Will North Korea Denuclearize?

Will North Korea Denuclearize?

Event: Thursday, September 12, 2019, Berkeley, CA

4:30 pm – 6:00 pm 
U.C. Berkeley Campus, Doe Library, Room 180

Han Sung-Joo, former Asia Foundation grantee, ambassador to the United States and Korean foreign minister will speak at The University of California, Berkeley’s Institute of East Asia Studies on September 12.

After the failure of Hanoi U.S.-North Korea summit held in February this year, the impasse between the two countries seemed irreversible. Washington wanted a “big deal” on North Korean nuclear weapons; Pyongyang insisted on a “small deal” first.

President Trump said after the break-up that North Korea wanted too much (“complete lifting” of sanctions) and offered too little (only dismantling Yongbyon nuclear facilities). In response, North Korea charged the United States acted like a rogue asking for everything and not offering much. Then, the two leaders met again for the third time at Panmunjom on June 30th and agreed to hold working level meetings to resolve the differences. So what is likely to happen now?

There is a good possibility of North Korea and the United States reaching a compromise agreement that looks like a big deal and that includes the first installment of a smaller deal. Why is such a compromise deal a likely outcome? If the deal is made, will it denuclearize North Korea? What is the implication of such a deal for the security situation in the Korean Peninsula? Please join us for this lively discussion.

Click here for more information.

Co-sponsored with the Center for Korean Studies & the Institute of East Asian Studies.

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Southeast Asia’s Fisheries Near Collapse from Overfishing

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Weekly Insights and Analysis

Southeast Asia’s Fisheries Near Collapse from Overfishing

March 28, 2018

By Kim J. DeRidder, Santi Nindang

Approximately 12 percent of the world’s population relies upon fisheries and aquaculture for their livelihood, and over half of the world’s people get a significant source of their animal protein from fish and seafood. In Southeast Asia, this proportion is significantly higher. The region’s seas not only serve as a major source of food and livelihood for hundreds of millions of people, they generate several billion dollars in GDP for the region.

Fisheries Southeast Asia

People collect dried shrimp which have been drying in the sun along the coast of Makassar, Indonesia. Millions of people in Southeast Asia rely on fish and seafood for protein. Photo/Conor Ashleigh

Southeast Asia has one of the most diverse marine ecosystems in the world, but overfishing and destructive fishing threaten its sustained existence. Across the region, 64 percent of the fisheries’ resource base is at a medium to high risk from overfishing, with Cambodia and the Philippines among the most heavily affected. Common methods of destructive fishing include poison fishing, which has become a pervasive commercial fishing method for live reef fish, using sodium cyanide to stun fish and make them easier to capture. Another method is blast fishing, which uses dynamite or grenades to indiscriminately kill fish in the immediate vicinity by rupturing their internal organs. While both practices are illegal in most Southeast Asian countries, they are still widely used where enforcement is limited. Bottom trawling is another destructive practice that uses “rockhopper” trawl nets that are dragged over any surface, causing extensive reef destruction. Ghost fishing is the term given to abandoned fishing gear which continues to float in the ocean, killing fish, dolphins, whales, turtles, and other creatures that become hooked or ensnared. These destructive practices severely threaten more than half of Southeast Asia’s coral reefs. Threats are particularly acute in the Spratly and Paracel Islands, where disputed resource rights have led to even more unregulated fishing.

Indonesia Fishery

A de-finned shark for sale at the port in Makassar, South Sulawesi. Indonesia, the 4th longest coastline country in the world, is the largest fishing nation in Southeast Asia, Fishing is a crucial part of the local economy. Photo/Conor Ashleigh

Much of the overfishing and destructive fishing in Southeast Asia is attributable to illegal, unreported, and unregulated fishing (IUU). IUU fishing occurs region-wide, with violators ranging from small-scale local fishermen to large-scale enterprises conducted on commercial fishing trawlers. There are many drivers for IUU fishing in the region, not the least of which is that demand now appears to exceed supply. Operationally, the main issue is weak fishing regulations among the region’s many countries, together with a lack of cooperation on management among these countries.

Fishermen unload a fishing net off the coast of Krabi, Thailand. Overfishing and destructive fishing has threatened Southeast Asia’s fisheries. Photo/Flickr user Alex Berger

There is also a significant lack of science-based knowledge about the region’s marine ecosystems to inform policies that would lead to the establishment of sound models for fisheries management, as well as insufficient focus on cultivating alternatives to wild catch fisheries, such as sea-farming and inland freshwater aquaculture.

As competition for remaining fish stocks grows fiercer, some experts warn that the region’s entire fisheries industry will soon collapse. Estimates suggest that in order to prevent this, all countries fishing in the region would need to cease all destructive fishing practices and reduce harvest by nearly 50 percent.

Despite widespread recognition that the region’s fishery resources are severely threatened, coordination among countries over the management, and information regarding the extent and nature of threats, remains limited. On March 13-14, The Asia Foundation, in cooperation with the U.S. Department of State, the Royal Thai Government and the People’s Republic of China, convened 80 experts—diplomats, scientists, activists, entrepreneurs, and civil society organizations—from over 20 countries throughout the Asia-Pacific region, for an ASEAN Regional Forum (ARF) in Bangkok to discuss a regional assessment of fisheries management and determine concrete ways for countries to urgently cooperate and exchange best practices to better ensure food security in Southeast Asia.

In particular, the two-day workshop explored opportunities to collaborate, including legal frameworks and institutions to improve shared management as well as to combat IUU fishing; promoting information-sharing and collaborative scientific platforms as a basis for the development of sound domestic and regional policies; strengthening ASEAN interoperability in the fisheries sector; country-level initiatives on sustainable fisheries management including aquaculture management; and emerging new technologies to support sustainable fisheries management.

