York Centre for Asian Research Update Issue 6, March 14, 2005
Today @ YCAR: Brownbag Seminar - Practice What You Preach? The Role of Rural NGOs in Women’s Empowerment
Thursday Seminar: “Mining, Conflict & Trade in Asia Pacific” by Catherine Coumans, MiningWatch Canada
for Applications: Ecosystem Approaches to Human Health Training Awards 2005-06 -
Agricultural transformation, human health and nutrition linkages
Summer Course on Refugee Issues at Centre for Refugee Studies, York University Toronto, June 11-19, 2005
Asia Op-Ed: Dilemmas of democracy in Bangladesh by AKM Abedur Rahaman
@ YCAR: Practice
What You Preach? The Role of Rural NGOs in Women’s Empowerment by Dr.
Handy (FES, York University) and Dr. Meenaz Kassam (OISE,
University of Toronto)
p.m. 270B York Lanes,
Keele Campus, York University
If NGO employees are advocating behavior change for self-empowerment such behaviour must also be modeled for successful transmission as suggested in the self-efficacy models of behavior change. Rural NGOs in India that depend on local population for employees face a limited labor pool who are as likely to be vulnerable to the traditional social pressures and therefore equally marginalized as their clients. This may cause a gap between what the employees may be trained to 'preach' and what they may 'practice' thereby diminishing their effectiveness to motivate change. The study examines the employees of a successful rural NGO in India that has received accolades for its work in empowerment to establish if the employees actually ‘walk the talk’. Using three empowerment instruments, including one developed for this study, it is found that employees indeed ‘walk the talk’ and their index of empowerment is related to their tenure in the NGO. Policy recommendations are made based on the findings.
Thursday Seminar: “Mining, Conflict and Trade in Asia Pacific” by Dr. Catherine Coumans, MiningWatch Canada
March 17, 2005, 2:30-4:30 p.m., 305 York Lanes, Keele
Campus, York University
mining companies are at the center of intense struggles over human
rights, economic security and cultural survival in the Asia-Pacific
region. This presentation provides a brief overview of some of the social
issues related to struggles surrounding Canadian mining projects
in India, Indonesia, Burma, Thailand, and Papua New Guinea. It explores in
greater depth one case in the Philippines and one in Kanaky-New
Caledonia where indigenous peoples’ efforts to establish their
rights over land and to cultural continuity are being severely eroded in the
confrontation with Canadian mining companies. These examples highlight the need
to examine violence and human rights abuses around mining in the region from the
perspective of the new security agenda and Canadian trade policies, as well as
the need to revisit frameworks for regulating the activities of Canadian
The event is co-sponsored by the Colloquium on Global South and YCAR
for Applications: Ecosystem Approaches to Human Health Training Awards 2005-06
transformation, human health and nutrition linkages
Ecohealth Training Awards encourage graduate-level students to examine the
relationships between the environment, human health, and sustainable development
from a holistic perspective through field research. The focus of
this year’s competition is the link between agricultural transformation and
health with a particular focus on nutrition. Applicants are asked to
submit proposals that use ecosystem approaches to analyse the links between
human health, nutrition and agro-ecosystem conditions, as well as identify
potential intervention strategies based on better natural resource management
that improve human health and ecosystem sustainability.
for receiving applications: May 16, 2005
Ecosystem Approaches to Human Health Awards are intended to provide financial
assistance to graduate students undertaking research projects that explore the
interaction between various components of an ecosystem, and how these components
influence the prevalence of health problems among human populations.
The Awards programme is also designed to encourage collaboration with the
institutional partners who will be the end-users of the research.
The proposed research should, therefore, contribute to the development of
effective strategies to improve human health through better resource
management. Through active engagement with partner institutions and
members of the IDRC Ecohealth Team, recipients of the Awards
have the opportunity to contribute to the existing body of knowledge regarding
how ecosystemic contexts may impact human health, and engage in work that can
produce tangible and meaningful impacts for communities.
will be given to proposals that:
• focus on the multiple dimensions of the human health and well-being continuum using an ecosystem approach to human health in the specific context of agro-ecosystems and nutritional issues; and
identify ecosystem management options that will maximise human health while
simultaneously encouraging the development of sustainable ecosystems.
