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Australian Foreign Minister Kevin Rudd, speaking at a well-attended event in San Francisco’s Fairmont Hotel in September, said that as the world’s economic weight shifts toward Asia, the U.S. role in the region will become more, rather than less, important. The Foreign Minister underscored the importance of U.S. engagement in Asia and praised Australia’s growing strategic partnership with The Asia Foundation.
The reception, which The Asia Foundation hosted with the World Affairs Council of Northern California, followed the landmark 60th anniversary Australia-United States Ministerial (AUSMIN) meetings, where Foreign Minister Rudd discussed global and regional security challenges with Secretary of State Hillary Clinton and Defense Secretary Leon Panetta.
“America will remain a key economic partner for Australia for as long as any of us will be around. But we also need to recognize that the global shift in economic weight is real,” he said. “The Asia Foundation’s goal of a peaceful, prosperous, and open Asia-Pacific has been slowly taking shape over the past decades, as democracy and economic development have spread through the region.”
During a lively Q&A following Foreign Minister Rudd’s remarks, Asia Foundation President David D. Arnold remarked, “Australia is a regional leader recognized for its unique approach to addressing development and conflict challenges in the Asia-Pacific. The Asia Foundation is similarly deeply engaged in the region, where the stakes are high.” He continued, “We strongly believe that the strategic Asia Foundation-Australia partnership has the potential to transform the way we work together across the region, and will contribute to global efforts to improve aid effectiveness.”
The Foundation’s strategic collaboration with Australia has increased significantly in recent years, primarily with the Department of Foreign Affairs and Trade and the Australian Agency for International Development (AusAID). Since 2004, the Australian government has supported Foundation projects in 11 Asian countries, including Afghanistan, the Philippines, Sri Lanka, Pakistan, and Indonesia, and last year we established a board of directors in Australia governed by a group of distinguished Australian academic and philanthropic leaders.
Green industry, education reform, and increased domestic consumption are among China’s top economic priorities for the next five years, says prominent Chinese economist Cheng Siwei. He spoke on November 3 at the Brookings Institution in Washington, the final stop in a series of high-level events and meetings arranged by The Asia Foundation’s Asian American Exchange unit.
The chair of China’s International Finance Forum and the China Advisory Council at the World Economic Forum, Mr. Cheng is the latest recipient of The Asia Foundation’s prestigious Chang-Lin Tien Distinguished Visiting Fellow Award.
“In the past,” he told our In Asia blog editor Alma Freeman, “China relied mainly on investment and exports for economic growth. But this pattern is no longer sustainable. China must rely more on domestic consumption, and to do that, we must raise the purchasing power of the people.”
At the same time, he says, industries must adopt sustainable practices and reduce carbon emissions, to avoid leaving “environmental debts to our children and grandchildren.” Mr. Cheng also spoke of the need to redesign the Chinese educational curriculum to emphasize creativity and innovation, observing, “only education can ensure our day-after-tomorrow.”
Asked if income inequality in China could lead to a movement like Occupy Wall Street, he said, “China is a well-organized society. I think we will digest the contradictions through negotiation and dialogue instead of protest.”
During his two-week fellowship in the U.S., Mr. Cheng traveled to Silicon Valley and Stanford University. In addition to the Brookings Institution, he also spoke at The Commonwealth Club in San Francisco, the Fletcher School of Law and Diplomacy at Tufts University, the World Affairs Council in Boston, and Harvard University. On October 25, he joined Arianna Huffington, Twitter co-founder Biz Stone, economist Niall Ferguson, former president George W. Bush, and others as a featured speaker at the 2011 Global Financial Leadership Conference in Naples, Florida.
The Chang-Lin Tien Distinguished Visiting Fellow Award honors the late Dr. Chang-Lin Tien, renowned thermal scientist, chancellor of the University of California, Berkeley, and chairman of The Asia Foundation Board of Trustees.
Despite spectacular growth, long-running conflicts continue to frustrate development in significant parts of Asia, The Asia Foundation’s president, David D. Arnold, told a gathering of 250 high-ranking private and public sector leaders in October.
“Asia is a significant part of today’s narrative,” he said, speaking at The Economist’s Banyan Conference, “Ideas for an Asian Century,” in Singapore. But while much of Asia is experiencing rapid development, “its many turbulent corners are falling further and further behind the rest of the region in terms of economic integration and security.”