Among the key messages drawn from the two-day meeting, political will topped the list. In order to seriously address the threats to sustainable fisheries management in Southeast Asia, it is necessary for government leaders and non-government actors to exercise the political will necessary for countries to move away from business-as-usual practice to new, sustainable patterns of fisheries management. Within this context, participants recommended the following priorities:

  • Inclusive and synchronized legal frameworks to regulate fisheries policies across the region. Southeast Asian countries need to coordinate in the legal field and share best practices such as how to manage the requirement for sustainable fishing practices in other countries. Countries that already have their own national plans of action for IUU fishing can harmonize these plans into common regional practice. Overlapping maritime jurisdictions should be treated as a priority concern as jurisdictional disputes create obstacles for regional cooperation necessary to establish the framework for building sustainable fishing in the region.
  • Regional cooperation on enforcement needs to be dramatically enhanced to address IUU fishing and improve overall sustainable fisheries management. More often than not, IUU fishing and crimes committed in the fishing industry are transnational and highly organized. Joint monitoring, surveillance and control, and subsequent investigation initiatives are pivotal to uphold sustainability of resources while preserving the sovereignty of each country.
  • Information-sharing between agencies involved in fisheries management within a country and between countries is critical to improving sustainable fisheries management. Further assessments pertaining to short-falls in country-level implementation and technical capacity are needed to develop effective capacity-building programs that address identified gaps and create accountable departments and reliable networks across the region.
  • Expansion of sustainable aquaculture within the region can help reduce pressures on natural fish stocks and should be actively promoted. Sea-farming can be especially helpful to small-scale fishery communities looking to shift into a more stable (and sustainable) livelihood, while expansion of freshwater aquaculture in inland farming communities can concurrently increase fish supplies sustainably.
  • Ongoing dialogue on sustainable fisheries management in Southeast Asia is needed to develop concrete action steps for countries to adopt and enact. Participants agreed to continue to explore opportunities for collaboration at the policy and technical levels and to contribute to the identification of concrete goals, milestones, and next steps for sustainable fisheries management.

Perhaps the most urgent takeaway was that at current trends, time is short, and the region must work collaboratively to achieve sustainable management of the region’s precious fisheries.

Kim DeRidder, who delivered welcoming remarks at the ASEAN Regional Forum event, is director of The Asia Foundation’s Environment program. Santi Nindang is a program officer for the Foundation in Thailand. The views and opinions expressed here are those of the authors and not those of The Asia Foundation or its funders.

About our blog, InAsia

InAsia is a 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 over 70 renowned experts in over 20 countries, 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 Wednesday evening, Pacific Time and is accessible via email and RSS. If you have any questions, please send an email to editor.inasia@asiafoundation.org.

Contact

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Mobilizing Changemakers for our Sustainable Future

Meet Akshat Singhal and Sohara Mehroze, two of our 2019 Asia Foundation Development Fellows.

Mobilizing Changemakers for our Sustainable Future

In Afghanistan, Gender Not Always Indicator of Support for Women’s Rights

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Weekly Insights and Analysis

In Afghanistan, Gender Not Always Indicator of Support for Women’s Rights

December 13, 2017

By Tabasum Akseer and Fahim Ahmad Yousufzai

During a meeting last week with female lawmakers on the role of women in state-building and government, Afghan President Ashraf Ghani declared that “discrimination against women is not our culture.” 

There is a robust relationship between the strength of democracy, gender equality, and security. This relationship is implicit in the National Unity Government (NUG) efforts to strengthen the rights of Afghanistan’s women. Since the ousting of the Taliban in 2001, and the adoption of the Afghan constitution in 2004, many gains have been made in public attitudes toward women’s role in politics and leadership. More than 78,000 women have been appointed to government positions since 2001, and over 8,000 women currently hold government offices. However, many areas of progress for women have stagnated. The reality today is that Afghanistan continues to be one of the most dangerous countries in the world for women.

When Afghan women are asked what their two most significant challenges are, those who are able to articulate a response identify education, domestic violence, unemployment, lack of rights, and forced marriage.

The stagnation can in large part be attributed to hardline conservative attitudes toward women still entrenched from the Taliban era. The Asia Foundation’s recent Survey of the Afghan People, the longest-running and broadest nationwide survey of Afghan attitudes and opinion, confirms the continued presence of conservative cultural attitudes across society, among both men and women. 

In terms of advancement of women’s rights, it is not surprising that in many instances, women are significantly more supportive of women’s equality and basic rights than men. For example, despite being more fearful to engage in peaceful demonstrations (37% female, 25% male), to travel to another part of the country (38% women, 32% men), and vote in an election (15% women, 12% men), female respondents continue to have stronger support of women’s rights, such as their independence in voting (63% women, 57% men). 

And in a sample size where 66 percent of women have no formal schooling (compared to 35% of men), women are more supportive of equal opportunities to education at all levels than men; Islamic madrasa (3 percentage points higher than men), primary school (2 percentage points), high school (7 percentage points), university in province (11 percentage points), university outside of province (7 percentage points), and studying abroad on a scholarship (9 percentage points). 

When Afghan women are asked what their two most significant challenges are, those who are able to articulate a response identify education (38%), domestic violence (22%), unemployment (22%), lack of rights (21%), and forced marriage (15%). The latter finding forced marriage as the most significant challenge is interesting as it refers to harmful cultural practices that are often imposed on Afghan women. Forced marriages are a part of the practice of baad and baddal. Baad is the traditional practice of giving away a daughter to another party as a penalty or payment to settle a debt or resolve a dispute, grievance, or conflict between families. Baddal refers to the exchange of daughters in marriage between families. Both practices are often, but not always, a form of forced marriage. 

Fortunately, support for these practices continues to decline among both men and women in Afghanistan. In reviewing these findings, one would assume gender differences in support of the practices, with women overwhelmingly supportive of women’s rights in general. Since more women highlight forced marriage (15%) as a challenge than do men (9%), the assumption that more women would be against this practice is a valid one. Yet this is not the case. According to survey data, the level of agreement for both practices is almost the same among men and women. 

