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Insights and Analysis

Leadership Development in the Asia-Pacific Region

September 2, 2009

By Katherine S. Hunter

Within a single week, the San Francisco headquarters of The Asia Foundation hosted 16 new Luce Scholars, a Congressional Fellow from Thailand, and two participants in the Young Diplomats Program from China’s Ministry of Foreign Affairs. These are recent examples of Asia Foundation programs contributing to leadership development in the Asia-Pacific region, particularly those with an international dimension. These programs build on the efforts of The Asia Foundation since its founding in 1954 to support leadership development in ways that contribute to institutional growth and professional capacities and enhanced understanding of critical issues in the Asia-Pacific region.

The 16 2009-2010 Luce Scholars – young American leaders on their way to Asia for a year in an Asian host organization – join more than 550 others who have benefitted from their year-long exposure to the work and social culture of countries in Northeast and Southeast Asia and who have assumed leadership positions in fields ranging from foreign affairs, health, the arts, women’s empowerment, law, economic development, and the environment. Among our past Luce Scholars, a program that has been implemented by the Foundation since 1974 with support from the Henry Luce Foundation, is Terry Adamson, Vice President of National Geographic and also a member of the Foundation’s Board of Trustees. The current Congressional Fellow is participating in a program organized by the American Political Science Association, through which he will spend a year working in the office of a Senator or Congress member in Washington, D.C. Among the many fellows supported in the past by The Asia Foundation is Surin Pitsuan, Secretary General of ASEAN, and also a member of The Asia Foundation’s Board of Trustees. Participants in the Young Diplomats Program – which started in 1980 – earn master’s degrees from Tufts University’s Fletcher School of Law and Diplomacy or Johns Hopkins University’s School of Advanced International Studies. Many have risen to prominence in China’s diplomatic service, including ministerial positions and ambassadorships.

Upcoming programs include a conference for participants in a six-year series of exchanges for emerging leaders from Southeast Asia and the U.S., to be held in Singapore in late September. The conference will focus on “Current Developments in Southeast Asia – Implications for the U.S. and Southeast Asia.”

The Asia Foundation also supports a number of mid-career fellowships for Asians, which provide an opportunity for broader exposure within the region and strengthening of networking relationships. Asia Foundation – Stanford University Asia-Pacific Research Center (APARC) Fellow Dennis Arroyo, director of National Planning in the Philippines’ National Economic Development Authority, focused on the political economy of successful reform in Asia. His successor, Sudarno Sumarto, executive director of Indonesia’s SMERU Research Institute, began his fellowship in August and will focus on poverty alleviation. Recipients of the William P. Fuller Fellowship in Conflict Resolution, from numerous countries in Asia, have focused on current conflict issues in their respective countries such as the Banda Aceh peace accord, Maoist insurgency in Nepal, appropriation of land in China, and the Mindanao conflict in the Philippines.

While the Foundation has a long history of supporting leadership development programs involving international exchange and study, the nature of the programs has evolved as Asia itself has changed. In the first decades after the Foundation’s founding, the majority of programs sent Asians to the U.S. for advanced degrees or institutional observation and study tours. In more recent years, the majority of programs are intra-Asia with Asian institutions serving as resources. Notable examples include support for Afghan government officials to visit counterpart institutions in India and Malaysia, and the Muslim religious leaders (or imams) from Bangladesh who visited Indonesia as part of the Bangladesh’s Leaders Outreach Initiative aiming to strengthen national development efforts.

The Asia Foundation’s international leadership development initiatives are complemented by significant support for in-country programs to support leadership development throughout the Asia-Pacific region.

Kim Hunter is The Asia Foundation’s Luce Scholars Coordinator. She can be reached at [email protected].


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InAsia is a bi-weekly in-depth, in-country resource for readers who want to stay abreast of significant events and issues shaping Asia’s development, hosted by The Asia Foundation. Drawing on the first-hand insight of renowned experts, InAsia delivers concentrated analysis on issues affecting each region of Asia, as well as Foundation-produced reports and polls.

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