The Asia Foundation Names Dr. Adam Burke Conflict and Fragility Director

San Francisco and Yangon, November 1, 2018 — The Asia Foundation announces the appointment of Dr. Adam Burke as director of the Conflict and Fragility program. Burke is a distinguished specialist in conflict, peacebuilding and development, and worked in conflict prevention efforts across Southeast and South Asia for nearly 20 years. As director, Burke will oversee a program that works to strengthen and enhance access to formal and informal institutions that can help resolve disputes, reduce grievances, advance social justice, address the root causes of conflict and violence, and reduce the risk of fragility in the region.

Burke recently served as lead researcher and author of The Asia Foundation’s 2017 report, Contested Areas of Myanmar: Subnational Conflict, Aid and Development. Other notable assignments for the Foundation include an independent evaluation of programs in conflict-affected areas in southern Thailand and an analysis of the development trajectory of Malaysia and Thailand as Advanced Middle-Income Countries.

Burke has undertaken a variety of projects for the United Kingdom, the United Nations, the World Bank, Asian Development Bank, and the Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development. His most recent assignments have been an assessment for the ADB on the risks associated with reconstruction following the 2017 siege of Marawi, Mindanao; and context analysis for the UN in support of efforts to counter communal violence in Sri Lanka. He has also researched approaches to political risk in East Asia for the World Bank; given technical guidance on DFID’s peacebuilding strategy in Nepal; and provided technical support to the UK Government for the development of a post-conflict reconstruction and stabilization strategy for Pakistan.

Since 2014, Burke has focused attention on subnational conflicts in Myanmar, including a role as the conflict adviser to the $400 million, multi-donor funded Livelihoods and Food Security Trust Fund (LIFT); conflict assessment of World Bank community-driven development initiatives; and scenario planning in Rakhine State for a coordinating group of UN heads of agency. Burke holds an honors undergraduate degree from the University of Oxford and two graduate degrees from the University of London School for Oriental and Asian Studies (SOAS)—a master’s degree in the Anthropology of Development and doctoral degree in Development Studies focused on Thailand’s southern conflict.

The Asia Foundation is a nonprofit international development organization committed to improving lives across a dynamic and developing Asia. Informed by six decades of experience and deep local expertise, our programs address critical issues affecting Asia in the 21st century—governance and law, economic development, women’s empowerment, environment, and regional cooperation.

Read more about the Foundation’s work in Conflict and Fragility.

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Women Authors and Illustrators Create Inspiring Storybooks for Girls in Indonesia

Asia Foundation, Litara Foundation, The Estée Lauder Companies host Jakarta BookLab

Jakarta, November 1, 2018 — Women authors and illustrators are creating children’s books in Bahasa Indonesia with an emphasis on gender equality and dynamic female characters as a part of The Asia Foundation’s Books for Asia Let’s Read! initiative in Indonesia. The two-day book creation event, or BookLab, kicked off the inspiring women and girls empowerment campaign, “Women into Authors, Authors into Change Agents.” Held at the Jakarta Public Library, the October 31 to November 1 event was made possible by the expertise of the Litara Foundation and support by The Estée Lauder Companies.
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In Jakarta, the two-day BookLab event brought together 25 first-time writers, illustrators, and established children’s book authors from as far away as Sorong, Tulungagung, and Makassar and locally in Jakarta, Yogyakarta, and Bandung to create original, illustrated children’s storybooks. The participants at the BookLab event were selected from more than 130 applicants across Indonesia.

Let’s Read! uses an ecosystem approach to address book scarcity in local languages and demonstrate the power of reading to change the trajectory of children’s lives. “These activities are designed to encourage families and communities to share the inspiring experience of becoming lost in a story and developing a love of reading,” said Aryastyani Sintadewi, manager of the Let’s Read! initiative in Indonesia.

The BookLab is the first of three project phases focused on encouraging reading in Indonesia. In this first phase, participants work with editors at Litara to refine the narratives and illustrations of original new children’s storybooks. In the second and third stages, culminating on Indonesia’s Children’s Day in July 2019, community reading advocates will be trained to encourage women across the country to participate in Indonesia’s Read to Children movement.