Number and Value of Awards:
maximum of ten awards with a maximum value of 15,000 CAD each
will be granted to support field work that contributes to a Master’s or PhD
thesis. Applicants must disclose all sources of funding, and their budget should
clearly reflect how different funds are allocated. Ecosystem Approaches to Human
Health Training Awards cannot be used to pay tuition fees. They may, however, be
held concurrently with other awards. The winning candidates could access an
additional 4,000 upon the completion of their field work to attend an
international conference to present their findings.
to one year to complete the field work.
more information and for examples of Ecohealth-funded research projects,
applicants are strongly encouraged to visit our website at http://www.idrc.ca/ecohealth
prior to submitting their proposal.
citizenship of a developing country, Canadian citizenship, or landed immigrant
status in Canada;
•full-time enrolment in a graduate programme at a recognised university in Canada or in a developing country for the duration of the award period (letter from the registrar or program chair);
a signed Declaration of Support from an academic supervisor indicating their
acknowledgement and acceptance of integrating ecosystem approaches into the
applicant’s proposed research (see form attached);
• proficiency in one of the two official languages in Canada (English or French);
• proficiency in the official language(s) of the country of research;
• field research preferably in a developing country;
• affiliation with a host organization (university, NGO, municipal government, or research institution) in the country where the research will be conducted;
• for successful applicants, attendance at a one-week workshop in Ottawa on Ecosystem Approaches to Human Health from August 22 to 26, 2005 (attendance is compulsory; travel and accommodation costs will be covered by IDRC, independent of the Award).
Awards will be announced by June 30, 2005.
After completion of the research, each winning awardee could access a budget of up to 4,000 CAD to attend an international conference where the research findings will be presented. This funding will be contingent upon receipt of a satisfactory final report, approval of the proposed presentation by the conference organizers, as well as IDRC approval of the proposed plans and expenses associated with the conference attendance. The conference attendance funding will be available to awardees up to August 2007.
for submission of Award applications
week in Ottawa
22 – 26, 2005
of Awards contracts
22 – 26, 2005
of field work by awardees
of final reports to IDRC
6 months of returning from the field but no later than August 2007
of request to attend an international conference to present the work
supported though the Ecohealth Awards
Training and Awards Program
International Development Research Centre (IDRC)
Street Address: 250 Albert St., Ottawa, Ontario K1P 6M1
Mailing Address: PO Box 8500, Ottawa, Ontario K1G 3H9
Fax: (613) 563-0815
Telephone: (613) 236-6163 ext. 2098
Course on Refugee Issues at the Centre for Refugee Studies, York University
Toronto, June 11-19, 2005
The Summer Course on Refugee Issues organized by the Centre for Refugee Studies at York University is an internationally acclaimed 8-day training for academic and field-based practitioners working in the area of forced migration. The course involves a rigorous schedule of lectures, panels and discussions, and a
simulation exercise held at the Immigration and Refugee Board of Toronto. The course draws from academic and field-based experts for its faculty and, reflecting the Centre's mission, serves as a hub for researchers, students, service providers and policy makers to share information and ideas.
Topics and presenters* confirmed for the 2005 Summer Course include:
Specific presentation titles are confirmed on an on-going basis, refer to www.yorku.ca/crs
On the 7th day of the course (Friday, June 17), simulated refugee hearings will be held at the Immigration and Refugee Board Toronto. In this intensive exercise, course participants will be assigned roles to carry out mock refugee hearings. Participants will be provided with background material pertinent to their roles on the first day of the course, which they are to gain sufficient familiarity with by the time of the simulation. The goal of the exercise is to develop an understanding of the different duties and obstacles faced by each participant in the hearing. The hearings are closely modeled on the framework of the Canadian refugee determination system.
Course Fee: $850. After March 31, 2005: $950
Sponsored applicants may be eligible for the $850 fee past March 31 if proof of sponsorship is provided before this date. Fee includes course and all course materials. Food and accommodation are not included. A limited number of tuition subsidies are available.
