Activity Report (1997) Part 2 - III. Contributing to the Development of an Equitable and Open Society


Asia-Pacific Centre for Human Rights and the Prevention of Ethnic Conflict, Murdoch University (Australia)
Asia-Pacific Human Rights Electronic Database and Communications Networks

¥ 2,036,650
With the aim of setting up a human rights electronic communication network, a workshop was held in Bangkok attended by representatives from 22 leading Asia-Pacific human rights groups. They discussed needs and resources to realize such a network, including various telecommunications facilities that could be made available to human rights organizations. As a result, an experimental Internet-based Web site containing a database of human right documents and names and addresses of organizations and individuals was set up. Responding to the imminent general election in Indonesia, a mirror site was also installed in Indonesian language. Finally, an E-mail discussion list, created specifically for the Bangkok workshop, will continue to link the workshop participants.


Foundation for Development Cooperation (FDC) (Australia)
4th Asia Pacific Regional Workshop on Banking with the Poor

¥ 2,972,264
One of the most promising approaches to combating poverty in third-world countries is that of empowering poor people through the use of small-scale loans and savings schemes, known collectively as microfinance. FDC is the coordinator of the Banking With the Poor (BWTP) network, which is comprised of policy-making institutes, commercial banks, and 35 NGOs from nine Asian countries. BWTP organized a conference over five days in Bangkok with the collaboration of the Sustainable Banking with the Poor (SBP) program of the World Bank. The conference focused on microfinance issues in Asia such as: the policy and regulatory environment for microfinance in Asia; key issues for profitable commercial bank engagement with microfinance; NGOs as financial intermediaries; and a system framework for social and financial intermediation. The 98 participants included microfinance practitioners, bankers with commitment to microfinance, policy-makers, and representatives of donor agencies. A key outcome of the conference is the increased knowledge and understanding of microfinance issues derived by participants in the conference, and their ability to apply these in their microfinance activities.


Center for Advanced Study (Cambodia)
Publication of the Cambodia Report

¥ 2,860,218
An Asia Center grant enabled this independent research organization with expatriate and Cambodian staff to continue the publication of a regular journal, Cambodia Report, published in English and Khmer. The Report presents recent research on issues of national concern. The project aimed to enhance the level of intellectual discourse in Cambodia, to promote collaboration and dialogue between Cambodian and international academics, and to provide an open forum for academic debate. Political turmoil in Cambodia in July 1997 forced the Center to alter its original plan to publish six bimonthly issues, but it nevertheless succeeded in producing two issues of the Cambodia Report and several monographs in its Occasional Papers and Working Papers series, all dealing with important social, political, and economic development issues in Cambodia.


Asia-Pacific Human Rights Information Center (HURIGHTS Osaka) (Japan)
Promotion of the United Nations Decade for Human Rights Education in the Asia Pacific

¥ 3,347,000
Since 1995, the Asia Center has been supporting HURIGHTS Osaka to carry out a research project to support the promotion of the United Nations' Decade for Human Rights Education (1995-2004) through the development of human rights education programs in various countries in Asia. They are particularly looking to identify cultural values in these countries that serve to safeguard and promote personal and community rights, to analyze how these cultural values relate to international human rights norms, and to identify related national laws, policies and programs. This year, HURIGHTS Osaka invited representatives of NGOs and human rights institutions from Southeast Asia to a sub-regional meeting in Bangkok to discuss using the cultural values-human rights framework in human rights education in schools. The results of the research that HURIGHTS has so far initiated were published in two books, and continuing workshops are planned for the South and Northeast Asian sub-regions to formulate region-wide guidelines for promoting the teaching of human rights in schools.


