Myanmar jetty 

Myanmar’s Local Governance Reform Challenges

June 8, 2016


As Myanmar’s new government begins defining its reform policies, arguably the biggest need is for good governance. Following decades of centralized military dictatorship, the country confronts dual challenges of trying to loosen the military’s grip on public administration as well as push government agencies to be more accountable and deliver bette… Read more

Koreans cast their ballots in April 13 Parliamentary elections. Photo/Tim Meisburger 

Korean Elections: A Model of Best Practice

April 20, 2016


Last week, South Koreans went to the polls to elect new National Assembly representatives, with results showing that the governing party led by President Park Geun-hye has lost its majority in Parliament. In Korea, Parliamentary elections are seen as a harbinger of what’s to come in the presidential election, so the results are highly anticipated…. Read more


A Conversation with Writer and Activist Ma Thida on Post-Election Myanmar

March 23, 2016


The Asia Foundation recently hosted a panel discussion in Washington, D.C., focused on changes underway in post-election Myanmar, which included the Foundation’s country representative in Myanmar, Kim Ninh, along with Ma Thida, noted human rights activist, surgeon, and writer.


Deforestation Now Urgent Concern in Post-War Sri Lanka

March 16, 2016


Following parliamentary elections in August 2015 and six years after the end of a bloody, decades-long civil war, Sri Lanka’s newly elected president, Maithripala Sirisena, has made the important decision to keep the Ministry of Environment directly under his wing.


Economic Growth Brings Optimism and Rising Expectations in Cambodia

February 24, 2016


Bolstered by a massive construction boom over the last few years, Cambodia now boasts one of the world’s fastest growing economies and was one of the few countries able to meet its Millennium Development Goals. In fact, Cambodia, which has halved its poverty rate in one decade, is now entering lower-middle income status.


How Behavioral Insights Can Nudge Voter Turnout in Bangladesh

January 20, 2016


On Dec. 30, 2015, Bangladesh held its first-ever local-level elections in which political parties were able to nominate and field their own candidates for mayoral positions. Amid sporadic irregularities, millions lined up to vote in 234 municipalities across the country. While the election commission has yet to release official results…


What Does Facebook Reveal About Public Opinion in Cambodia?

January 13, 2016


The 2013 national elections in Cambodia saw the ruling Cambodian People’s Party (CPP) losing 55 of the 123 parliamentary seats to the opposition Cambodia National Rescue Party(CNRP), the slimmest victory ever for the party that has ruled the country since 1993.


Insecurity, Remoteness Pose Steep Challenges in Surveying Afghanistan

November 18, 2015


Afghanistan remains one of the most challenging research environments in the world. The biggest challenge, particularly for a nationally representative sample, is access – not only because of remoteness and lack of roads, but also because of insecurity…


In Photos: Elections Make History, Generate Hope for a New Myanmar

November 11, 2015


On Sunday, November 8, more than 30 million voters in Myanmar went to the polls to cast their votes for members of the Union Parliament as well as for the 14 state and region parliaments. These were the first elections in many decades in which an astounding 91 diverse political parties participated. Given that many were voting for the first time, the Union Election Commission, political parties, and hundreds of civil society organizations provided much-needed voter education.


OGP Global Summit: Open Government = Open Knowledge

November 4, 2015


Over 1,500 representatives from civil society organizations, businesses, and governments gathered in Mexico City on October 28-29 for the Open Government Partnership’s Global Summit, with special attention this year on the role that open government can play…


Report Reveals Barriers to Access to Information on Transboundary Rivers in South Asia

March 18, 2015


By 2050, South Asia’s population is expected to hit 2.2 billion, and as urban populations grow, estimates predict that all major population centers in the region will experience extreme seasonal or perennial water shortages. While the region supports more than 21 percent of the world’s population…


Cambodia Steps up as Regional Role Model for Preventing Violence Against Women

February 4, 2015


Propelled by the leadership of the Ministry of Women’s Affairs, Cambodia is emerging as a regional, if not global, role model for advocating prevention of violence against women. Today, major gender-responsive policies are being produced, including the 2nd National Action Plan to Prevent Violence against Women…


Editor’s Picks: 2014 Must Reads

December 23, 2014


Season’s Greetings! On behalf of In Asia’s editorial board and bloggers, we thank you for your engagement and continued readership throughout the year. We’ll be taking a short break, but will return on January 7. In the meantime, catch up on our must-read pieces and highlights on the most pressing events and issues in Asia throughout 2014.