The survey reveals other paradoxical findings. When asked whether it’s acceptable for women to work outside the home, 72 percent of respondents agree women should be allowed to work outside the home. This represents a substantially higher percentage of women than men who agree with women working outside the home (81% and 64%, respectively). Looking at the 26 percent who disagree with women working outside the home, the most commonly cited reasons are: uncertain conditions (24%), that it’s against Islamic law (19%), they are not needed outside the home (12%), bad security (12%), the family doesn’t allow it (9%), don’t know (6%), it prevents moral corruption (4%), and that women should not work alongside men (4%). 

Nearly twice as many men as women (23% vs. 12%) believe women working outside the home is against Islamic law. Surprisingly, at the same time, 9 percent of female respondents say   women should not work alongside men, compared to 1 percent of male respondents. Whether women are concerned about workplace discrimination or morality, it is unclear from the data. However, as global outrage over harassment mounts, a few brave women have recently spoken out about sexual harassment in the workplace. The #MeToo movement inspired by women across the globe has salience with female Afghan journalists who promise to “leave no sister behind” by highlighting the experiences of women and girls entrapped by abuse and gender-based violence. 

Yet, this sisterhood of support for one another is unique and inconsistent. Early on in this blog we suggest women are at the forefront of support for gender equality. With this in mind, if we gender disaggregate the 26 percent of Afghans who do not agree women should work outside of the home, we see 67 percent are men, and, interestingly, 33 percent are women. A deeper dive into this data reveals women who don’t support women working outside the home are more likely to:

  • be uneducated (20%) or have only 1-6 years of formal schooling (20%);
  • be sympathetic to the Taliban (25%);
  • say religious leaders should be involved in politics (67%)
  • be married (17%);
  • live in rural areas (19%);
  • report not having a skill or activity to generate money (17%); and
  • use radio (20%), community shuras (19%), and mosques (17%) for obtaining news or information.

We can compare this to overall factors that predict support for women’s rights at the national level; the survey finds Afghans who support women’s rights, are more likely to be: educated, urban dwellers, feel safe participating in socio-political activities, have access to media, and report that politics and religion should not be mixed. Most importantly, they are more likely to be women and less sympathetic to the conservative Taliban. 

These findings demonstrate the complexity of support for women’s rights in Afghanistan. They interrogate the assumption that gender is an indicator of women’s rights, and make inferences to how deeply engrained cultural practices are for certain Afghan women. The Survey shows that one in four Afghan women are unable to even articulate what their biggest problem is, and when they do, more women than men cite forced marriage. But when looking at specific cultural practices that condone forced marriage, women are unable to identify the very same practices as being harmful to women. 

Clearly, a more complex analysis is required when looking at Afghan women’s support for cultural practices. As Afghanistan’s government works toward ending discrimination and advancing women’s equality, this data is important in ensuring informed decision-making for the country’s future. 

Tabasum Akseer is The Asia Foundation’s director of Survey and Research in Afghanistan. Fahim Ahmad Yousufzai is a data analyst in the Survey and Research department. The views and opinions expressed here are those of the authors and not those of The Asia Foundation or its funders.

About our blog, InAsia

InAsia is a 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 over 70 renowned experts in over 20 countries, 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 Wednesday evening, Pacific Time and is accessible via email and RSS. If you have any questions, please send an email to editor.inasia@asiafoundation.org.

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New Police Database Documents Violence Against Women and Children in Sri Lanka

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New Police Database Documents Violence Against Women and Children in Sri Lanka

November 29, 2017

By Radhika Abeynaike and Roshan Shajehan

The “16 Days of Activism Against Gender-Based Violence,” a global campaign that runs through December 10, occurs this year against the backdrop of an unprecedented global uproar against sexual harassment and other forms of violence that women face. Across Asia, as in many countries, violence against women continues to be one of the most widespread human rights violations. In places like Sri Lanka, which is emerging from decades of civil conflict, a lack of systematic reporting on the issue has made it extremely difficult to determine the magnitude of the problem.

The police are most often the first point of contact in Sri Lanka for women seeking redress from acts of violence.

The police are most often the first point of contact in Sri Lanka for women seeking redress from acts of violence, including sexual abuse. According to police statistics, over 33,000 cases of violence against women and children were recorded between 2005 and 2016. Incidences of rape and incest recorded by the police have increased by 40 percent in the last 10 years, from 1,463 cases in 2006 to 2,036 in 2016. However, cases reported to the police are likely very low compared to the real number of incidents that occur. The United Nations Population Fund (UNFPA) estimates that one in every four women in Sri Lanka has been sexually abused by the time she reaches 18. When victims do report acts of violence to the police or other agencies, there are incomplete systems in place to maintain statistics and comprehensive reports.

The Children and Women’s Bureau (CWB) plays a crucial role in addressing incidents of violence against women and children that are reported to the police. Each police station has a CWB which is responsible for dealing with issues related to women and children, including prevention awareness among schools and government institutions. Each CWB sends a report to their respective Divisional Office, which is then collated and sent to the national headquarters, but the reports are largely numerically based and lack detail required for useful analysis. For instance, the current system of documentation does not allow for tracking of cases and there is no record of what happens to the case after it is recorded at a police station. This also makes it difficult for the police to track down perpetrators.

Now, in a major step forward in improving the process, The Asia Foundation worked with the police and other relevant agencies over the past year to develop the very first computerized database for the CWB in Sri Lanka. Built by local developer Tyronics, the database is connected directly to the Sri Lanka Police intranet system which means that every police station in the country has immediate and protected access to enable confidentiality. As part of this process, we developed a user manual and trained CWB police officers and headquarter staff, and IT operators from the 42 divisional offices and 488 police stations across the country.

