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Insights and Analysis

A Letter from The Asia Foundation’s President and Chair As We Reflect on 2020

July 22, 2020

By David D. Arnold, Sunder Ramaswamy

In the sweep of The Asia Foundation’s 66-year history, 2020 stands out as a unique and challenging historical moment. As we release our latest annual report, the world is in the grips of the worst pandemic in more than a century. Amidst the grief of losing hundreds of thousands of victims worldwide to Covid-19, people everywhere are coping with the economic hardship of a global recession. Across the globe, we are also confronting stark reminders of the need for continued struggle to achieve the goals of racial equality and social justice.

Expanding legal aid programs in Laos

As daunting as this time may be, The Asia Foundation has surmounted seemingly intractable challenges before. The Foundation itself was created in the ashes of wars, disasters, and revolutions. The founders knew more would be coming and so established a durable, dynamic institution that would have the capability to address the critical issues facing Asia at any given time. Many of the places we work on the ground have, over time, been wracked by political convulsions, natural disasters, economic destruction, poverty, injustice, and conflict. But those experiencing these trials have shown remarkable resilience and determination, enduring hardships and working to achieve greater opportunities, human security, and a better quality of life, even in the face of great adversity. Covid-19 is a threatening, insidious pandemic, and Asian countries have already demonstrated remarkable leadership in their efforts to confront it.


Whether it’s expanding access to learning at home, helping women entrepreneurs keep their businesses afloat, combating rising domestic violence, or countering pandemic-related misinformation, the Foundation has responded quickly and flexibly to the needs on the ground.

Let’s Read is the Foundation’s free digital library for children.

As Asia has pivoted to counter Covid-19, so has The Asia Foundation. Working closely with our local partners, we quickly recalibrated our programs to address the social, economic, and public-health threats posed by the pandemic. Whether it’s expanding access to learning at home through Let’s Read, Asia’s first free digital library for children; helping women entrepreneurs market their products online and keep their businesses afloat; combating rising domestic violence due to protracted lockdowns; or countering pandemic-related misinformation, the Foundation has responded quickly and flexibly to the needs on the ground. This rapid response has been possible because of the understanding, commitment, and generosity of our donors, champions, and sponsors—both public and private. For your unstinting support, we are deeply grateful.

As we prepare for the post-Covid world, there is both a need and an opportunity to explore new areas of programming, different organizational models, and alternative ways of working. In fields as diverse as gender justice, community policing, environmental sustainability, conflict resolution, technology, and the future of work, we are eager to work with government, civil society, and private-sector partners to solve longstanding, increasingly urgent problems. In this spirit, the Foundation is thrilled to partner with ASEAN and on a new initiative to equip micro and small enterprises to bridge the digital divide as they confront Covid-19. Go Digital ASEAN is empowering 200,000 workers from rural and underserved communities, including youth and women, with digital literacy and online safety awareness to ensure they can compete in a rapidly changing economy.

With the ongoing support of donors and partners, we are committed to the continued fulfillment of The Asia Foundation’s mission of improving lives, expanding opportunities, and helping societies flourish.

David D. Arnold is president of The Asia Foundation, and Sunder Ramaswamy is chair of the board of trustees.


About our blog, InAsia

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.

InAsia is posted and distributed every other Wednesday evening, Pacific Time. If you have any questions, please send an email to [email protected].


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