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York Centre for Asian Research Update                         Issue 14, Monday, May 16, 2005


YCAR and Winrock conduct workshop on Rethinking Conservation and Development in the Great Himalayan National Park, India 

YCAR and Winrock International India (WII) are organizing a three-day workshop on “Rethinking Conservation and Development in the Great Himalayan National Park Conservation Area from June 23-25, 2005 at Himachal Pradesh, India. The project is supported by the International Development Research Centre (IDRC). 

Right: In India, the appreciation for conservation of valued natural resources and environment was established with the creation of the first national park in the 1930s. India's participation in the first Earth Summit in 1970 resulted in a central policy which set aside 5% of the country for conservation (Source: GHNP).

The workshop will be held in Shamshi town in Kullu District of Himachal Pradesh followed by a visit to the Sai Ropa Centre, located in the Great Himalayan National Park’s buffer zone, for consultations with local communities. The  workshop is conceived as the planning phase of an Indo-Canadian research and capacity-building project that aims to support and build on 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). 


YCAR gets nod to implement Asian Studies Diploma Program 

The York Faculty of Graduate Studies (FGS) has given its approval for YCAR to implement its Asian Studies Diploma Program to start in Fall 2005 and the core course to be offered in Winter 2006. 

Left: YCAR graduate associates participate in the deliberations on the programs and activities of the Centre.

The diploma answers the identified need among students who are looking for more Asian content in their studies, and to interest prospective employers who are looking for graduates with certifiable expertise in Asian Studies. Specifically, the Asian studies diploma program aims to: (1) work toward greater institutionalization of Asian studies at York, (2) strengthen the community of Asian scholars at York, (3) create a program around which we can solicit sustainable funding in support of our graduate students and YCAR and (4) raise profile of York’s Asian Studies expertise.  

The  diploma program will cover at least four topics:  first, the more traditional study of Asia as a geographic region and sub-regions; second, the political, cultural, economic, and social making of Asia as an object of scholarly attention; third, a redefinition of Asian studies tied to the study of translocality and transnationalism; and fourth, engagement with and study of communities in Canada who identify with being Asian. For more information, contact ycar@yorku.ca


Regent Park Community celebrates Asian Heritage Month with an Exhibition of Journeys

The Regent Park community will be hosting its first Asian Heritage Month celebration event on May 27th, 2005. The theme of this celebration is An Exhibition of Our Journeys: Come Walk With Us

Right: Naatak folk theatrical dance drama marks 167 years of Indian heritage in the west

The event will showcase the rich cultures of the Asian community within Regent Park. It  will be held outdoors located in North Regent Park across from the swimming pool. The event will begin with activities for all, including demonstrations of yoga, tai chi and folk dance. It will continue with entertainment provided by youth dance groups, spoken word artists and other artists from the community until 9 pm. The event will resemble an exhibition where residents will display artifacts, clothing, and showcase their culture and heritage. There will be a display of the history of the South Asian community and their presence in Canada. The festivities will also include the screening of two short films by the Regent Park Film Festival. There will be food and refreshments for all attendees. This event is open to all who wish to participate and give the community an opportunity to exchange, learn and contribute to this important occasion.

The Organizing Committee wish to invite individuals and organizations to assist in a monetary support of $100 or more for the Asian Heritage Month celebration.  For further information about the event and to arrange a donation, please feel free to contact Karima Hashmani at the Regent Park Resident Council at (416) 981-6738.  Thank you very much!


New Momentum for an Asian Monetary Fund - Asia Pacific Bulletin

Asian economic integration took a small step forward earlier this month with renewed talk of an Asian Monetary Fund (AMF) after the 10 members of the Association of Southeast Asian Nations (ASEAN), together with China, Japan and South Korea, announced their intention to strengthen the Chiang Mai Initiative (CMI). It was no surprise that the announcement was made on the sidelines of the Asian Development Bank's annual board summit: the new ADB President, Haruhiko Kuroda, was among those who first proposed an AMF during the Asia financial crisis in 1997. Since taking office in November, Kuroda has said economic integration should be the goal for any regional bank. In April he created the Office for Regional Economic Integration and appointed Masahiro Kawai, a well-known proponent of regional monetary union, as its head. At the ADB summit, Kawai provoked speculation by saying that the "CMI has the potential to become an Asian Monetary Fund". More >>

Other Views

Asian vs. International: Structuring an Asian Monetary Fund by Jeffrey Lewis, CSIS, Washington, DC

One Asian Currency? by Michael Vatikiotis, International Herald Tribune

Source: Asia Graphic by Financial Times.