CWB police officers receive training on how to use the database.

The final database was installed to the police VPN system in March this year. Police stations island-wide now have access to the database and data is currently being entered into the system at the station level, with support from the IT unit of Sri Lanka Police.

Last month, the National Best Quality ICT Awards recognized the database and the Sri Lanka Police with a Bronze Award for innovation. With the tools in place, Sri Lanka’s police force is now better equipped to document, track, and address issues of violence against women and children.

Radhika Abeynaike is senior program officer and Roshan Shajehan is program manager for The Asia Foundation in Sri Lanka. The views and opinions expressed here are those of the authors and not those of The Asia Foundation or its funders.

Related locations: Sri Lanka
Related programs: Empower Women, Technology & Development
Related topics: Gender-Based Violence

About our blog, InAsia

InAsia is a 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 over 70 renowned experts in over 20 countries, 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 Wednesday evening, Pacific Time and is accessible via email and RSS. If you have any questions, please send an email to editor.inasia@asiafoundation.org.

Contact

For questions about InAsia, or for our cross-post and re-use policy, please send an email to editor.inasia@asiafoundation.org.

The Asia Foundation
465 California St., 9th Floor
San Francisco, CA 94104


Mailing Address:
PO Box 193223
San Francisco, CA 94119-3223

HIGHLIGHTS ACROSS ASIA

Mobilizing Changemakers for our Sustainable Future

Meet Akshat Singhal and Sohara Mehroze, two of our 2019 Asia Foundation Development Fellows.

Mobilizing Changemakers for our Sustainable Future

More than Uncertainty Drives Afghan Migrants to the West

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Weekly Insights and Analysis

More than Uncertainty Drives Afghan Migrants to the West

November 15, 2017

By Sayed Masood Sadat, Tabasum Akseer

Despite the danger that migrants face leaving Afghanistan, and the campaigns to keep them from fleeing, the desire to migrate has increased considerably—from 29.6 percent in 2016 to 38.8 percent in 2017, according to The Asia Foundation’s new Survey of the Afghan People. While in 2016 trends pointed to uncertainty as the overriding factor that drove migrants to the West, this year, a more complex range of push and pull factors have motivated Afghans to consider migration.

After Syrians, Afghans form the largest group of refugees in the European Union (EU). An estimated 182,780 Afghans have lodged application for asylum in the EU in just the last year (2016). The International Organization for Migration concurs the number of Afghans traveling to Europe has gone up to pre-2015 numbers. The fate of these hopeful migrants ranges. While some perish en route to Europe, others are forcibly sent back to Afghanistan.

Afghan refugees in line for services at a Red Cross center in Greece. Photo/Thomas Andre Syvertsen/ Norwegian Red Cross

Amnesty International recently released a report detailing the disturbing realities of Afghans who have been returned from Norway, the Netherlands, Sweden, and Germany face, including kidnapping, torture, and death. In 2016 alone, over 9,000 Afghans were returned to Afghanistan from the EU alone. This number is expected to rise in the upcoming year, with EU agencies suggesting “more than 80,000 persons could potentially need to be returned in the near future.”

Among those Afghans who desire to leave, insecurity is still the reason most commonly cited (72.0%), followed by unemployment (54.5%), and a bad economy (18.0%). Growing violence has plagued Afghanistan this year as witnessed by the increase of casualties. Last year was the deadliest year on record for civilians, with 11,418 killed or injured. In 2017, Afghanistan continues to be “intensively volatile” according to the UN Secretary-General.

The role of the Afghan National Security Forces (ANSF) in mitigating perceptions of insecurity is correlated with migration. Respondents who are confident in the ANSF are less likely to say they want to migrate. Similarly, those who have a higher level of fear for personal safety are more likely to say they would leave Afghanistan if given the opportunity.

Reasons for Migration


Pessimism about the direction of the country and the possibility of reconciliation are also indicators of desire to migrate. Desire to migrate is lowest among those who cite improved security as a reason for why the country is moving in the right direction, compared to other reasons including rebuilding, improvements in human rights, the economy, women’s rights, and international assistance.

In addition to these push factors, certain pull factors also increase a person’s desire to migrate. For example, Afghans who have family members abroad have a greater desire to leave the country, particularly those with family members in Iran and in Western countries (Europe, North America, Australia, and New Zealand). Among the respondents who have family abroad (34.0%), a third receive remittances. The desire to migrate is higher among those who receive remittances from family abroad (51.4%), particularly if those family members live in Australia or New Zealand (62.6%), as opposed to those living in the Gulf states (42.4%). Knowing a returnee is associated with higher desire to migrate (44.5% vs. 37.0%), particularly if the respondent has family abroad (46.2%). Those who do not have family abroad and are personally unaware of other returnees have the lowest desire to migrate (31.8%).

While it is more difficult to influence the pull factors, the government can address the push factors that drive Afghans to leave.

What the Government Should Do to Deter Migration

There are obvious challenges with addressing these factors; however, that is not to say it cannot be done. A recent Special Inspector General for Afghanistan Reconstruction (SIGAR) report offers insight into some of the lessons learned from the United States experience in Afghanistan, including the importance of community policing and criminal justice, and developing foreign military and police capabilities as a whole-of-government mission. Recommendations such as improving ANSF governing, oversight, and accountability systems to support anticorruption investigations into the ANSF leadership, and imposing stringent mechanisms to eliminate ANSF’s culture of impunity, can assist in strengthening the capabilities of ANSF.

There are other opportunities to increase public confidence in the ANSF through media awareness, particularly given the consistently high confidence Afghans have in the media. More recognition of ANSF’s successes, such as foiling terrorist plots in Kabul, will help increase Afghans confidence in their ability to protect and provide security.