The conference brought together leaders from government, the private sector, multilateral organizations, and international NGOs to discuss the economic dynamism driving the world’s fastest-growing region, and the problems that perpetuate conflict.
“Long-running conflicts, many averaging more than 30 years, continue to present some of the most difficult challenges for delivery of aid and significant economic growth,” said Arnold.
The Asia Foundation has a long history of programs in conflict-affected and fragile regions of Asia, including Afghanistan, Mindanao (Philippines), Nepal, Sri Lanka, Pakistan, Aceh (Indonesia), southern Thailand, and Timor-Leste.
The seventh in our series of the broadest, most comprehensive public opinion polls in Afghanistan has drawn unprecedented attention and response from international policymakers, media, and the public.
Afghanistan in 2011: A Survey of the Afghan People was released November 15 at events in Kabul and Washington DC. For the first time, the survey was also released at subsequent events in New York and in London, where our Afghanistan experts presented the poll’s findings to the UK’s Department for International Development, Chatham House, the Royal United Services Institute, Kings College, and the London School of Economics.
In an opinion editorial in the International Herald Tribune, Foundation trustees Karl Inderfurth and Theodore Eliot noted that optimists are holding steady in Afghanistan (46 percent), though pessimists are on the rise (up from 27 to 35 percent). People who expressed some amount of sympathy for the Taliban has fallen dramatically from 56 percent in 2009 to 29 percent today.
Former U.S. Ambassador to Afghanistan Ronald Neumann, writing in Foreign Policy, said the survey demonstrates “more progress than is admitted by the ‘Afghanistan is hopeless’ crowd, while simultaneously calling into question the more extravagant declarations of those who claim a clear path to success.”
Afghanistan in 2011 covers all 34 provinces in the country. Candid, first-hand data was gleaned from face-to-face interviews with 6,348 Afghan citizens on issues including security, corruption, women’s rights, the economy, development, and the Taliban. This year we created an interactive mapping platform and data visualization tool, Visualizing Afghanistan, which is available on our website, along with vivid slideshows of the polling and of launch events in Kabul, Washington, and New York.
The survey is an independent project of The Asia Foundation, with funds from the U.S. Agency for International Development (USAID). The complete survey report, as well as FAQs, analysis, and links to previous surveys is available at asiafoundation.org/ag2011poll.
On September 14, our chief economist, Véronique Salze-Lozac’h, addressed the Asia-Pacific Economic Cooperation (APEC) Women and the Economy Summit on the challenges facing women entrepreneurs in Asia.
“Women-owned businesses play a key role raising living standards through increased job growth and sustainable economic growth,” said Ms. Salze-Lozac’h. “Women entrepreneurs that we’ve met…often complain about the difficulty they encounter accessing basic information on their legal, fiscal, and business environments; this leaves them in a situation of uncertainty and increased vulnerability. Clearly, women entrepreneurs need the chance to network and raise their voices in order to fully engage in the policymaking process that shapes business environments.”
With 21 member nations, including the U.S., Japan, China, and Russia, APEC is the premier Asia-Pacific economic forum. The Women and the Economy Summit brings together leading economists, development experts, government officials, and women entrepreneurs from around the world working to increase women’s economic participation and drive economic growth in the Asia-Pacific region. This year the Summit took place in San Francisco, and the Foundation played a vital role as a member of the host committee.
“We are honored to participate in the APEC Women and the Economy Summit,” said our president, David D. Arnold, welcoming guests to a luncheon, featuring Weili Dai, co-founder of The Marvell Technology Group and board member of Asia Foundation affiliate Give2Asia. Dai is the only woman co-founder of a major public semiconductor company in the world. Arnold continued: “The Asia Foundation has been a long-time champion of women’s empowerment, with on-the-ground programs that create new political and economic opportunities for women across Asia. Together with our local partners, we see firsthand that sparking economic opportunities for women can profoundly increase the output and productivity of a country’s economy.”
