEO and chairman of Aspiriant and has 40 years of experience in personal financial and investment planning. Throughout his career he has set standards for the profession and currently serves as a trustee of the Financial Planning Standards Board and as a trustee of the Charles Schwab Investment Management ETF Board.
Chong-Moon Lee founded Diamond Multimedia Systems in 1982, which later achieved the No. 1 ranking in market share for PC graphics accelerator products in America, and then went on to found AmBex Venture Group. A native of South Korea, Mr. Lee has a diverse background involving business, education, cultural, and athletic activities. Mr. Lee is a returning Asia Foundation trustee and is actively supporting the Foundation’s work in counter-trafficking.
Clare Lockhart is co-founder and director of the Institute for State Effectiveness, where she works on issues across state, market, and civil society in a range of countries. She has lived and worked in Africa, Asia, Europe, and the United States. She is the author of a number of papers and toolkits on state-building and development, including the book Fixing Failed States: A Framework for Rebuilding a Fractured World.