Furthermore, the source of news and information has a distinct relationship with the desire to migrate, so tailoring messaging to appropriate mediums is necessary. For example, respondents who acquire their news and information from traditional sources such as mosques and shuras are less motivated to migrate (39.0% both) compared to those who get their information from modern sources such as radio, TV, mobile phone, or the internet. Even among the modern sources of acquiring information, the desire to migrate is highest among users of the internet and TV (42.9% and 42.1%, respectively).

Considering the dangers migrants face in the process of migration, or upon their forcible return, Afghanistan is experiencing a humanitarian crisis. Ensuring their security, but also strengthening the economy and creating more jobs, will provide a greater incentive to keep Afghans, who otherwise feel there is little opportunity to stay, from risking migrating to an unpredictable, and perhaps fatal, future.

Download the full survey on The Asia Foundation’s website.

Sayed Masood Sadat is The Asia Foundation’s Data and Research analyst in Afghanistan and Tabasum Akseer is the Foundation’s Survey of the Afghan People acting director there. The views and opinions expressed here are those of the authors and not those of The Asia Foundation or its funders.

About our blog, InAsia

InAsia is a 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 over 70 renowned experts in over 20 countries, 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 Wednesday evening, Pacific Time and is accessible via email and RSS. If you have any questions, please send an email to editor.inasia@asiafoundation.org.

Contact

For questions about InAsia, or for our cross-post and re-use policy, please send an email to editor.inasia@asiafoundation.org.

The Asia Foundation
465 California St., 9th Floor
San Francisco, CA 94104


Mailing Address:
PO Box 193223
San Francisco, CA 94119-3223

HIGHLIGHTS ACROSS ASIA

Mobilizing Changemakers for our Sustainable Future

Meet Akshat Singhal and Sohara Mehroze, two of our 2019 Asia Foundation Development Fellows.

Mobilizing Changemakers for our Sustainable Future

Uncertainty Drives Afghan Migrants to the West

INASIA

Weekly Insights and Analysis

Uncertainty Drives Afghan Migrants to the West

May 3, 2017

By Sayed Masood Sadat

After Syrians, Afghans form the largest group of refugees in the European Union (EU), with over 360,000 asylum applications lodged in 2015 and 2016, according to official EU figures. Afghan migrants risk their lives during the months-long journey to reach Europe, which crosses thousands of kilometers in the Middle East and the Balkans. To embark on this perilous journey, the migrants pay human smugglers at least $5,000 per person, which they usually raise by selling their properties or borrowing from friends and families. Once they reach the EU, they face a 40 percent chance of asylum rejection, sometimes waiting in refugee camps for years until their case is decided. Even if they are successful and are let into an EU country, Afghan refugees still struggle to settle in Europe following the recent rise of populism and anti-immigration sentiments across the continent.

Afghan refugees

After Syrians, Afghans form the largest group of refugees in the EU, with over 360,000 asylum applications lodged in 2015 and 2016. Photo/ via Flickr Natalia Tsoukala/ Caritas International

The question then is: what drives Afghans to migrate to Europe despite these challenges? Certainly, Europe’s high standard of living, freedom, and safety are strong pull factors for migrants. However, 2015 saw an enormous, unexpected surge in Afghan migration to the EU, driven largely by new, different push and pull factors that have emerged.

According to Nematullah Bizhan, Afghanistan’s former deputy minister of Youth Affairs at the Ministry of Information and Culture, significant transitions in security, the economy, and politics have pushed many Afghans to leave their country since 2014. These transitions include the near-complete withdrawal of international security forces, a sharp decline in the inflow of aid, a subsequent increase in unemployment, poor economic growth, and a contentious 2014 presidential election.

These factors all contributed to the rise in migration numbers reflected in The Asia Foundation’s 2015 annual Survey of the Afghan People, which were the highest since the survey started asking this question in 2011. While 2016 asylum requests by Afghans in the EU remained at nearly the same level as 2015, interestingly, the 2016 survey results indicate a 10 percentage point decline in Afghans’ willingness to leave Afghanistan—the largest decrease measured by the survey on this topic (see fig. 1). This could be due to many reasons—an increased awareness of the risks of traveling to Europe, circulation of news about the EU-Turkey deal to deport refugees, news of violent backlashes against refugees in Europe, the EU-Afghan deal to deport Afghans refugees from Europe to Kabul, and the effect of anti-migration information campaigns by many European countries.

Fig 1: Percent of Afghans who reported willingness to leave the country (Survey of the Afghan People)

The 2015 and 2016 surveys also provide a better understanding of the demographic characteristics of those who report more willingness to leave the country. Afghan men who are single, educated, and living in an urban area reveal more willingness to leave the country. EU data on asylum seekers also show that more than two-thirds of recent asylum seekers are young men under the age of 35.

Survey respondents who expressed a willingness to leave their country cited insecurity and unemployment as two main motivating reasons. Investigating the relationship between the willingness to leave and various socio-economic and political factors also reveals that those who perceive corruption and bad governance as major problems likewise report a higher willingness to leave the country. Household economic conditions appear to have a less salient association with the willingness to leave the country—however, overall optimism levels do.

The 2016 survey results suggest the lowest level of optimism (29.3 percent) in the direction the country is moving since 2006 (see figure 2). Again, the common themes of insecurity, unemployment, and corruption are echoed as the top three reasons why respondents say Afghanistan is headed in the wrong direction. Moreover, the survey results reveal Afghans currently have the lowest confidence in their government, public institutions, the Afghan army, and the police recorded since 2006. Corruption and fear for personal safety reached record heights in 2015 and 2016, according to survey results. These indicators have resulted in lowering the national mood which plays a decisive role in shaping Afghans’ decision-making and willingness to leave the country.