SSHRC opens applications for Crossing Boundaries Research Initiative

The Social Sciences and Humanities Research Council of Canada  (SSHRC) is now accepting applications for the Crossing Boundaries Research Initiative.  This initiative promotes and support policy-relevant research on key issues and options relevant to 1) improving government accountability and 2) increasing aboriginal social capital. A summary is provided below.  For further details on this initiative, please contact the Office of Research Services (ORS) at ext. 55055 or research@yorku.ca or consult SSHRC’s website at http://www.sshrc.ca/web/apply/program_descriptions/ine/boundaries_e.asp

OBJECTIVES:

This initiative promotes and supports policy-relevant research on key issues and options relevant to the following themes:

a) Improving government accountability - proposals are being accepted for papers that will explore the most recent thinking in this new area as it applies to the three following sub-themes: agreements and collaboration between governments (e.g., federal and provincial, municipal and provincial) to finance and deliver public services; agreements between governmental and non-governmental bodies to finance and deliver public services; and the growing gap between government’s ability to report to the legislature on what it has done and the legislature’s ability to hold the government to account for what it has done.

b) Increasing aboriginal social capital - This theme seeks to develop better understanding of these issues by exploring how information and communication technology can and does help develop aboriginal social capital in terms of the following three sub-themes: the emergence of online aboriginal networks; building capacity in aboriginal communities and institutions; and how the creation of social capital relates to improvement in social, economic and health outcomes. The project will draw on case histories and lessons learned to determine whether, and to what extent, having this capacity in aboriginal governments and communities will make a difference for the growth of social capital.

VALUE: Up to $125,000

DURATION: 12 months  

DEADLINE: June 30, 2005

York University researchers are reminded that all applications for external research funding, including Letters of Intent, must be reviewed and approved by the Office of Research Services before they are submitted to the granting agency.  For internal approval, the application must be accompanied by a completed ORS Application Checklist, which requires the Chair’s and Dean’s signatures.  To ensure that the approved application is ready by the agency deadline, a complete application folder must be submitted to the ORS ten (10) working days prior to final submission date.

Office of Research Services, 214 York Lanes, York University, 4700 Keele Street, Toronto, Ontario M3J 1P3
Tel: (416) 736-5055, Fax: (416) 736-5512.
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SSRC fellowship and grant programs support young researchers 

New-York based Social Science Research Council (SSRC) fellowship and grant programs provide support and professional recognition to innovators within fields, especially to young researchers whose work and ideas have long-term impact on society. The programs promote the diversification of knowledge production and strengthening research by ensuring that it remains open to (and challenged by) a range of perspectives, backgrounds, and nationalities. For a list of current funding opportunities, visit the SSRC website at http://www.ssrc.org/fellowships/.


Rudimentary Thoughts on Funding Academics and Civil Society - by Phar Kim Beng, ASEAN Focus Group 

How should a Western or Japanese foundation understand its funding priorities? Indeed, how should the funds best be used?

This issue warrants attention as foundations' agendas and funds could significantly shape the research community in particular countries, granted that academics in many Asian countries may not be well funded within their own institutions.

While civil society (non-governmental) organizations in Malaysia, for instance, are generally not dependent on such foreign funding, since they can request the assistance of the Malaysian government, provisions do exist for NGOs to seek seed and other funding from various agencies.