Many of the books developed at the Jakarta’s BookLab will be published on the Let’s Read! digital library, Asia’s free digital library for children. Let’s Read! has advanced the skills of more than 600 writers, illustrators and volunteer translators across Asia, and worked with them to produce culturally appropriate and relevant books, including many that challenge gender stereotypes. Nearly 1,500 compelling children’s books are available on the Let’s Read! digital library and on the Let’s Read! Android app on Google Play.

The Let’s Read! initiative draws on The Asia Foundation’s in-country capabilities, local partnerships, and technological expertise to empower communities to create, translate, and share high-quality and richly illustrated children’s books across Asia. Since 1954, The Asia Foundation’s Books for Asia program has donated over 52 million print books to thousands of under-resourced educational institutions in 28 Asian countries, including over 2.8 million books in Indonesia.

Read more information about the Let’s Read! initiative.

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The Asia Foundation Releases New Edition of State and Region Governments in Myanmar Report

Decentralization critical for building a more accountable, responsive, and participatory Myanmar

Yangon, November 1, 2018 — The Asia Foundation released a new edition of its flagship State and Region Governments in Myanmar report in a launch event in Yangon today. State and region governments that are accountable, participatory, and responsive can give people more power and influence, according to the new publication. The 2018 report provides updates on the structures and functions of subnational governance in Myanmar and identifies the key political, administrative, and fiscal opportunities and challenges presented by decentralization.

Myanmar’s 14 state and region governments are taking on more responsibility. State/region governments increasingly shape the role and perceptions of the Myanmar state as they broaden their range of activities and manage a significant proportion of government expenditure. In fiscal year 2017/18, state/region governments were responsible for expenditure totaling over USD 1.8 billion (MMK 2.5 trillion).

“Since 2013, state and region governments have emerged as important actors in Myanmar’s transition,” said Matthew Arnold, The Asia Foundation’s country representative in Myanmar at the report launch. “But decentralization overall remains limited and somewhat imbalanced. Nonetheless, state [and] region governments still represent important changes for the country in terms of democratization and improved governance. This new report intends to support a stronger policy debate about decentralization in the country.”

The report reveals a number of key findings about decentralization in Myanmar:

  • Overall, however, decentralization in Myanmar remains limited and imbalanced: administrative and fiscal decentralization lag behind political decentralization.
  • The underlying institutions, systems, and laws governing the framework for decentralization in Myanmar have not been radically altered in the last five years.
  • There are key differences among states and regions in the paces and form of decentralization. In some areas, such as Yangon and Rakhine, hluttaws have been more active in holding the executive to account, for example. When comparing different sectors and departments, the municipal sector is characterized by much greater decentralization than others.

Further decentralization is being driven by some overarching trends:

  1. State/region governments are increasingly involved in a broader range of activities within their respective areas.
  2. State/region departments are increasingly accountable to the state/region governments. 
  3. State/region hluttaws are increasingly assertive in holding the executive to account and representing their constituents.
  4. A township governance system, starting from a low base, is being steadily encouraged to respond to the needs of local populations, though further progress is needed.

“Over the past five years Myanmar’s state and region governments have demonstrated that they matter and that they can play a critical role in supporting Myanmar’s democratization,” said Richard Batcheler, The Asia Foundation’s governance research manager and lead author of the report. “This importance will only continue to grow in the coming years.”

The Asia Foundation’s work on strengthening subnational governance in Myanmar is supported by UK Government Aid, Australia’s Department of Foreign Affairs and Trade, and the Swiss Agency for Development and Cooperation.

Read more about the Foundation’s work.

The Asia Foundation is a nonprofit international development organization committed to improving lives across a dynamic and developing Asia. Informed by six decades of experience and deep local expertise, our work across the region addresses five overarching goals—strengthen governance, empower women, expand economic opportunity, increase environmental resilience, and promote regional cooperation.
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The Asia Foundation Signs MOU to Enhance School Libraries with Cambodia’s Government

Phnom Penh, October 26, 2018 — Today, The Asia Foundation signed a Memorandum of Understanding with Cambodia’s Ministry of Education, Youth and Sport (MoEYS), and Kampuchean Action for Primary Education (KAPE) to implement the Books for Cambodia program. Over the next five years, the program will distribute high-quality English storybooks and educational resource books to 1,000 under-resourced schools across all 25 provinces of Cambodia.