Fig 2: Percent of Afghans who think their country is heading in the right direction or wrong direction (Survey of the Afghan People)

The current policy in the EU regarding Afghan refugees appears to be a combination of deterrence and exploring options to deport those who were rejected for refugee status inside the EU. According to a new study by Liza Schuster and Nassim Majidi, this approach might lead to additional problems. The study presents evidence that for returnees, deportation results in “deepening economic opportunity losses and the impossibility of repaying debts incurred by the initial departure, the social existence of transnational and local ties and responsibilities, and socio-cultural shame of failure and suspicions of the community.” These issues are compounded by the staggering numbers of Afghan refugees now returning from Pakistan and Iran, home to approximately three million Afghan refugees (In 2016, according to the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees, 500 Afghans a day returned from Pakistan alone). This has increased in recent months as both countries have begun deporting Afghans in even larger numbers. The Afghan government is unable to accommodate the needs of such large number of returnees without addressing the root causes of the problem and developing appropriate reintegration mechanisms. This is likely to be a major blow to rehabilitation efforts in Afghanistan which Europe and the international community have heavily invested in for the past 15 years.

Evidence shows Afghans are greatly concerned about their security and employment now, but uncertainty and pessimism about the future of their country appears to be their intrinsic motivation to seek refuge abroad. Interventions must aim at providing Afghans with credible optimism about their future in Afghanistan, providing security and employment opportunities, and fighting corruption more effectively so that they are willing and able to stay and build their country.

Sayed Masood Sadat is a data analyst in the policy and research department for The Asia Foundation in Afghanistan. The views and opinions expressed here are those of the author and not those of The Asia Foundation or its funder.

Related locations: Afghanistan
Related programs: Economic Opportunity, Strengthen Governance, Survey of the Afghan People
Related topics: Migration

About our blog, InAsia

InAsia is a 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 over 70 renowned experts in over 20 countries, 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 Wednesday evening, Pacific Time and is accessible via email and RSS. If you have any questions, please send an email to editor.inasia@asiafoundation.org.

Contact

For questions about InAsia, or for our cross-post and re-use policy, please send an email to editor.inasia@asiafoundation.org.

The Asia Foundation
465 California St., 9th Floor
San Francisco, CA 94104


Mailing Address:
PO Box 193223
San Francisco, CA 94119-3223

HIGHLIGHTS ACROSS ASIA

Mobilizing Changemakers for our Sustainable Future

Meet Akshat Singhal and Sohara Mehroze, two of our 2019 Asia Foundation Development Fellows.

Mobilizing Changemakers for our Sustainable Future

Addressing Industrial Pollution Along the Kelani River

INASIA

Weekly Insights and Analysis

Addressing Industrial Pollution Along the Kelani River

April 26, 2017

By Johann Rebert and Dhiya Sathananthan

The lush banks and rushing waters of the Kelani River served as the indelible backdrop for the 1957 Academy Award-winning movie “The Bridge on the River Kwai” and today, the river remains a vital resource for about 25 percent of the Sri Lankan population who reside in its catchment area. The river is the fourth-longest and second-largest watershed in the country, and is the main source of drinking water to over 4 million people living in the greater Colombo area alone. Sadly, the Kelani River is also the most polluted river in Sri Lanka.

Kelani River

Laundry hangs along the Kelani River in the outskirts of the capital, Colombo. The Kelani is the main source of drinking water to over 4 million people living in the greater Colombo area alone. Photo/Flickr user Dhammika Heenpella

According to the Central Environmental Authority (CEA), most of the pollution comes from liquid waste discharged by the rapidly expanding industries that operate alongside the river, as well as agricultural runoff and domestic and municipal waste. An estimated 3,000 businesses that are required to have an environmental pollution license are located on the banks of the river. According to water tests conducted by the CEA near industrial locations, basic safe water quality limits are constantly exceeded, including chemical oxygen demand (36-37% over acceptable standards), dissolved oxygen (27-43% over acceptable standards), biological oxygen demand (7-13% over), and heavy metals (7% over). In August 2015, a significant diesel leak into the river from a multinational carbonated drinks manufacturer brought to the fore the hazardous impact that industrial pollution is having on the river, and potentially on communities who rely on the river for their livelihoods.

Despite this growing threat, local industries need to do more to comply with regulations to ensure waste water discharged into the river is safe. While existing policy and legislation for curtailing industrial pollution exists in Sri Lanka, more effective enforcement is needed, as well as highly stringent monitoring mechanisms to verify that all standards are met.

In late 2015, The Asia Foundation and local nonprofit Environmental Foundation Limited (EFL) started a project to help restore the water quality of the Kelani River. After identifying the 40-kilometer stretch between the town of Avisawella and the river outfall north of Colombo as the most polluted area, we began a comprehensive mapping of pollution sources, conducting surveys by road and by boat to mark locations of possible pollutant sources, as well as drains and canals that discharge into the river. We identified 150 sources of pollution, primarily from industries involved in tanning, oil refining, beverages, textiles and clothing, rubber, ceramics, food production, fertilizers, and plastics.

To educate the local communities along the river about the threat that pollution poses and to mitigate future damage, we conducted a series of training programs for 15 prominent community based organizations (CBOs) in the most polluted vicinities. The workshops trained 63 CBO members, primarily made up of volunteers and activists from local environmental and community development organizations, on preventing pollution and how to conduct water monitoring and identify sources of pollution.

Kelani River water testing

According to water tests conducted by the CEA near industrial locations, basic safe water quality limits in the Kelani River are constantly exceeded.

EFL developed a comprehensive booklet that includes guidelines on water quality maintenance and a map of pollution sources along the highest impact areas of the river. The resource was distributed among CBO members at the training sessions, as well as with local-level government officials and some small-scale industries operating along the river. This map assists the CEA as well as other relevant local and national authorities in identifying pollution sources. Participants have already begun reporting their findings to the CEA and other relevant government agencies so that full investigations of illegal discharge can be conducted.