Survey Reveals What Myanmar’s Citizens Think about Government, Reforms, and 2015 Elections

December 17, 2014


Myanmar’s recent transition to a quasi-civilian government in 2011 under President Thein Sein has brought about many social, economic, and political reforms, but 2014 has also seen rising concern both inside and outside of the country that the reform process has stalled…


Using Evidence to Improve Development Assistance

December 10, 2014


Development assistance is founded on countless theories about how foreign taxpayers’ money can be harnessed to instigate and catalyze economic and social development and provide humanitarian benefits abroad. Basic arguments for how positive change can be achieved…


Can Theories of Change Help Us ‘Do Development Differently?’

December 10, 2014


Where next for debates and practice of Theories of Change? In my last blog on this topic, I argued that we need to be wary of Theories of Change simply becoming another corporate stick to beat people with: to prevent this, there is a considerable onus on likeminded donors…


Cambodia’s Smartphone Revolution: Think Promise Not Peril

December 3, 2014


From the Arab Spring to the current demonstrations in Hong Kong, much has been said about the power of youth movements and the impact of social media on political development in countries like Cambodia where freedom of speech, assembly, and association is often restricted.


Human Rights and Mongolia’s Small-Scale Mining Sector

October 29, 2014


Since the collapse of the socialist regime in 1990, Mongolia’s economic development has been dependent on an expanding formal and informal mining sector that for many years had little regard for the environment.

The Asia Foundation, Cambodia, August 2010 

Poll Shows Fighting Corruption Drives Support for Education Reform in Cambodia

October 15, 2014


Earlier this week, Cambodia’s Ministry of Education Youth and Sports (MoEYS) held a second high school exam to provide a second chance for the over 70 percent of 93,000 high school students who failed to pass the first annual national high school exam, held in early August. The passing rate in the first exam…


Indonesia Now World’s Largest Exporter of Coal for Power Stations, But There Are Costs

October 8, 2014


Flying over Indonesia’s East Kalimantan, the closer we get to the provincial capital of Samarinda, the more bare patches emerge in the island’s lush forest cover. Exposed brown areas dotted with lurid green tailing ponds are telltale signs of the open pit coal mining voraciously consuming Kalimantan’s remaining forests.


Mongolia’s Capital Leads Charge to Improve Transparency and Fight Corruption

October 8, 2014


Ahead of a major forum on transparency and corruption in Mongolia’s capital of Ulaanbaatar this week, Capital City Governor and Mayor Bat-Uul Erdene set the tone for the discussions: “In Mongolia, corruption is so common that it has become a kind of social norm.” …


In Indonesia, Decentralization and Direct Elections Two Sides of the Same Coin

October 1, 2014


Last week, Indonesians woke up to the news that in the dead of night the parliament voted for a bill that would end direct elections for over 500 local-level political offices (mayors, district and sub-district governors), and replace them with an indirect selection process in regional parliaments. Since then, the country has been engaged by the decision, and civil society groups have readied themselves…


Civil Society Organizations in Asia Press for More Open Environment

September 24, 2014


Indonesians have spoken out about a contentious bill to be voted on today that would eliminate direct elections for local mayors and district heads. Leading the charge against the bill, tabled just a month before President-elect Joko Widodo assumes office…


Desecuritizing Transboundary Water in South Asia

September 17, 2014


Severe floods in the Kashmir region of Northern India and Pakistan over the past few weeks have taken 450 lives so far, and uprooted thousands of residents on both sides of the highly politicized border. Heavy monsoon rains caused the Chenab and Jhelum rivers (tributaries of the Indus River system) to overflow their banks…


Khmer Rouge Sentence a Milestone, but Cambodia’s Justice System Remains Fragile

September 3, 2014


The Extraordinary Chambers in the Court of Cambodia last month sentenced two former senior Khmer Rouge leaders to life in prison for crimes against humanity. The Khmer Rouge’s 88-year-old chief ideologist and No. 2 leader, Nuon Chea, and its 83-year-old former head-of-state, Kheiu Samphan…


New Report Examines Right to Information In South Asia

September 3, 2014


Globally, 100 countries have enacted right to information (RTI) legislation guaranteeing citizens the right to access information and records held by their governments. In South Asia, over the last decade, countries have made significant progress toward recognizing this right. However, among the countries where RTI laws have been in place for some… Read more


After a Lively Election, What’s Next for Indonesia’s Mobilized Civil Society?

