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York Centre for Asian Research Update                         Issue 17, Friday, June 24, 2005

YCAR members attend conservation and development workshop in India

Peter Vandergeest, along with YCAR project team members, Shubhra Gururani, Robin Roth, Radhika Johari and Bipasha Baruah, are currently attending a workshop on Rethinking Conservation and Development in the Great Himalayan National Park Conservation Area in India. The workshop from June 21-25 is organized by Winrock International India and is being held in Shamshi town in Kullu  District of Himachal Pradesh which is the administrative headquarters for this protected area.

The workshop is conceived as the planning phase of an Indo-Canadian research and capacity-building project that aims to support and build upon recent community-based ecotourism (CBET) and resource-based enterprise development initiatives by socially and economically marginalized Scheduled Caste women in the Great Himalayan National Park Conservation Area (GHNPCA). The project addresses a central concern relating to state-sponsored conservation programs in protected areas   in India and elsewhere, which have been widely critiqued for their reduction or elimination of livelihood options for poor, resource-dependent communities. Other local project partners include the Biodiversity Conservation Society (BiodCS), GHNPCA and the Society for Scientific Advancement of Hills & Rural Areas (SAHARA). The project is supported by the International Development Research Centre (IDRC).

YCAR thanks Judith Nagata for her three years of YCAR associate directorship

A social gathering was held at the Vandergeest Residence last June 17 to celebrate another successful year of YCAR and to thank Judith Nagata for her three years of YCAR associate directorship since the centre's inception in May 2002.

Photo: Judith Nagata (far left) making a brief speech of appreciation as Peter Vandergeest and Susan Henders (far right standing) look on.

Judith has actively initiated a number of projects and activities at YCAR including the conceptualization and  organization of the regional workshop on transnational religious identities and politics in 2003, the policy paper on strengthening Canada's relations   on governance and cooperation with Muslim communities in Indonesia and Malaysia in 2004, the Asian tsunami benefit concert in 2005, among a host of others. Judith plans to continue to build on her interest in Asian research and to further expand her horizon to Europe before she finally decides to retire in due time.

Wendy Wong is new YCAR associate director effective July 1, 2005

Wendy Wong from the York University Department of Design will be the new YCAR associate director effective July 1, 2005. She will also serve as the diploma coordinator for YCAR's Asian Studies Diploma Program that will be launched in Fall 2005, with the core course to be offered in Winter 2006. She has actively participated in YCAR's programs and activities including the organization of the mini-conference on democracy in Hong Kong and the reconstruction of the YCAR website. Wendy's hard work, good judgment, her ability to work productively with a diverse group of people as well as good connections with community groups of Asian background in the Toronto area, make her an excellent choice for this position.

YCAR would also like to thank Susan Henders and Lorna Wright for serving in the Executive Committee (ExeCom) for the past three years. We welcome the four new ExeCom members for the 2006-2007 academic year: Balbinder Bhogal and Shubhra Gururani (representing South Asian diaspora); Philip Kelly (Southeast Asian diaspora), and Lucia Lo (East Asian diaspora). We look forward to working with you in pursuing the goals and activities of the centre!

ABMP/CMTP participants complete their executive development training program

The delegation of 30 Henan university presidents successfully completed their executive development training program in university administration and celebrated with a fine graduation lunch held at Black Creek Pioneer Village. 

Pictured from left to right - Peter Constantinou, Director Government Relations, Seneca; Maire O'Brien, Director CMTP; Rod Webb, AVP Academic York University, Don Rickerd, Director, ABMP; Ian Macdonald, President Emeritus, York University. In the back row, from L to R:  Peng Bo, Qiao Xijie, Sun Hongdian.

For seven weeks the delegation representing 26 post-secondary institutions in Henan province China received an  intensive set of lectures on the broad range of issues related to post-secondary institutional management. They were taught by senior administrative officials from York University, Seneca College, Humber College, the University of Toronto. They visited several post-secondary institutions in the Greater Toronto Area (GTA) and have been to Carleton University in Ottawa and at the University of Quebec in Montreal.  The Asian Business and Management Programme's (ABMP) China Management Training Project (CMTP) is proud to have been a part of this mutual cooperation between Canada and China and to have been able to make a contribution to educational reform in China.

Research Profile: Enhancing Community-Based Natural Resource Management (CBNRM) Research and Networking Capacity at the National University of Laos (NUOL)

This is the second phase of the NUOL three-year project for capacity building on CBNRM that began in May 2003. The NUOL is in the process of expanding its teaching role to include research as one of its regular activities focusing on CBNRM in Lao PDR. The project includes training for research capacity building of the academic staff, institutional capacity building to administer small research grants, and networking and outreach capacity of the Natural Resource Management Information Centre based at the Faculty of Forestry of NUOL.