The challenge now is to ensure that water quality monitoring takes place regularly so that large-and small-scale industries, as well as local government authorities, can ensure prescribed standards are being met and that the law is enforced. Industries have a vested interest in the health of the Kelani River system, which meets their own industrial, and most likely personal, water needs. It is time for them to take greater responsibility to protect and rehabilitate this water body. Harnessing the potential of the local community to play a more proactive role in preserving their own environment, as well as to communicate the overall message of preventing pollution in the Kelani River to other communities living in the vicinity, is a critical step forward.

Dhiya Sathananthan is project coordinator with the Environmental Foundation Limited and Johann Rebert is The Asia Foundation’s deputy country representative in Sri Lanka. The views and opinions expressed here are those of the individual authors and not those of The Asia Foundation or its funders.

Related locations: Sri Lanka
Related programs: Economic Opportunity, Environmental Resilience
Related topics: Urban Governance, Urbanization

About our blog, InAsia

InAsia is a 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 over 70 renowned experts in over 20 countries, 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 Wednesday evening, Pacific Time and is accessible via email and RSS. If you have any questions, please send an email to editor.inasia@asiafoundation.org.

Contact

For questions about InAsia, or for our cross-post and re-use policy, please send an email to editor.inasia@asiafoundation.org.

The Asia Foundation
465 California St., 9th Floor
San Francisco, CA 94104


Mailing Address:
PO Box 193223
San Francisco, CA 94119-3223

HIGHLIGHTS ACROSS ASIA

Mobilizing Changemakers for our Sustainable Future

Meet Akshat Singhal and Sohara Mehroze, two of our 2019 Asia Foundation Development Fellows.

Mobilizing Changemakers for our Sustainable Future

Licensing Reform in Indonesia: What’s Next after the One-Stop Shop?

INASIA

Weekly Insights and Analysis

Licensing Reform in Indonesia: What’s Next after the One-Stop Shop?

April 12, 2017

By Erman Rahman

According to the World Bank’s 2017 Doing Business report, Indonesia has improved the ease of doing business over the last year, rising in rank from 106th in 2016 to 91st in 2017. The report, which ranks economies on 10 business regulatory areas, cited significant improvement in the area of “starting a business,” with the time it takes reduced from 48 to 25 days.

Indonesia business

Micro and small enterprises account for 98.8 percent of total businesses in Indonesia. However, an arduous licensing process often hinders their ease of doing business. Photo/Conor Ashleigh

The impressive jump in ranking is an outcome of the strong commitment from the Joko Widodo (Jokowi) administration since taking office in 2014 to improve Indonesia’s investment climate. More recently, the government announced that it would remove expiration dates of trading licenses (SIUP) and business registration (TDP) (previously they had to be renewed every five years). Although the tangible impacts of this effort to reduce costs and burdensome licensing timeframes are still marginal, the move clearly shows the government’s strong commitment in this area.

Indonesia’s push toward decentralization that began in 2001 brought with it enormous power to the local governments, including the increased ability to generate revenue from the people in the form of taxes and levies, and particularly so from local businesses. To obtain the necessary licenses to operate, local businesses had to apply at various local government offices in a painstaking process that was not transparent, allowing for back-room dealing in a burdensome process that hampered economic growth.

During this time, The Asia Foundation and local civil society organization partners developed the first one-stop shop (OSS) model to licensing reform, which integrated business licensing in one office at the district level, established standard operating procedures for licensing, provided transparent information for license applicants, and offered channels for raising complaints.

In 2006, the Ministry of Home Affairs (MoHA) nationalized the OSS model, making it a model for a good business climate, corruption prevention, and bureaucratic reforms. Since then, according to the MoHA, more than 90 percent of 497 districts in Indonesia had established the OSS model by 2013. While this marked an improvement, our research at the time indicated that the majority of these OSS had limited authority to process numerous types of licenses required by the local governments. This meant that many micro and small enterprises (MSEs)—which account for 98.8 percent of total businesses in Indonesia—were still forced to go outside of the OSS to local government offices to obtain sectoral licenses.

To address this issue, the Foundation implemented a sub-national business licensing program, USAID-KINERJA, which has supported 40 local governments in Aceh, East Java, West Kalimantan, and South Sulawesi provinces—40 percent of the total of 99 districts in the four provinces—to improve their licensing services, including increasing the licensing authority of the OSS, simplifying the types of licenses required, and improving OSS business processes.

The program’s most significant impact has been on the reduction of the number of licenses required to formally run a business. Prior to the program, each local government required over a hundred types of licenses, most of them sectoral. Through the program, in Wajo District in South Sulawesi alone, the local government reduced the number of business licenses from 107 to 16 by merging and repealing licenses that are not under the authority of the local government. However, today local governments cannot take the next step in simplifying licensing since the remaining licenses are required by the national government through various sectoral regulations.

Jokowi’s administration is currently working to deregulate the business climate, including through license simplification. However, further simplification of licenses faces political resistance from various technical ministries, despite the agreement that some licenses are considered redundant.

In 2014, the government issued a Perpres (presidential regulation) to establish a simple, one-page license for MSEs, known as IUMK, that would in theory remove the need for them to apply for other types of licenses such as SIUP, TDP, and other permits.

In practice, however, this has not happened. Although the KINERJA program helped the government to formulate and disseminate implementation guidelines for the IUMK, many sub-national government officials are still not aware about the Perpres. And the regulations governing other types of licenses have not been revised to recognize the relatively new Perpres. In addition, most of the banks and micro-finance institutions still require an SIUP and/or a TDP as one of the requirements to obtain credit. The ASEAN Economic Community requires all MSEs to have an identification number to do business in other ASEAN countries—another obstacle for Indonesia’s MSEs given the arduous licensing process.

Many laws and regulations need to be harmonized with the Perpres for it to be effective. This should not be limited to the licensing sector, but also in the banking sector and government procurement to maximize the benefits for the MSEs.