August 13, 2014


Just weeks after election results declared former Jakarta governor Joko Widodo (“Jokowi”) as Indonesia’s presidential front-runner, the president-elect’s team of volunteers announced that he would be crowdsourcing his cabinet. Through an online survey, anyone can choose…


In Mongolia, Perception of Corruption as Most Critical Problem Drops

June 18, 2014


Last week, The Asia Foundation, the Sant Maral Foundation, and Mercy Corps Mongolia released the fourth semi-annual corruption survey, revealing citizens’ perception of corruption in one of the fastest growing economies in the world. As in the three earlier surveys…


China’s Environmental Protection Law Lays Groundwork for Greater Transparency

May 28, 2014


Last month, China passed sweeping revisions to its Environmental Protection Law that aim to take a tough stance against industrial polluters, imposing much stiffer fines and even allowing violators to be detained. It also permits civil society organizations to initiate public interest lawsuits on behalf of citizens.


Participatory Urban Planning Takes Hold in Mongolia

May 7, 2014


Mongolia’s economic boom, coupled with harsh winters that have killed off cattle and traditional livelihoods, have made the country’s rural, pastoralist lifestyle less attractive and economically viable. As rural residents flood to the capital, Ulaanbaatar, in search of work, city residents now account for one-half of Mongolia’s total population, up from one-quarter only 25 years ago. But 60 percent of those city residents live in the ger districts that surround the capital, without access to basic services such as electricity and water. Given this rapid growth, the government has not been able to develop adequate planning for the soaring ger developments.


Thailand’s Parliamentary Digital Library Leads in Open Government

May 7, 2014


Since its launch in 2012, the Legislative Institutional Repository of Thailand (LIRT), the online library of the Thai Parliament, has stood out as an example of the open government trends spreading across Asia. Behind buzzwords like “e-government” and “open data,” though, is the complex task…


Jokowi’s Party Takes Lead in Indonesia’s Elections, But Steep Road Ahead

April 9, 2014


Out of Indonesia’s 186 million eligible voters, an estimated 139 million cast their ballots on Wednesday to elect 235,637 legislative candidates in competition for nearly 19,699 positions across the country. It will take up to a month for official results to be released, but early “quick counts” released by CSIS and Cyrus Network barely four hours after polling stations closed suggest a relatively high voter turnout of 75 percent. As has been the case since 1999 when Indonesians turned out for the first post-Suharto democratic election, Indonesians have once again shown their eagerness and determination to take part in deciding the course of their country, the third-largest democracy in the world.


Indonesia’s Social Media Elections

April 2, 2014


In the words of my colleagues, I used to be gaptek – the Indonesian term for “technologically challenged.” I didn’t know an App from an API, and the smartest thing about my phone was its shiny black case. But the expansion of social media in Indonesia has been so overwhelming and impossible to resist…


Transparency Needed for South Asia Transboundary Water Cooperation

March 19, 2014


In 2008, Nepal and India experienced one of the worst river disasters in their modern history, when the Kosi River breached an embankment flooding vast areas of terai Nepal and northeastern parts of Bihar, India. The floods caused tremendous loss of human life and property, affecting an estimated 50,000 Nepalis and 3.5 million Indians. A tributary of the Ganges and a transboundary river that flows through Tibet, Nepal, and India, the Kosi River is prone to seasonal variations in river flow and sediment discharge, resulting in frequent downstream floods.


How Politics Can Outmaneuver Reform in the Philippines

March 12, 2014


Over the past two years, the Philippines has achieved the distinction of being the fastest growing of the ASEAN-6 economies with growth rates of 6.8 percent in 2012 and 7.2 percent in 2013. The official poverty rate in the Philippines was 27.9 percent in 2012 and 28.8 percent in 2006; levels which were interpreted this way…


Asia Foundation’s 18 Country Reps Convene in D.C. to Discuss Asia’s Critical Issues

March 12, 2014


This year, The Asia Foundation is commemorating its 60th anniversary. Drawing on the expertise of local partners and our own development experts in the 18 countries where we work, we’re initiating a year-long, global conversation on six critical issues facing Asia.


