According to The Asia Foundation’s America’s Role in Asia, while the U.S. often talks about making India a full partner in managing the global order, it must take immediate steps, such as making India a full member of the G-8 group of advanced nations.
America’s Role in Asia, a volume of foreign policy recommendations for U.S.-Asia relations, was released in late 2008, in time for the political conventions before the U.S. presidential election. The recommendations were developed from a year of high-level, closed-door discussions among top experts from Asia and the U.S., convened and supported by The Asia Foundation. In a forum held in New Delhi in January, the Foundation turned a spotlight on recommendations in the report for U.S.-India relations and U.S. policy in South Asia.
Leading Indian and American diplomats, officials, CEOs, and scholars attended, including speakers Ambassador Karl F. Inderfurth, former U.S. Assistant Secretary of State for South Asian Affairs; Dr. C. Raja Mohan, professor at the Rajaratnam School of International Studies, Nanyang, Technological University in Singapore, and former member of India’s National Security Advisory Board; and Ambassador Rajendra Abhyankar, former Indian Ambassador to the European Union, Belgium and Luxemburg, Azerbaijan, Turkey, Syria, and Cyprus, and Asia Foundation Director of India Programs.
“The last two American presidents recognized that fundamental change was underway with India as an emerging global power and acted accordingly,” said Ambassador Inderfurth, author of the America’s Role in Asia chapter on U.S.-India relations.
“A strong foundation for a vibrant U.S.-India relationship has been established, upon which the next U.S. administration can build.”
“India is an important factor,” added Dr. Mohan, the South Asia Regional Chair of America’s Role in Asia. “South Asia will become increasingly relevant to a number of new challenges confronting U.S. foreign policy, such as Asia’s regional balance of power, maritime security, and global warming.” The recommendations for U.S. policy to South Asia include strengthening economic partnership with the U.S., including doubling bilateral trade with India; expanding counter-terrorism through increased information-sharing; and undertaking a significant effort to win political support among the Pushtun tribes and recognizing how deeply the Pushtun question divides Pakistan and Afghanistan. Read the full report and read In Asia blog entries.
By Brooke Shull
Only a few hours’ drive from Laos’s capital of Vientiane, Vang Vieng is a small but growing port town, and one of the country’s most popular ecotourism destinations. While local tourism and agriculture businesses thrive off the pristine waters of the town’s Nam Song River, villagers rely on the river for their main sources of protein: fish and aquatic insects.
Laos’s river systems are the foundation of its burgeoning export economy, which largely consists of hydropower, mining, commercial agriculture, and forestry. Yet these industries – and even some tourism operations – are threatening once-pristine watersheds. Local communities and ecotourism entrepreneurs are increasingly concerned about uncontrolled development, poorly enforced environmental regulations, and their impact on precious water resources. And villagers, who are intimately connected to the environment, lack the means to scientifically monitor degrading water systems or effectively advocate for improved environmental protection.
The Asia Foundation is spearheading a community-based monitoring approach in Vang Vieng. During a recent visit, Laos Program Officer Achariya Kohtbantau spent several days along the Nam Song River overseeing the Foundation’s first water quality field survey in Laos. The survey method focuses on biological monitoring of small aquatic insects – water bugs – that serve as good indicators of water quality. The project is inspired by a Foundation program in Mongolia, which, in two years, has sampled more than 125 rivers and trained more than 300 students, teachers, and community leaders in water monitoring.
The Foundation’s research partners at the National University of Laos Faculty of Science surveyed seven sites along the Nam Song River. Villagers and local officials observed with great interest and eventually joined the effort, collecting the water bugs and giving researchers local names for each species.
Over the next nine months, the Foundation will work with the Faculty of Science to develop Lao-specific training materials and train local citizens to conduct their own water monitoring. Data from this project will be linked with a national environmental monitoring database, and an analysis of the data will be shared with the broader community in Vang Vieng. The Foundation aims to connect and replicate the project in other areas of Laos.
Brooke Shull is The Asia Foundation’s
Environment Program Officer
The colorful, solar plug-in electric-powered REVA car (right), manufactured in Bangalore, was the highlight of the Climate Solutions Road Tour. Designed for low speed, congested, urban conditions, it runs for 150 kms on a one-hour electric charge.
The road tour traveled across India, starting on January 3 from Chennai and reaching New Delhi on February 4, to raise awareness about local initiatives for climate change solutions. It visited 15 cities en route. The Asia Foundation, in partnership with the University of Mumbai, sponsored The Indian Youth Climate Network events in Mumbai, held in conjunction with the tour.
In Timor-Leste, domestic and sexual violence is severe and pervasive, accounting for more than 50 percent of all incidents reported to the police. Despite this, women and children – especially those living in rural areas – have few places to access the services they need to reclaim their lives. The Asia Foundation has worked with Victim Support Services (VSS) since 2006 to assist women and children affected by domestic violence and sexual assault to secure prosecutions against their assailants. VSS also provides victim care referrals for counseling and conducts campaigns to change the attitudes that lead to violence against women. In collaboration with the Foundation’s legal aid partners, VSS now operates nationwide through both district-based lawyers and mobile services. Without the extensive services VSS provides, hundreds of women and children would have few opportunities to pursue legal recourse.