The government would be wise to prioritize this reform agenda to further improve Indonesia’s business climate. By doing so, the current administration would inch closer to achieving its “Nawacita,” a nine-point list of priorities. Civil society, well-experienced in this sector, stands ready to support the government in this important reform effort.

Erman Rahman is a senior program director for The Asia Foundation in Indonesia. The views and opinions expressed here are those of the author and not those of The Asia Foundation or its funders.

Related locations: Indonesia
Related programs: Economic Opportunity

About our blog, InAsia

InAsia is a 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 over 70 renowned experts in over 20 countries, 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 Wednesday evening, Pacific Time and is accessible via email and RSS. If you have any questions, please send an email to editor.inasia@asiafoundation.org.

Contact

For questions about InAsia, or for our cross-post and re-use policy, please send an email to editor.inasia@asiafoundation.org.

The Asia Foundation
465 California St., 9th Floor
San Francisco, CA 94104


Mailing Address:
PO Box 193223
San Francisco, CA 94119-3223

HIGHLIGHTS ACROSS ASIA

Mobilizing Changemakers for our Sustainable Future

Meet Akshat Singhal and Sohara Mehroze, two of our 2019 Asia Foundation Development Fellows.

Mobilizing Changemakers for our Sustainable Future

Eye on South Asia: Challenges to Development and Democracy

Eye on South Asia: Challenges to Development and Democracy

Event: Wednesday, March 22, 2017, Berkeley

5:00 pm – 7:00 pm
University of California Berkeley Faculty Club, Seaborg Room

Home to 1.7 billion people, South Asia was the world’s fastest growing economic region in 2016, and is expected to hold this spot in 2017. However, South Asian countries continue to face daunting challenges of persistent poverty, widening inequality, and growing instability. Over the long term, prospects for inclusive growth will depend heavily on the region’s ability to address fundamental governance issues: managing conflict, reducing corruption, increasing transparency, expanding access to justice, and increasing citizens’ voice and participation.

Join experts from The Asia Foundation’s country offices in Afghanistan, Bangladesh, India, Pakistan, Sri Lanka, and Nepal for a dynamic panel discussion on the prospects for democracy, stability, and sustainable development in South Asia.

Moderator
Sanchita Saxena, Executive Director, Institute for South Asia Studies; Director, Subir and Malini Chowdhury Center for Bangladesh Studies 

Featuring
Abdullah Ahmadzai, The Asia Foundation Country Representative, Afghanistan
Hasan Mazumdar, The Asia Foundation Country Representative, Bangladesh
Sagar Prasai, The Asia Foundation Country Representative, India
Sofia Shakil, The Asia Foundation Country Representative, Pakistan
Dinesha de Silva, The Asia Foundation Country Representative, Sri Lanka
George Varughese, The Asia Foundation Country Representative, Nepal

Event Contact
510-642-3608
isas@berkeley.edu

Parking – The Faculty Club at UC Berkeley

Please note that at campus parking lots without an attendant, visitors must pay in advance at a pay station. Refer to posted signs for rates and instructions. The lots closest to the Faculty Club are located over several blocks, just to the southeast of central campus. To view a map of the Faculty Club and suggested parking locations, please click here.
 
This event is cosponsored by The Asia Foundation and the Institute for South Asia Studies, UCB.
Related locations: San Francisco

HIGHLIGHTS ACROSS ASIA

Mobilizing Changemakers for our Sustainable Future

Meet Akshat Singhal and Sohara Mehroze, two of our 2019 Asia Foundation Development Fellows.

Mobilizing Changemakers for our Sustainable Future

Hansae Yes24 Foundation to Fund Asia Foundation Development Fellows Leadership Training in Seoul

Hansae Yes24 Foundation to Fund Asia Foundation Development Fellows Leadership Training in Seoul

Seoul, December 28, 2016 — Recently, the Hansae Yes24 Foundation in Korea announced a two-year pledge to support The Asia Foundation Development Fellows Leadership Training Program, to be held in Seoul. The Asia Foundation Development Fellows program provides highly qualified young professionals from Asia with an opportunity to strengthen their leadership skills and gain in-depth knowledge of Asia’s critical development challenges. As a program component of the Fellows program, the Leadership Training Program features an intensive one-week course held in Korea in partnership with the Korea Development Institute (KDI) School of Public Policy and Management. The training provides young professionals with an opportunity to strengthen their leadership skills and gain in-depth knowledge of Asia’s critical development challenges.

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Hansae Yes24 Foundation was established in 2014 with contributions made by Mr. Kim Dong Nyung, Chairman of the Board of Hansae Yes24 Holdings Corporation, one of the world’s largest garment manufacturing companies, to help broaden the economically cooperative relationship that Korea has established with foreign countries to one that encompasses cultural and human ties. The major programs of the Foundation are to provide scholarships, volunteer abroad programs, academic research and art exhibitions.

The Asia Foundation Development Fellows: Emerging Leadership for Asia’s Future program provides highly qualified, young professionals from Asia with an unparalleled opportunity to strengthen their leadership skills and gain in-depth knowledge of Asia’s critical development challenges. The year-long professional advancement program draws on The Asia Foundation’s extensive 18-country network and deep expertise working with innovative leaders and communities across the region. The program is designed to be a multifaceted experience, involving intensive learning modules—short courses, conferences, and study tours in Asia and the U.S.—to enhance leadership skills, Asian development knowledge, professional networks, and international exposure.

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.

For media inquiries, please visit Press Room. Engage with us on FacebookTwitter, and Instagram.

Related locations: Korea
Related programs: Asia Foundation Development Fellows

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415-743-3340

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415-743-3318

HIGHLIGHTS ACROSS ASIA

Mobilizing Changemakers for our Sustainable Future

Meet Akshat Singhal and Sohara Mehroze, two of our 2019 Asia Foundation Development Fellows.

Mobilizing Changemakers for our Sustainable Future