For further information and application materials go to www.yorku.ca/crs or E-mail: firstname.lastname@example.org
Contact: Bruce Collet, Summer Course Director
Centre for Refugee Studies, York University
Suite 315, York Lanes, 4700 Keele Street
Toronto, Ontario MJ3 1P3
Billets needed for international participants at the 2005 Summer Course on Refugee Issues, June 11-19
Host an international participant! Each year, the Summer Course on Refugee Issues attracts participants from all over the world who are in need of accommodation. If you live in the Greater Toronto Area, please consider hosting one or more of our guests. Billets often make the enrolment of our international students possible, and serving as a host can be an enriching experience for both parties.
For more information, email Bruce Collet, Summer Course Director, Centre for Refugee Studies at email@example.com or phone (416) 736-5423.
Op-Ed: Dilemmas of democracy in Bangladesh
AKM Abedur Rahaman
Daily Star, 2005-03-13
called democracy a "charming form of government full of variety, disorder
and dispensing a sort of equality to equals and unequals alike." In recent
years the variety and disorder seem to have outweighed the charm for a number of
countries in Asia and Africa including Bangladesh. The Western style
parliamentary democracy was imposed on the people of the Indian subcontinent,
without having regard to their socio-economic conditions, political traditions,
and pre-requisites of democratic institutions.
people found it difficult to accept such alien institutions as they were not
deep rooted in their political traditions. After the independence of Bangladesh,
its constitution makers adopted a parliamentary form of democracy based on the
same model as the 1956 constitution of Pakistan. I would now like to discuss the
problems of democracy in Bangladesh. Some of the problems are shared by the
other emergent democracies in Asia, while others are peculiar to her. I will
make an attempt to make a comparative study of the working of democracy in the
West with the nascent democracies in Asia and Africa with particular emphasis on
the West, the transition from autocracy to democracy was a slow and gradual
process, and was carried on in a far less complicated conditions than those
which confront the democracies of Asia and Africa including Bangladesh. As
democracy demands people's participation in the affairs of government, it
requires a higher standard of living among far more people than do other forms
of government. In the under-developed countries of Asia and Africa, including
Bangladesh, the priority of the people is to strive for economic emancipation,
whilst trying to preserve the democratic values and traditions at the same time.
It is a difficult task to maintain a delicate balance between political freedom
and socio-economic progress.
the West, however, people with economic means and political weight, who need not
have to fight for survival, can easily participate in the political affairs.
Such participation has gone a long way to contribute towards the successful
working of democratic institutions. A society divided between a small favoured
elite and a large impoverished mass in Bangladesh may not be suitable to develop
democratic values and traditions. The economic conditions are mores conducive to
oligarchy than to free democratic institutions.
the political history of the people of the Indian subcontinent is more
associated with oligarchy and despotic rule than democratic institutions.
Despite the fact that they were familiar with some form of rudimentary
parliamentary democracy since 1919, they found it difficult to adjust themselves
to such free democratic institutions, which they considered was insecurely
grafted upon their older and more deep-rooted system of authority. Consequently,
the experiment of such new political institutions exhibited certain disquieting
features, hampering the growth and development of democratic institutions.
small favoured elite groups, who had been familiar with the concept of Western
democratic institution, were responsible for its imposition in Bangladesh. These
elites, including some top army officials, bureaucrats and politicians, who
happen to exercise the real power in Bangladesh, have miserably failed to
deliver the fruits of its independence to the masses. They have been reaping its
benefits since independence, creating a society with a wide difference between
the haves and have-nots. Such economic disparity between the rich and the poor
has led to the creation of an environment not favourable for the growth and
development of free democratic institutions.
perhaps 90 percent of the people of Bangladesh are Muslims, the impact of
religion on politics cannot be ignored altogether. Although the religious groups
would prefer to hold onto Islamic culture and tradition, they have reluctantly
accepted the imposition of Western democratic institutions. It is true that the
elites are trying to understand and appreciate the genius and traditions of the
masses and the religious groups are also making an effort to meet the challenges
of modern science and technology. There is still a long way to go before they
can reach an agreement. They must try to reconcile their contrasting views on
politics so that a compromise is made for the creation of a society where
synthesis can be made between our fundamental belief and the requirements of our
modern life. Such society, if created, will certainly facilitate the growth and
development of free democratic institutions.