The Books for Cambodia program is expected to reach 300,000 students and teachers across the country. One-quarter to half a million books will be distributed to lower secondary schools designated by the MoEYS.

“[Through this Books for Cambodia program,] support to these school libraries will encourage [students] to read and learn English.” says Minister of Education Hang Chuon Naron. “In Cambodia, students start learning English in fourth grade. This will help them increase their skills.”

With a long-term goal of improving access to information, this collaboration with The Asia Foundation and KAPE is part of a concerted effort by the Ministry to strengthen its curriculum development and improve the reading culture in Cambodia.

Since 1954, The Asia Foundation’s Books for Asia program has donated print books to thousands of under-resourced educational institutions in 21 Asian countries. While print remains the most effective means of delivering information in many parts of the developing world, mobile technology’s increasing affordability suggests e-books hold the promise of becoming a cost-effective, scalable model.

The Asia Foundation is a nonprofit international development organization committed to improving lives across a dynamic and developing Asia. Informed by six decades of experience and deep local expertise, our work across the region addresses five overarching goals—strengthen governance, empower women, expand economic opportunity, increase environmental resilience, and promote regional cooperation.

Read more about the Foundation’s work.

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The Asia Foundation’s Migrant Women Program in China Selected for Moody’s Reshape Tomorrow Initiative

October 25, 2018 — The Asia Foundation today announced its selection on Moody’s Corporation’s inaugural list of partners for Reshape Tomorrow™, an innovative, global program to help owners of small and growing businesses overcome the challenges of expanding their enterprises. The selected Asia Foundation program, “Accelerate Women’s Entrepreneurship: Supporting Migrant Women-Owned Businesses,” is a Shanghai-based program helping migrant women grow their businesses through a tailored training program of coaching and networking.

The Asia Foundation is one of six partner organizations and programs, supported by grants from Moody’s Foundation, that focus on empowering entrepreneurs—especially women and members of untapped communities—by helping to provide the expertise and tools needed to navigate the credit process and thrive. Over 50 organizations from around the world applied to participate in the program, which is a key part of Moody’s global Corporate Social Responsibility (CSR) initiative.

“Moody’s is proud to partner with these innovative organizations as the core of Reshape Tomorrow™. Together, we aim to empower owners of small and growing businesses with the knowledge, resources and confidence they need to create a better future,” said Arlene Isaacs-Lowe, Global Head of CSR at Moody’s. “We believe these programs can make a real impact on the lives of entrepreneurs seeking to build a more prosperous future for themselves and their communities.”

“We are honored to join with Moody’s in accelerating women’s entrepreneurship by supporting migrant women owned businesses in China with an intensive, 2 year program focused on providing them with upgraded skills and resources to grow their businesses—in particular, to access credit and capital—through financial and entrepreneurship education and skills training, networking, and business coaching,” said David D. Arnold, president and CEO of The Asia Foundation.

The Asia Foundation is a nonprofit international development organization committed to improving lives across a dynamic and developing Asia. Informed by six decades of experience and deep local expertise, our work across the region addresses five overarching goals—strengthen governance, empower women, expand economic opportunity, increase environmental resilience, and promote regional cooperation.

Read more about the Foundation’s  work.

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Asia Foundation and Asian Development Bank Launch Publication on Women’s Entrepreneurship in Asia and the Pacific

Washington, D.C., October 18, 2018 — Today, The Asia Foundation and the Asian Development Bank (ADB) released a new publication, Emerging Lessons on Women’s Entrepreneurship in Asia and the Pacific: Case Studies from the Asian Development Bank and The Asia Foundation. The joint undertaking explores the most pressing challenges women entrepreneurs face in the region and includes compelling case studies and key recommendations for contributing to an enabling environment for women entrepreneurs. The report is a guide for governments, development partners, nongovernment organizations (NGOs), and the private sector for supporting women entrepreneurs through gender-responsive, evidence-based investments and strategies.