Right: Project team members and participants share a meal during a capacity building workshop on field methods and information mapping.

The project involves Peter Vandergeest, Penny Van Esterik and Keith Barney from York University; Philip Hirsch from the Australian Mekong Resource Centre at the University of Sydney, Australia; Jefferson Fox from the East-West Centre in Hawaii, USA; Chusak Wittayapak from Chiang Mai University in Thailand; and Khamla Phanvilay from the National University of Laos. Yayoi Fujita, from the University of Kobe, Japan, is project consultant.                         

During the project year from May 2004 to June 2005, a number of training modules and workshops have been conducted including research proposal writing, literature review, field data gathering and information mapping, group consultation and data analysis for the six research groups that received small grants at NUOL. Consultation sessions were held with the research management team as well as with external resource persons. The project team is now in the process of organising a series of case-study write-shops for the six research groups, as well as for colleagues from the National Agriculture and Forestry Research Institute (NAFRI). Notably, an increase in the number of project staff and associates working for the project allowed the project office to enhance its role and function as an information centre on community-based natural resource management. The project is supported by the International Development Research Centre (IDRC).

New publications on the forest market and industry in the Asia-Pacific region

York graduate student and YCAR graduate associate, Keith Barney, has produced two new reports focusing on forest trends in Thailand and Cambodia. The reports are part of the DFID-UK sponsored project dealing with China and forest trade in the Asia-Pacific region.  The reports seek to analyze Chinese market trends and policies as well as their impacts and implications on the forest and livelihood situation of supplying countries such as Thailand and Cambodia. Below are the links to the reports.

For more information, visit the Forest Trends website at

Recent Publications from the East-West Center

The following are new titles from the East-West Center. Ordering information and abstracts of the publications appear after the listing of titles.  

For more information, visit the EWC website at


Graduate Journal for Asia-Pacific Studies showcases research work of  graduate students

Volume 3 Number 1 June 2005 of the Graduate Journal of Asia-Pacific Studies (GJAPS) has been released. GJAPS is an interdisciplinary peer-reviewed electronic journal that showcases the original work of Asia-Pacific graduate students utilising the dynamic possibilities available in online publishing.

The theme of Volume 3 Number 1 is 'Imagining the Asia-Pacific’. The contributions in this issue offer different approaches and interpretive perspectives to the ‘imagining’ theme, ranging from the personal to the institutional, from the aspirations and actions of grass-roots activism to the realm of high politics, and from reinterpreting appropriative gazes to making marginalised communities visible. GJAPS is currently accepting submissions for the next edition due out at the end of the year.

For further information, see the Notes for Contributors link on the website.  For those who wish to subscribe, submit an article or serve as a referee/reviewer of GJAPS, you can fill out the free subscription form on the web at

Tying tsunami relief to human rights - By Michael Swan, The Catholic Register

Evi Zain can’t allow reporters to take her picture, and the name she uses isn’t her real name. She’s apprehensive about how Indonesia’s military will greet her when she goes back home to Aceh.

Kontras Aceh, the human rights group Zain works for, has to keep its membership and operations secret because the army doesn’t like reports of rape, torture and random killings appearing in international media. Kontras Aceh has collected stories about human rights violations by both Indonesia’s military, the TNI, and the Free Aceh Movement, known by the acronym GAM. But the military insists all human rights organizations and most civil society groups are simply part of the separatist forces. Even international human rights groups such as Amnesty International are banned from Aceh.

In Canada, Zain was invited by member of Parliament Francine Lalonde to speak openly and on the record to the House of Commons standing committee on foreign affairs and international trade. She tried to explain to the Canadian politicians the limits of Indonesia’s democratic reforms when it comes to Aceh.

“In Aceh, there is no democratic space for us to speak up, like here,” she told the committee. “We have been investing with the military for almost 30 years, so you can imagine ­ even after the tsunami ­ the military still, with their guns hanging, delivering the food for the Acehians, and how the people can’t ask for food even when they are so hungry.... Who wants to speak out under a gun? Who wants not to vote? We are loyal to our government, under the gun.”

Zain warned the committee that money Canada has sent to rebuild Aceh following the tsunami ­ which killed 128,000 in that province alone and left half-a-million people homeless ­ will be wasted unless Canada also invests in democratizing and opening up civil society in the region.