While statistics as to the quantum of such funding are not readily available, since most academics and NGOs do not declare the funds they receive, funding in Malaysia has generally come from several familiar sources. They have been used by academics, and NGOs to augment their own research or special programs. Together these agencies have done much to strengthen the presence of Malaysian academics and NGOs in their respective intellectual and social-political pursuits.

The Friedrich Siftung Foundation, the Canadian Institute of Development Assistance (CIDA), The Asia Foundation, The Sasakawa Peace Foundation, The Japan Foundation, The Sumitomo Foundation and The Nippon Foundation, for example, have all done their part. The programs, which they have sponsored, have enhanced international understanding between the recipient and other countries, and allowed academics to sustain their research output.

In June 2005, The Asia Foundation will be setting up its office in Kuala Lumpur. When this comes to be, there is the likelihood that the Asia Foundation will further sponsor groups that seek to promote a more moderate version of Islam.

The Ford Foundation and The Rockefeller Foundation have in turn operated out of their offices in Bangkok, and Jakarta, with Thailand serving as the hub to reach out to Indo-China, while Indonesia has been more independent in nature.

Although the involvement of Western and even Japanese foundations was once looked upon with great suspicion, that period is now but a blip. The faux pas, for example, of the Asia Society in receiving CIA funding back in the 1950s is no longer an issue in the Malaysian intellectual or NGO communities.

But in the post September 11 context, where the US and Japan are both seeking to position 'Islam' as a moderate force, the time is both right for the respective foundations to be asking more critical questions as to how much, both financially and otherwise, they can be involved in activities geared towards inculcating democracy, progressive interpretations of Islam, and the consolidation of civil society? Once again, in the post September 11 context, the three agendas may not be entirely separate.

The best way for foundations to do so is by first understanding the 'fault-lines' of the particular society first; whether real or imagined. Even if imagined, how can the foundations avoid being caught in the crossfire?

In Malaysia, for instance, there is currently a controversy over the formation of the Inter-Faith Commission. Arrayed on one side are more than 200 Muslim NGOs that reject any attempts to 'talk about Islam' that could lead to constitutional amendments. Standing diametrically opposed to these NGOS are an assorted collection of groups, such as the Bar Council, the Christian and Buddhist Associations that believe in the utility in having such a commission; an initiative supported by some liberal Islamic groups too.

Western and Japanese foundations interested in the further formation of moderate Islam would of course support such a commission. Yet in doing so, the foundations expose themselves to being accused of 'secular political favouritism'-a dangerous moniker.

To be sure, there is no easy way out of this conundrum. What the funding agencies must do is to perhaps hire respectable scholars and academics, not necessarily local ones only, to understand the fault lines. This is to ensure greater sensitivity to the dynamics on the ground. It is also to avoid improper weight being given to too few projects. The funds-rather their usage thereof-should then be assessed on a quarterly basis to ensure propriety and due diligence.

Another approach is to specify clearly, albeit thematically, how the donating institutions or foundations want the funds to be used. Academics or NGOs that fall outside of this institutional mandate would not be able to seek the requisite sponsorships; an approach favoured by the United States Institute of Peace (USIP).

For what it is worth, there is no one single formula to guide the efficient allocation of resources. Japanese foundations constantly send their representatives to collaborate with the academics and groups on the ground. Invariably, a lot also depends on the training of project managers to understand the strategic implications of each project, and whether the name and reputation of the foundation could be adversely affected. Out of this matrix, a healthy debate should then be allowed between the donor and funds seeker as to how the money should be used from project to project, or year to year.

WATCHPOINT: To what extent have the events of September 11 shaped research and civil society funding; and what directions in approach will funding institutions follow in the future? - Phar Kim Beng, Kuala Lumpur, ASEAN Focus Group.

Asian Analysis is edited by the Asean Focus Group in co-operation with the Faculty of Asian Studies at the Australian National University, Canberra (anu.asia@anu.edu.au).


York Centre for Asian Research (YCAR). For more information, contact ycar@yorku.ca
Ste. 270 York Lanes, 4700 Keele Street, Toronto ON  M3J 1P3. URL: www.yorku.ca/ycar.