Women’s entrepreneurship is increasingly understood to be a key driver of economic growth and job creation: an estimated $4.5 trillion could be added to Asia and the Pacific’s GDP by 2025 by closing gender disparities in economic opportunities. Widely recognized as a key component of women’s economic empowerment, entrepreneurship has the potential to contribute significantly to advancing women’s rights, opportunities, and influence.

As two organizations with a history of supporting women entrepreneurs in Asia, The Asia Foundation and the Asian Development Bank have published this report to leverage both organizations’ complementary areas of expertise to make evidence-based policy and program recommendations for strengthening support for women entrepreneurs. The new report is comprised of three parts. The first focuses on the key barriers that women in Asia and the Pacific face when trying to establish or grow a business; the second presents case studies of projects supported by the ADB and The Asia Foundation in various countries throughout the region; and the third proposes eight areas for further research on women’s entrepreneurship.

The four Asia Foundation case studies in the report illustrate promising strategies for fostering women’s entrepreneurship through targeted investments in local groups and institutions. A program in China offers an example of how existing technology can be leveraged to create new networks of women entrepreneurs and provide in-demand training for online business ventures. Mongolia’s only business incubator for women demonstrates the potential for sustained, multifaceted ways to help aspiring women entrepreneurs become successful businesswomen. A project in Vietnam is demystifying digital financial services and helping women entrepreneurs in rural areas use mobile banking to start and grow their businesses. Finally, a case study from Bangladesh shows that an essential component of project design is the collection of local-level data to provide a nuanced understanding of the social context in which women entrepreneurs operate.

The Asia Foundation is a nonprofit international development organization committed to improving lives across a dynamic and developing Asia. Informed by six decades of experience and deep local expertise, our work across the region addresses five overarching goals—strengthen governance, empower women, expand economic opportunity, increase environmental resilience, and promote regional cooperation.

Read more about the Foundation’s work and our Women’s Empowerment program

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The Asia Foundation Releases Report on Emerging Internet Technologies and Policy in the Philippines

Manila, October 17, 2018 — The Asia Foundation and the Better Broadband Alliance released a new report, From Analog to Digital: Philippine Policy and Emerging Internet Technologies, in support of a more digital-friendly policy environment in the Philippines. In an increasingly digitizing world, the country’s existing policy framework has not changed much since 1995 and continues to be based primarily on analog-era and landline technology instead of digital technology. The report identifies the most promising technologies to improve Internet access, quality, and affordability in the Philippines; and includes recommendations for creating a policy and regulatory framework more hospitable to emerging technologies.

Internet is widely recognized as a key driver of economic growth and equal access to information, yet 45% of the Philippines’ 103 million remain unconnected to the internet. In the wealthier, more densely populated urban areas connectivity is relatively better, but a large portion of the Philippine poor live on islands across the archipelago of 7,107 islands – often with limited electricity. Fixed broadband service costs consumers 7.1% of gross national income per capita per month – well above the 5% affordability threshold recommended by the International Telecommunications Union.

The report explores emerging internet technologies beyond those traditionally used for Internet connectivity in the Philippines, especially those that may benefit the unserved and underserved areas. Comprehensive research was conducted on a wide range of emerging Internet technologies. Based on the assessment, three technologies seem appropriate and feasible for the Philippines: (1) Fiber to the Premises with Gigabit Passive Optical Network (2) Fixed mobile substitution with 5G, and (3) Low earth orbit satellite networks. The report seeks to initiate the discussion on possible technologies and does not intend to endorse any particular technology for adoption in the country.

The rise of emerging internet technologies—with the promise to bridge the digital divide—can provide the much-needed impetus for reforming the Philippines’ policy and regulatory environment to bring it to the digital age. However, government agencies, regulators, and Internet service providers interested in introducing new digital technologies are forced to operate in an analog-era policy environment.

The report examines six specific reforms to enable Internet service providers to deploy emerging technologies that can significantly improve access, quality, and cost of Philippine internet service. These are (1) reclassification of data service to distinguish them from basic telecommunications; (2) removal of the requirements to install landlines for entry into the telecommunications and broadband markets; (3) relaxation of restrictions on foreign ownership to encourage more investment and foster competition; (4) introduction of standards and harmonized rules for communications and broadband infrastructure; (5) adoption of spectrum management reforms; (6) enhancement of the regulatory environment.