Department of Law, Sophia University (Japan)
Changes on Civil Legal Systems Brought by the Introduction of Market Economies in China, Vietnam and Mongolia

¥ 4,988,000

With the cooperation of local governments in each country, this research project investigated the current status of civil legal systems and recent legislation in China, Mongolia, and Vietnam. In this final phase of a three-year project (carried out in 1995 with a grant to Nagoya University's Graduate School of International Development and in 1996 with a grant to Sophia's Department of Law), Japanese researchers visited Mongolia to meet with officials of the Ministry of Justice there. Subsequently, researchers and legal experts from the three countries joined Japanese scholars to examine legal problems and policies in market economy at a symposium in Tokyo entitled: "Market Economies and Civil Legal Systems in Japan, China, Mongolia and Vietnam."


Executive Committee of Conference on Wartime Violence against Women (Japan)
Wartime Violence against Women

¥ 2,587,000
In cooperation with the Asian Center for Women's Human Rights in the Philippines, a local organizing community convened an international conference in Tokyo to address the issue of violence against women in the context of war, still unresolved from the past (as in the still contentious case of treatment of women in Asia by Japanese troops during the Second World War), and still relevant given the increase of regional or ethnic disputes in recent years, where women are often particularly victimized. Experts on international law and representatives from human rights organizations from 20 countries examined wartime violence against women in Asia, including the so-called "comfort women" issue, examined definitions of "violence," discussed efforts to seek legal or financial relief for victims, and discussed the prevention of future occurrence. To share the outcome of the conference with a wider public, an open symposium followed the smaller conference that was attended by more than 600 participants. At the end of the symposium, a "Tokyo Declaration" was adopted containing various decisions and recommendations.


Japan Center for Area Development Research (Japan)
Urban Development in Vietnam

¥ 2,490,000
In Vietnam economic growth has brought with it rapid urbanization that has increasingly overwhelmed the nation's city planning systems. In collaboration with Vietnamese counterparts, the Center organized two workshops in Hanoi at which experts from Japan and Vietnam looked at issues of sustainable urban development policy; urban planning; preservation of traditional city sites; and urbanization and agriculture. Aside from enhancing the knowledge and skills of Vietnamese scholars and officials, the project also formulated recommendations toward medium-range urban development policies.


Japan Center for International Exchange (Japan)
Cooperation at Grassroots Level in the Asia-Pacific Region

¥ 3,203,000
This project, supported for a second year by the Asia Center, aims to provide local governments and grassroots NGOs in Japan with practical information and suggestions for improving their exchange and cooperation schemes with local communities in other Asian countries. Following up last year's baseline research survey of international NGOs and international programs of local governments in Japan, this year a Japanese research team composed of representatives of NGOs, local governments, and universities visited China, Philippines, and Indonesia to survey the current status of their grassroots interaction with Japanese counterparts. The survey results were published as Asia and Japan: Cooperation at Grassroots Level, which was distributed to local governments, citizens' groups, NGOs, mass media, and other concerned parties to promote the importance of regional cooperation.


Japanese NGO Center for International Cooperation (JANIC) (Japan)
Networking Between Japanese NGOs and Key Asian NGOs: Towards a New Type of Partnership

¥ 3,700,000
JANIC, which is a central networking body for many Japanese NGOs working internationally, dispatched a research team to Laos, Philippines, Thailand and Vietnam to investigate the activities of Japanese NGOs and to seek ways in which they can redefine their roles as partners with their counterparts in Asia more generally. This was followed in Tokyo by a series of country-specific workshops to discuss the future activities and cooperation models of Japanese NGOs. The workshops resulted in a report that contains recommendations and a draft action plan for a more systematic information network and closer interaction among Asian NGOs.