Asia Foundation Launches LankaCorps
LankaCorps is a program for young Sri Lankan expatriates to contribute to the nation’s post-war recovery. Since the end of the conflict in 2009, attention has turned to rebuilding the country. The Asia Foundation has been present since 1954 and has now launched LankaCorps to encourage young professionals in the diaspora to engage with post-war Sri Lanka. Three LankaCorps Fellows will be selected to live and work for six months in Sri Lanka from April 1 to September 30, 2012. For more please visit lankacorps.org.
4th High Level Forum on Aid Effectiveness
The Asia Foundation participated in the 4th High Level Forum on Aid Effectiveness (HLF4) in Busan, South Korea, which brought together 2,500 delegates from 170 countries. David Arnold was keynote speaker at a pre-HLF4 conference, Toward a Global Compact for Development Effectiveness, and we partnered with the Korea Development Institute and Vietnam’s Ministry of Planning and Investment to host a side event: Emerging Asian Approaches to Development Cooperation.
For the first time, as part of the release of our annual survey of the Afghan people, The Asia Foundation unveiled an online interactive data mapping tool called Visualizing Afghanistan. Users can explore key survey questions, map responses by region, compare and analyze national or regional totals on a year-by-year basis using data from the last six of our annual surveys, or expand supplementary data. For more, visit the Afghanistan in 2011 Survey Page.
Books for Asia Marks International Literacy Day 2011 across Asia
Books for Asia held events across Asia and in the Bay Area, including a book stamping in Afghanistan; reading competitions and student performances in Timor-Leste; and book donation ceremonies at the National Orphanage and Care Center in Mongolia; in Davao City with Kiwanis International in the Philippines; and in Jakarta, Indonesia, with the Community Learning Centers that serve street children. View the slideshow here.
The Asia Foundation’s Scholarship Program for Disadvantaged Girls
In Vietnam, poor families are often forced to pull their daughters out of school to work when they reach their teens. Unfortunately many migrate in search of employment, only to become vulnerable to exploitation and trafficking. This program provides four-year scholarships to keep girls like Dang Thi Anh Dao in school. Despite being an excellent student, her family’s financial situation left it uncertain whether she could continue her studies. Thanks to our generous donors, Dang Thi Anh Dao has been given the opportunity to stay in school. Watch the video here.
Robert Scalapino, Asia Foundation trustee from 1983-2004, passed away on November 1 at the age of 92. In addition to his commitment to the Foundation, he was the Robson Research Professor of Government & Emeritus of Political Science, University of California-Berkeley. He founded UC Berkeley’s Institute of East Asian Studies and also founded the National Committee on U.S.-China Relations. Professor Scalapino’s highly respected work on East Asia spanned more than 50 years. In 2010, the National Bureau of Asian Research and the Woodrow Wilson International Center for Scholars established the Scalapino Prize, to honor his legacy. The Asia Foundation’s Gordon Hein presented a tribute to Professor Scalapino at a 2010 event that you can read in our blog, In Asia.
2011 marks the 37th year of our partnership with The Henry Luce Foundation on the Luce Scholars Program, which provides year-long professional placements in Asia for young American leaders under the age of 29.
David Huebner, U.S. Ambassador to New Zealand and Samoa, and past Luce Scholar, joined this year’s graduates for their year-end wrap-up in Christchurch and Wellington, New Zealand, and shared these impressions, excerpted from his blog.
I myself was a Luce Scholar back in the Stone Age (1984-1985), before the current class of Scholars was born, and I thoroughly enjoyed reconnecting with an important part of my early personal and professional development.
Back in 1984, I was placed in the office of the Hon. Koji Kakizawa, Member of the Lower House of the Japanese Diet and Parliamentary Vice Minister for the Environment, because of my interest in environmental law and policy. One of my Luce compatriots worked on a medical helicopter team that flew into the jungles of Borneo. Another worked for the Far Eastern Economic Review in Hong Kong.
The Class of 2010-2011‘s placements were as diverse and exciting as ever. I smiled to myself throughout that day’s presentations, because the room was filled with the same excitement that I recalled when my own group met on the beach in Bali 26 years ago.
The Luce Program was one of the turning points in my life. That explains in part why I’m such a partisan of youth and education exchange programs – particularly the old school, people-to-people types that truly give folks time to learn, experiment, and explore without economic expectations. I’ll take a relationship over a transaction any day. And my Luce year helped teach me that very important lesson.