Improving Myanmar’s Business Environment for Sustainable Economic Growth

February 26, 2014


In a meeting with the business community over the weekend, Myanmar President U Thein Sein declared that “economic development for the country is possible only when the private enterprises that constitute 90 percent of the country’s economy develop,” and that “the government and the private sector must work hand in hand.”


Delhi’s Aam Aadmi Party Eyes India’s General Elections

February 19, 2014


After only 49 days in government, Arvind Kejriwal, Delhi’s chief minister, dramatically resigned last week. His announcement came after the Aam Aadmi Party (AAP) was unable to introduce the anti-corruption Jan Lokpal Bill in the Delhi Assembly. The bill was blocked by members of the Congress and Bharatiya Janta Party…


New Website Brings Public Services Closer to Mongolia’s Ger Residents

January 29, 2014


On Jan. 22, 2014, the City Municipality of Ulaanbaatar and The Asia Foundation launched the first-ever interactive website where Mongolian citizens and city officials can find up-to-date information on availability of public services in their neighborhoods.

A construction site in Kathmandu. Nepal's capital has  experienc 

The Critical Issues Affecting Asia

January 22, 2014


More than half of the planet lives in Asia. Six of the 10 largest nations in the world are in the Asia Pacific, and the region is playing an increasingly important role in the global economy, international security, and the world’s collective efforts to advance human development. The dynamism of Asian economies contributed greatly to the global economic recovery, simultaneously lifting more than half a billion people out of poverty. Glittering cities and bustling ports bear testament to the so-called “Asian miracle” that has become the dominant narrative in economic and political analysis of recent years.


Corruption in India and the Rise of the Aam Aadmi Party

January 22, 2014


Delhi’s new chief minister, Arvind Kejriwal, has publicly declared a war against corruption in India’s government. Within weeks of assuming office, the leader of the Aam Aadmi Party (AAP), or the Common Man’s Party, set up an anti-corruption helpline…


Indonesia’s Election Activists Fight to End Money Politics

January 22, 2014


By the end of President Yudhoyono’s term, for the first time, Indonesians will have witnessed their first 10-year stretch of both democracy and stability. While there is no shortage of criticism of what democracy has yet to achieve, the last 10 years have proven a commitment to what the overwhelming majority of citizens…


Civic Complacency in Political Accountability Holds Nepal Back

January 22, 2014


The November 2013 Constituent Assembly (CA) elections in Nepal revealed very strong anti-incumbency sentiments among the voting public. So too did the 2008 CA elections, when Nepali voters turned to the newly above-ground Maoists (CPN-M), rejecting the more “seasoned” parties…


Corruption in the Philippines: Survey of Business Execs Reveals ‘Mixed’ Findings

January 22, 2014


On January 15, the results of the latest “SWS Survey of Enterprises on Corruption” were released during an afternoon session of the Good Governance Summit 2014. The previous survey in 2012 showed an impressive record low of 43 percent of business executives who considered corruption to be widespread.


Photo Blog: Critical Issue -Transparency & Accountability

January 22, 2014


Corruption is deeply entrenched in many Asian countries and continues to erode public trust in democratic processes and in public institutions. Accountable governance institutions are essential to sustainable growth in Asia…


Credible Reform, Not Shutdown, Needed to End Thailand’s Political Standoff

January 15, 2014


For more than two months, tens of thousands of anti-government protesters have gathered at Democracy Monument and other major intersections throughout Bangkok. Initially, the People’s Democratic Reform Committee (PDRC), led by former long-time Democrat politician, Suthep Thaugsuban…


The Bangkok Shutdown and Thailand’s Battle for Democracy

January 15, 2014


As anti-government protests shut down Thailand’s capital this week, In Asia editor Alma Freeman spoke with The Asia Foundation’s country representative in Thailand and Bangkok resident, Kim McQuay, about the situation on the ground.