“Denounce the human rights violations,” she urged the backbenchers and opposition politicians on the committee. “To ensure that funds are not lost to the corruption in the recovery and the reconstruction process in Aceh ­ to promote meaningful civil society participation in peace negotiations and the planning, monitoring and control of the reconstruction in Aceh.”

In 2004 Indonesia was tied with six other countries for a ranking of 133rd on Transparency International’s annual index of corruption. Only seven other countries in the world ranked lower. A large part of Indonesia’s bribe-taking and influence peddling is associated with the military. “Indonesia is on a very long curve toward democratization,” Dan McTeague, the Pickering-Scarborough East Liberal MP, told The Catholic Register after Zain’s presentation.

Zain’s request struck at the heart of Parliament’s current review of Canada’s foreign policy. Should Canada use its influence and its meagre overseas development aid budget to promote democracy, civil institutions, rule of law, peace making and peacekeeping around the world? Or should it concentrate on protecting Canada’s national security and economic interests? It’s what McTeague and others call the “romanticism versus reality” debate.

“Canada certainly doesn’t want to be seen as giving in to policies that are feel-good as opposed to policies that do good,” McTeague said. Human rights are in no way separate from Canada’s self interest, said Jess Agustin, Canadian Catholic Organization for Development and Peace Asia program officer. Agustin presented a brief to the foreign affairs committee in support of Zain. “People who push for saying that Canada should be realistic, Canada should be focussed and so on ­ basically they are trying to separate human rights and social rights from any development work,” he said.

But development spending, whether it’s to build roads, dams, schools or housing, is wasted when it’s done without consulting the people it’s supposed to help, said Agustin. And consultation can’t happen where people don’t feel free to talk, or even to gather. “In the foreign policy, we’re saying it must be integrated,” he said. “Human rights is not just about civil and political rights. It includes respect of culture and political rights as well. And that doesn’t exist in Aceh.”

Aceh is the perfect test case for a Canadian foreign policy which regards human rights as part of Canada’s self interest, said Nancy Slamet, Kairos human rights program co-ordinator for the Middle East and Asia. Kairos, the ecumenical social justice agency supported by Catholics and Protestants, sponsored Zain’s tour of Canada and helps to fund Kontras Aceh.

“By increasing diplomatic pressure for a ceasefire, by increasing diplomatic pressure to keep peace negotiations ongoing, it would help to create the space for civil society to take part in the reconstruction process and the peace process,” said Slamet. Indonesian non-governmental organizations and community groups active in Aceh are the best guarantors that tsunami relief money doesn’t get siphoned off by corrupt military officials or spent on big, flashy projects that do as much harm as good, according to Slamet.

Zain pleads for an Indonesian society that can live up to its own ideals. Zain’s Indonesian identity card proclaims the ideal of pancasila ­ five principles of national unity which are the Indonesian take on unity in diversity. The pancasila mantra declares Indonesia stands for “One God, fairness and justice for humanity, national unity, the wisdom of representative democracy and social justice for all Indonesians.”

Despite this rhetoric of unity, Zain’s Aceh identity card is a different colour from identity cards in the rest of the country. With her red identity card, she and her fellow Acehians can quickly and easily be singled out by the military administration which occupies her province like a foreign army. Zain and her friends in the underground human rights network are trying to prod Indonesia to live up to its ideals. She is also hoping that Development and Peace, Kairos and other Canadian supporters can persuade Canadian politicians to live up to Canadian ideals in foreign policy.

“We’re a peacekeeping nation. We are not aggressors. We are willing to help with institutional changes,” said McTeague. “In the long term, it is always the goal of the Canadian government to try to lead by example, and to try to engage governments and countries to try to make and hope for corrective behaviour.”

Does that mean incorporating United Nations’ Charter rights or the Canadian Charter of Rights and Freedoms into Canadian foreign policy? Nobody is saying just yet. In the mean time, it’s an opportunity for Canadian NGOs to exercise the kind of political rights Zain and Kontras Aceh don’t have. “One of the lessons here is that sometimes you have to go directly political” instead of quietly lobbying behind the scenes, said Development and Peace’s Agustin.

Development and Peace, Kairos and allied groups are seeking a meeting with Foreign Affairs Minister Pierre Pettigrew and Aileen Carol, minister for the Canadian International Development Agency, to push for a more active human rights agenda when it comes to tsunami relief spending in Aceh.

“When we say ‘peace process’ it’s not just between the GAM and the government of Indonesia. You know we’re pushing for civil society participation, because once the ceasefire is successful then you have to monitor it. You need a civil society to ensure that a peace agreement is being respected short of sending peacekeepers,” said Agustin. “Canada can really play a role in that.”

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