Read the report here.

The Asia Foundation’s programs in the Philippines promote better governance to support economic growth, strengthen the rule of law, and foster peace and development in Mindanao. Building on its wide network of partners, the Foundation is helping government, local NGOs, and the private sector to strengthen democratic institutions and create sustainable economic growth.

The Asia Foundation is a nonprofit international development organization committed to improving lives across a dynamic and developing Asia. Informed by six decades of experience and deep local expertise, our work across the region addresses five overarching goals—strengthen governance, empower women, expand economic opportunity, increase environmental resilience, and promote regional cooperation.

Read more about the Foundation’s work

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Asia Foundation Appoints Nandita Baruah Country Representative for India

San Francisco and New Delhi, October 8, 2018 — The Asia Foundation announces the appointment of Nandita Baruah as country representative in India. She served most recently as the Foundation’s deputy country representative and acting country representative in Nepal. With over 25 years of experience working in the development sector in Asia, including 10 years throughout rural and urban India, Baruah’s extensive knowledge of the country’s socio-cultural and political realities will sustain and expand the Foundation’s work in India.

In India, Baruah oversees a range of programs and regional initiatives supporting South-South cooperation on regional trade, water governance, renewable energy, promote gender equity and social inclusion by addressing social and economic empowerment, as well as facilitating India’s engagement in regional and global affairs.

Nandita Baruah has served in senior technical and management positions with INGOs and bilateral and multilateral agencies where she managed country specific and multi-country regional programs, including in India. Significant past positions include serving as the UNODC South Asia coordinator for the UN Global Initiative To Fight Trafficking (UN.GIFT); senior regional advisor on Anti-Trafficking and Equity Programs at USAID in New Delhi; regional program coordinator for the gender-based violence and anti-trafficking programs of UNIFEM/UNWomen; and gender advisor for Canadian International Development Agency in India.

In 2008, she joined The Asia Foundation as chief of party for a USAID-funded counter-trafficking in persons (CTIP) project in Cambodia, and after successful completion of the program in Cambodia she moved to the Foundation’s Nepal office in 2011 as chief of party for the CTIP program in Nepal.

Among her many honors, in 2010, Baruah was awarded the Prime Minister’s Gold Medal by the Royal Government of Cambodia for providing technical expertise in support of the creation of victim protection policies and practices. In 2015, she received an Asia Foundation Presidential Award in recognition of her leadership during the aftermath of the Nepal earthquakes.

Nandita Baruah holds master’s degrees in Political Economy and Modern Indian Historical Studies, from Jawaharlal Nehru University, India.

The Asia Foundation is a nonprofit international development organization committed to improving lives across a dynamic and developing Asia. Informed by six decades of experience and deep local expertise, our programs address critical issues affecting Asia in the 21st century—governance and law, economic development, women’s empowerment, environment, and regional cooperation.

Read more about the Foundation’s work in India.

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The Asia Foundation Signs Green Economy MOU with Cambodia’s Ministry of Environment

Phnom Penh, October 4, 2018 — Today, The Asia Foundation and Cambodia’s General Secretariat of the National Council for Sustainable Development (GSSD) signed a Memorandum of Understanding (MOU) on Collaboration and Capacity Building on Green Economy. The objective of the MOU is to strengthen, promote, and develop cooperation in solar energy, solid waste management, and other policy needs to support sustainable development and the Kingdom of Cambodia’s green economy.

Over the next two years, the General Secretariat of the National Council for Sustainable Development and The Asia Foundation will work together on developing human capacity through training and providing fellowship opportunities to Ministry staff regarding green growth. This partnership will also establish a dedicated co-working space to advance policy research and innovative, environmentally-conscious efforts in support of the Royal Government of Cambodia’s sustainable development goals.

Meloney Lindberg, The Asia Foundation’s country representative in Cambodia said, “I look forward to cooperating with The General Secretariat of the National Council for Sustainable Development to pilot practical and innovative solutions to advance Cambodia’s green development policies and plans.”