Japan Relief for Cambodia (Japan)
Cambodia Journalism Workshop through Desktop Publishing

¥ 3,409,746
The Asia Center began support to the first phase of a multi-year project initiated by a Tokyo-based NGO founded by an American expatriate journalist. (This project had earlier been supported by the Japan Foundation Center for Global Partnership.) The aims of the project are to enhance the skills of Cambodian journalists, especially focusing on training them in the use of desktop computers, and, more generally, to establish a solid foundation for a free and responsible press. The training was carried out in collaboration with the journalism program of the Royal University of Phnom Penh. Trainees included active journalists, university students, and several local NGO representatives. The training courses, two rounds of which were carried out in this initial phase, covered theory of journalism, ethics, principles of news writing, in addition to basic computer desktop publishing. Trainers included visiting journalists from U.S.A. and Japan as well as a team of professional journalists from the League of Cambodian Journalists and the Khmer Journalists Association.


Shapla Neer (Citizen's Committee in Japan for Overseas Support) (Japan)
Development NGOs in Bangladesh

¥ 1,594,400
Shapla Neer, a Japanese NGO with offices in Bangladesh, has been working on issues of rural poverty and agricultural development in that country for the last 25 years. In order to evaluate and share its past experiences and to chart its future strategies, it invited local and foreign NGOs, government officials, and members of international organizations supporting development of Bangladesh to two conferences. Considering the critical financial crisis facing middle-and-small sized NGOs there, the first conference, in Dhaka, identified the roles of foreign NGOs and donors, and ways to strengthen the management skills of local NGOs. The conference in Tokyo focused on how official Overseas Development Assistance agencies and development NGOs should cooperate and establish links. The proceedings of the two meetings were edited and published in English and Japanese and distributed to interested organizations.


Sotoshu Volunteer Association (Japan)
Revival and Promotion of Traditional Culture, and Improvement of the Educational Environment in Cambodia through Library Activities

¥ 4,511,640
Cambodian traditional culture was severely damaged during the the many years of war in the country and especially during the Pol Pot period. Rapid socioeconomic changes in the last few years have also begun to take their toll on what did survive. This Japanese NGO, which has been working on social, educational, and humanitarian projects in Cambodia for many years, thus undertook this project to improve the educational environment for the teaching of traditional knowledge, including rebuilding the country's spiritual tradition, through library activities for children. The project activities included developing and managing small public libraries; providing local teachers with opportunities to learn about the use of library activities such as reading out loud to children or using books or illustrated kami shibai panels; collecting and transcribing folk tales; and publishing illustrated books. The project aimed to contribute to improve children's literacy, to cultivate their aesthetic sensitivity, and to raise the level of teaching abilities of local teachers.


Asian Institute of Management (AIM) (Philippines)
Human Resource Development Training in Cambodia, Laos, and Vietnam and Publishing a Textbook on Preparations for ASEAN Free Trade Area

¥ 2,696,625
In collaboration with the Graduate School of International Development of Nagoya University, AIM worked on formulating strategies for long-term human resource development in Cambodia, Laos, and Vietnam. AIM also worked with Vietnam's National Economic University on the feasibility of starting a formal master's program in development management there. As a second part of their project, AIM and Nagoya prepared case study-based teaching materials on the topic "How a Smaller Company Can Prepare for ASEAN Free Trade Area (AFTA): Learning from ASEAN's Small and Medium Enterprises" to help educators and the business community in Indochina to deal with the challenges of eventual Membership in AFTA. This entailed profiling of business managers in eight East and Southeast Asian countries, an activity that was somewhat hampered by the financial crisis that struck the region in mid-1997. The manuscripts are in the process of being edited for local and international book publication in English, with the intention of translating them into other Asian languages.


Institute of Southeast Asian Studies (ISEAS) (Singapore)
Tribal Communities in the Malay World: Historical, Cultural and Social Perspectives

¥ 1,555,005
An Asia Center grant enabled the Institute to collate, edit and publish selected papers from an April 1997 conference, jointly organized by ISEAS with the International Institute for Asian Studies, Netherlands, entitled, "Tribal Communities in the Malay World: Historical, Cultural and Social Perspectives." The book, which will be released in mid-1998, includes multi-disciplinary contributions that address new theoretical and descriptive approaches for the study of cultural continuities and discontinuities of tribal peoples in the greater Malay world. Chapters cover cultural characteristics, values, historical background, and comparative studies of related tribal communities in Malaysia, Brunei, Indonesia, Singapore and Thailand.