Two Months After Yolanda: Lessons from the Bunkhouse Controversy

January 15, 2014


The recent controversy about temporary shelters – or bunkhouses – for victims in Yolanda-hit areas offers some lessons not only in emergency response but also in reconstruction efforts. These are not new lessons…


Are There Lessons for Cambodia from Philippines’ People Power Movement?

January 8, 2014


While the rest of the world launched fireworks to usher in the New Year, in Cambodia, an estimated 50,000 protesters marched in the streets of Phnom Penh on December 29, chanting “Hun Sen, get out.” The opposition Cambodia National Rescue Party (CNRP)…


Philippines 2014: The Best of Times or the Worst of Times?

January 8, 2014


January, named after the two-faced Roman god Janus, is a time that invites us to look back and look ahead. Here in the Philippines, excitable headlines make it hard to discern if 2013 was the worst of times, or the best of times – but either way, Filipinos seem to be looking forward to 2014 with optimism.


Though Improving, Mongolia Still Reeling Under Corruption

December 11, 2013


On Dec. 4, 2013, The Asia Foundation and the Sant Maral Foundation released the third installment of its bi-annual “Survey on Perceptions and Knowledge of Corruption,” revealing that efforts to curb corruption in what is considered, as some sources put it, one of the world’s most corrupt countries could in fact be working.


Mapping Ulaanbaatar’s Ger Districts

October 23, 2013


Mongolia is now one of the world’s fastest growing economies, and nowhere is this growth more evident than the bustling and energetic capital, Ulaanbaatar. Expensive high rises, luxury stores, and modern apartment buildings are common in this city of 1.5 million; tower cranes dot the rising skyline, harbingers of even more cutting-edge development projects to come. But in the shadows of the cranes and high rises, are the city’s ger districts, where more than half of the capital’s residents live without access to basic public services like water, sewage systems, and central heating.


A Conversation with Capital City Governor and Ulaanbaatar Mayor Bat-Uul Erdene

October 23, 2013


On Friday, the Ulaanbaatar city municipality will celebrate Ulaanbaatar City Day to highlight the various works being undertaken to improve the capital of Mongolia, home to more than 50 percent of the population.


Combating Pervasive Corruption Must Take a Multipronged Approach

July 24, 2013


This month, Transparency International released its latest Global Corruption Barometer. Surveying over 114,000 respondents across more than 100 countries, Transparency International reports that more than half of those surveyed believe that corruption has worsened in their country in the last two years…


A New Beginning for Malaysian Politics?

May 8, 2013


On May 6, Datuk Seri Najib Tun Razak took the oath of office as Malaysia’s 7th prime minister before King Abdul Halim Mu’adzam Shah at the National Palace. Prime Minister Najib’s coalition, Barisan Nasional, returned to power when it won 133 of the 222 parliamentary seats to form the Federal Government.


China Shows Progress on Environmental Information Transparency

April 17, 2013


Following the news on environmental issues here in China can be a grim business. The first months of 2013 alone brought coverage of January’s “airpocalypse,” when air pollution in Beijing reached historic levels; news of thousands of dead pigs floating in the Huangpu River, a primary source of Shanghai’s drinking water; and a new report indicating that China sees 1.2 million premature deaths each year due to outdoor air pollution – almost 40 percent of the world’s total of such deaths. Amid such bleak headlines, it can be easy to miss any kind of progress. However, a report released in late March does show progress on an issue that many experts consider crucial to long-term and sustained improvement of environmental outcomes…


Debate over Corruption Heats Up

February 13, 2013


Over the last few weeks, in our blog, our studies, in well-respected surveys, at think tanks and other organizations, and the media, the topic of corruption and transparency seems to be everywhere you look. However, there seems no clear consensus on the extent of the problem…


Mongolia: Asia’s Economic Standout Feels Weight of Corruption

February 6, 2013


Mongolia’s economy is booming, with growth trajectories showing it will be one of the world’s fastest growing economies again this year. It is consistently advancing in global rankings on governance and investment climate.

ID-Ted Alcorn 

Indonesia Makes Strides in Budget Transparency Despite Political Patronage

January 30, 2013


Two new publications showing very different profiles of the quality of governance in Indonesia landed on my desk this week, prompting debate and consternation. The just-launched International Budget Partnership’s “2012 Open Budget Survey” painted an encouraging picture…