political party is regarded as one of the fundamental requisites of a democratic
form of government, be it presidential or parliamentary. In the West, both the
ruling and the opposition parties play their respective parts in order to ensure
that the process of democracy can work successfully. The opposition party abides
by the decision of the ruling party, while the ruling party also recognise the
rights and grievances of the opposition party. Such exchange of views and mutual
respect for each other has contributed towards the successful working of
Bangladesh, on the other hand, the role of the political parties is marred by
dirty political intrigues, lack of discipline and organisation, and greed for
power. The role of the opposition party has not yet been properly appreciated or
understood. The tendency of the ruling party is to brand the opposition as
anti-state and subversive, while the opposition has not yet learnt the limits of
constitutional opposition. There seems to be much confusion and misunderstanding
between opposition to the government and opposition to the state. Democracy
requires people to participate in the affairs of the government. As it is not
possible for the people to take part directly, public opinion should be formed
to criticise the government and make their wishes known in respect of the
formulation of its policies. Democracy, therefore, provides scope for the people
to form their opinion and at the same time an opportunity to the opposition
party to generate alternative policies. Such fair play of power between the
opposition and the ruling party is the main essence of democratic institutions.
The well-organised public opinion depends for its existence on a responsible and
free press, and a literate, serious and educated public. Bangladesh, like most
of the other nascent democracies in Asia and Africa, lack these requisites.
elections should be held to determine the kind of government the people want.
Such election can be held either on the basis of universal adult or restricted
suffrage. The adoption of universal adult suffrage amongst people majority of
whom are illiterate or semi-illiterate is beset with formidable difficulties and
obstacles. The adoption of universal suffrage in Bangladesh, while disregarding
the fact that a substantial portion of its population are still illiterate or
semi-illiterate, was a step in the right direction. In the Western democratic
countries, the extension of franchise had been gradual and was accompanied by a
corresponding expansion of education.
arguments may be put forward against the adoption of adult suffrage without the
extension of universal education, such adoption has done more good than harm to
the cause of democracy in the new democracies. It has raised the level of
alertness and political consciousness among the masses and it is through the
trial of elections that people will learn the art of self-government. Such
elections should be free and fair so that the will of the people can be
reflected in the formation of the government. The rigging of elections by the
ruling party is still widespread in emergent democracies of Asia and Africa. The
incorporation of the provision of a caretaker government in the constitution of
Bangladesh was intended to ensure that free and fair elections could be held.
Such caretaker government, if composed and operates properly, will ensure that
the elections are held independently without the interference of the ruling
party. Such provision for a caretaker government should be phased out with the
extension of universal education, when the masses acquire the qualities to form
their own judgement in exercising their right of vote without any outside
military intervention, undue interference of the head of the state,
heterogeneous nationalities, tribes and languages, which adversely affected the
working of the parliamentary democracy in Pakistan, did not have any impact on
Bangladesh politics. Nevertheless, the military intervention to take over the
civil administration following the chaos and confusion created in the country
after the assassination of Sheikh Mujib cannot be ignored altogether.
Ershad's misrule for long 9 years perhaps put an end to the prospect of any
military intervention in the future. It is true that the socio-economic
conditions, political traditions and the absence of the pre- requisites of
democracy did not help the growth of the democratic institutions in Bangladesh.
Such difficulties and obstacles perhaps could have been overcome by the
existence of one province, homogenous nation, race, religion, language and tribe
to create an environment for the development of democratic institutions if the
politicians were tolerant, well organised, disciplined and perhaps less greedy
for power. The analysis of the working of the parliamentary democracy from 1991
to 2004 revealed certain disquieting features differentiating it from its
counterpart in the West. The decision of the main political parties in
Bangladesh to boycott the parliament and resort to violence and hartal in order
to force the ruling party out of power clearly speaks of their intention to
capture power without having regard to democratic values.
fate of democracy in Bangladesh as in many parts of Asia and Africa depends upon
the development of a strong and sound footing amongst the people. This may be
termed as the infrastructure of democracy, which means the movement for
democracy must grow with education and economic improvement. The ultimate
success of democracy in new countries including Bangladesh will come only with
economic and educational progress, when the importance of democracy as a form of
human relationship and as a process permitting changes within a frame of
stability can be appreciated by the people.
Abedur Rahaman is a freelance contributor to The Daily Star.