Regional Centre for Strategic Studies (RCSS) (Sri Lanka)
Good Governance and Defense Spending in South Asia: Assessing Policy Implications

¥ 1,488,440
Although security and defense-related matters are traditionally considered as "internal" affairs, the attitude of Official Development Assistance (ODA) donor countries and agencies is becoming increasingly critical of the disproportionate spending in recipient countries on defense vis-a-vis social and economic programs. RCSS's scholars, in collaboration with counterparts in Bangladesh, Bhutan, India, Nepal, and Pakistan, therefore took up the question of how the level of defense spending affects development objectives in other public sectors-economic growth, social development, and political decision-making, for example-in South Asia. The research led to recommendations on more effective use of foreign borrowing and development aid considering the competing national priorities such as defense and socioeconomic development. The research results will eventually be published in book form.


Indochina Media Memorial Foundation (IMMF) (Thailand)
Radio Journalism Training Course

¥ 2,329,108
Continuing its support for training of journalists in Indochina and neighboring countries, the Asia Center enabled the IMMF to carry out a three-week training workshop for 16 radio journalists from Cambodia, Laos, Myanmar, Thailand and Vietnam that focused on issues of women and children. The workshop was held at Chulalongkorn University and Chiang Mai University in Thailand. A former BBC journalist from U.K. and a Canadian journalist were invited as lecturers. They covered writing for radio, reporting, developing news ideas, interviewing and presentation techniques, broadcasting ethics, and how to work as a team. This was the third journalism workshop held by IMMF with Asia Center support.


Mekong Region Law Center (Thailand)
Mekong Region Commercial Law Initiative

¥ 2,706,565
Aiming to address the issues of legal reform in the transition from centrally planned to market economy in Indo-China, this Bangkok-based NGO hosted the third of a series of training workshops funded by Asia Center grants. The topic of this year's five-day training workshop was "An Introduction to Copyright Law and the Law Concerning the Protection for Industrial Designs," timely topics considering the Mekong countries' preparation for Membership in the World Trade Organization. Legal officials and lawyers from Cambodia, Indonesia, Laos, Thailand, and Vietnam participated as trainees. The trainers were MRLC staff and Thai and Japanese experts in copyright law.


National Center for Social Sciences and Humanities (Vietnam)
Social and Cultural Changes in the Process of Transition to Market Economy in Some Asian Countries

¥ 2,046,120
Scholars from the Center conducted a research project to study the impact of social and cultural changes arising from the transition to the market economy in Cambodia, Laos, Myanmar and Vietnam, and possible policies and measures to deal with those changes. The research results were then discussed at a three-day international conference in Hanoi, to which collaborating researchers and other scholars from China, Japan, Laos, Thailand, Malaysia, Singapore, South Korea and Vietnam were invited. The final outcome of the research and the symposium will be published in 1998.


National Center for Social Sciences and Humanities (Vietnam)
Vietnam and the Process of Joining the ASEAN Free Trade Area (AFTA)

¥ 3,636,776
The Hanoi-based Center has been studying the implications of Vietnam's joining AFTA in 2006. A team of Vietnamese scholars used this Asia Center grant to visit Malaysia, Philippines, and Singapore to learn about the process of AFTA implementation and the eventual impacts on member economies and to evaluate Vietnam's own progress in its preparations for Membership. After the visits, an international symposium entitled "AFTA and ASEAN Economies in the Perspective of the Asian Financial Crisis" was held in Hanoi, at which scholars from ASEAN member countries discussed AFTA's compliance criteria and the capacity of different countries to meet them. Participants also evaluated the implications of future Membership in AFTA on domestic and regional economies, especially in light of the recent financial crisis affecting the Southeast Asian countries.

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