THE ASIA FOUNDATION LAUNCHES NEW CENTER FOR U.S.-KOREA POLICY
The Asia Foundation just launched the Center for U.S.-Korea Policy, which aims to strengthen institutionalized cooperation between the United States and South Korea by promoting bilateral policy coordination. Based in the Foundation’s Washington DC office, the center, run by preeminent U.S.-Korea relations scholar Scott Snyder, will conduct joint policy projects to promote specific issues and forms of cooperation, as well as serve as a resource for enhanced communication with policymakers. Programs will focus on security, nuclear energy development, climate change, and the role and influence of the U.S.-ROK alliance on Northeast Asian relations.
Scott Snyder, frequent commentator and analyst on Korean peninsula issues, is founder and director of the new center. Snyder was the former Asia Foundation Country Representative in Korea from 2000 to 2004, and is author of the newly published book, China’s Rise and the Two Koreas, an examination of the implications of China’s rise on the two Koreas and their relationship with the U.S. Snyder was also just named adjunct senior fellow for Korea Studies at the Council on Foreign Relations.
“South Korea has developed the economic, political, and security resources to be a first-tier partner on the international stage,” said Snyder, discussing the Center’s purpose. “Strengthened forms of cooperation with like-minded allies in the Asia-Pacific are likely to be at a premium as the center of gravity for global economic and political interactions shifts toward Asia.” For more information, visit the Center for U.S.-Korea Policy overview on our website.
NEW FELLOWS SELECTED
The Asia Foundation recently announced the selection of two Fellowship recipients. Dr. Lee Nae-ok, Head of the Asian Art Dept, the National Museum of Korea, is the second recipient from Asia of The Asia Foundation’s Margaret F. Williams Memorial Fellowship in Asian Art. Established in 2007 by President Emeritus Haydn Williams, The Asia Foundation Margaret F. Williams Memorial Fellowship in Asian Art honors the memory of his late wife, a great admirer of the arts and former docent at the Asian Art Museum.
Professor Octavio Dinampo of Mindanao State University-Sulu, Mindanao, The Philippines, was selected as the fourth recipient of The Asia Foundation’s William P. Fuller Fellowship in Conflict Resolution. Through the Fellowship, Dinampo will be a Visiting Scholar at American University’s School of International Service for the Spring 2009 term.
BANGLADESH RECENT ELECTIONS
On December 29, 2008, Bangladesh held its most credible and most peaceful elections to date. They were free, fair, and without the usual violence and disruption that has accompanied most elections in Bangladesh. Voter turnout hit 88 percent, a remarkable figure for any country. The Asia Foundation supported the 32-member Election Working Group (EWG) coalition’s voter education efforts and its extensive election observation, which deployed more than 155,000 observers.
Still, there is much work to be done. The success of the parliamentary elections was less evident one month later during the January 22 upazila (mid-level local government) elections, which were marked by higher levels of violence and far lower turnout. Ballot snatching and intimidation of polling officials further hampered the quality of the elections. The Asia Foundation is continuing to work with EWG in Bangladesh and other partners elsewhere to ensure free and fair elections throughout Asia.
NEW YOUTUBE CHANNEL
From blogs and feeds, to social net-working and streaming video, The Asia Foundation understands that the Internet’s New Media revolution is transforming the way people across Asia interact with the world. This dynamism is already upending old relationships and forging new ones. To embrace these changes, the Foundation recently entered into a partnership with YouTube to create an Asia Foundation channel on their site.¬† Here, we will be posting all of our videos for people around the world to view, access, and discuss. The focus will be on development issues in Asia, and we hope to share stories of the inspiring work of our partners with new audiences.
The Asia Foundation to Open New Office in Vientiane
The Asia Foundation will be opening a resident office in Lao PDR this spring. The Foundation has managed Lao programs from its Bangkok office since 1989, with recent programs focusing on accelerating the country’s legal development, protecting women’s rights and increasing their involvement in politics, promoting sustainable development, countering domestic violence and human trafficking, and expanding access to information.
Gretchen Kunze, the Foundation’s Deputy Country Representative for Thailand and Laos since January 2005, has been appointed the Foundation’s new Country Director for Laos. Under her direction, the Lao program has grown from a small start-up with one national partner to one with more than a dozen active partner organizations. Over the past four years, Kunze has been working hard to re-establish an Asia Foundation presence and program in Laos, shuttling back and forth between Bangkok and Vientiane every month.
Kunze has 14 years of experience in international development, governance, and civic participation programs. Prior to her posting with the Foundation in Thailand, she was Assistant Director in the Foundation’s Programs Unit in San Francisco. For three years prior to that, she worked as a consultant for the International Institute for Democracy and Electoral Assistance (International IDEA, based in Stockholm). She first joined the Foundation in 1994, and through 1997 served in the Asian-American Exchange, Conflict Resolution, and Luce Scholars Units before leaving the Foundation to work in Japan.
Joining Kunze in Laos as Program Officer will be Ms. Achariya (Nim) Kohtbantau, also from the Thailand office, who has helped to manage the growing Lao program portfolio. Achariya brings considerable experience in program management from her nearly nine years at the World Bank.
The Foundation also plans to hire local staff in Laos.
“With the opening of new international transport routes, a growing awareness of its natural resource wealth, and a dramatic increase in tourism, this is an exciting time in Laos and the absolute right time to further expand our programs there. I am looking forward to leading this effort.”
- Gretchen Kunze
Country Director, Lao PDR