GSSD and The Asia Foundation will explore off-grid solar energy for underserved and unreached communities, and urban, solid-waste management as potential program areas. H.E Sao Sopheap, secretary of State of the Ministry of Environment and the representative of the National Council for Sustainable Development (NCSD) remarked that “GSSD cooperates with The Asia Foundation to pledge the promotion of sustainable development for supporting capacity strengthening, clean energy business initiatives, and green economy development aligning with the Royal Government of Cambodia’s strategy in advancing sustainable development and green economy in the Kingdom of Cambodia.”

The NCSD was established in 2015 and consists of 62 high-level representatives (secretaries and under-secretaries of State) from relevant government ministries and agencies. The prime minister serves as honorary chair, and the minister of Environment serves as chair. GSSD coordinates and implements NCSD’s daily operations by supporting the development of legal documents, policies, strategic plans, action plans, programs, and projects related to sustainable development. NCSD focuses on promoting green economy, climate change response, biodiversity conservation, and science and green technology.

The Asia Foundation is a nonprofit international development organization committed to improving lives across a dynamic and developing Asia. Informed by six decades of experience and deep local expertise, our work across the region addresses five overarching goals—strengthen governance, empower women, expand economic opportunity, increase environmental resilience, and promote regional cooperation.

Read more about the Foundation’s work.

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The Asia Foundation Names Dr. Nicola Nixon Director of Governance

San Francisco, October 3, 2018 — The Asia Foundation announces the appointment of Dr. Nicola Nixon as its new director of Governance. With 20 years of experience in international development and academia, Nixon will lead the Foundation’s governance programs across the 18 countries and three sub-regions of Asia in which it works. Nixon brings to the Foundation a depth of expertise in governance and the governance dimensions of poverty reduction, social development, gender and public sector reform from having worked with Australian DFAT, UNDP, and a range of INGOs, multilateral and bilateral agencies in diverse environments, including Australia, Albania, Bosnia and Herzegovina, and Indonesia.

The Asia Foundation’s programs are informed by political economy analysis and other analytical tools that are grounded in its hallmark governance approach, including those informed by the Thinking and Working Politically (TWP) community of practice. Nixon is an active member of TWP and is engaged in several dialogues on approaches to adaptive management in aid programming. Her technical governance experience includes leading and overseeing large governance programs and facilities with workstreams in public financial management, bureaucratic reform, public policy development, women’s leadership, and decentralization.

Nixon joins The Asia Foundation from Australian DFAT, where she served as the Canberra-based director of DFAT’s Law and Justice section. In this capacity, she led a diverse regional program portfolio that included law and justice, legal reform, anti-corruption and community-driven development initiatives and work on countering violent extremism, undertaken in collaboration with UN agencies, research thinks tanks, and other partners.

Previously, from 2014 to 2018, Nixon served as DFAT’s Jakarta-based counsellor for Poverty and Social Development, with responsibility for a portfolio of programs that included large-scale, multi-year programs in governance, gender, poverty reduction, equality, and social development. Nixon also served in other Canberra-based director positions, providing advice, training staff and developing policy in areas such as Fragility and Conflict, project-cycle management, Program Design, Theory of Change and Capacity Development.

Prior to joining DFAT, Nixon served as UNDP’s senior social policy advisor, and later head of Research and Development in Bosnia and Herzegovina.

Nixon’s international development career was preceded by a series of academic appointments. These included senior lecturer and acting dean of Humanities at the State University of New York (SUNY) Tirana in Albania, and International Scholar with the Open Society Institute’s Higher Education Support Program in Albania.

Nixon holds a doctor of philosophy degree in History and Social Theory from the University of Melbourne, an Honors Degree in Comparative Sociology and bachelor’s degree in Philosophy and Sociology from Monash University.

Nixon will begin her new assignment from her present base in Canberra, then shift to Hanoi in early January 2019.

The Asia Foundation is a nonprofit international development organization committed to improving lives across a dynamic and developing Asia. Informed by six decades of experience and deep local expertise, our work across the region addresses five overarching goals—strengthen governance, empower women, expand economic opportunity, increase environmental resilience, and promote regional cooperation.

Read more about the Foundation’s work.

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