EVENT [RESOURCES]: Book Launch 'The Water-Food-Energy Nexus' [Bangkok, 21 May 2019]

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Presentation can be accessed here. For more information about the book, as well as open access chapter and where to get it, please visit the link here.

Speakers:

  • Dipak Gyawali, Nepal Academy of Science and Technology

  • Jeremy Allouche, Institute of Development Studies, University of Sussex (by Skype)

  • Carl Middleton, Center for Social Development Studies, Faculty of Political Science, Chulalongkorn University

Discussants:

  • Dr. Takeshi Ito, Graduate Program in Global Studies, Sophia University

  • Dr. Supawan Visetnoi, Chulalongkorn University School of Agricultural Resources (CUSAR)

Chair:

  • Dr. Kasira Cheeppensook, Faculty of Political Science, Chulalongkorn University

Video feed from the discussion:

EVENT [RESOURCES]: Why Money and Disequilibrium Matter to Economics [Bangkok, 14 March 2019]

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Public Lecture by Professor Steve Keen

Honorary Professor, University College London Institute for Strategy, Resilience & Security (UCL ISRS) Distinguished Research Fellow, Crowdfunded Professor of Economics on Patreon

Presentation: Why Debt and Disequilibrium Matter

Economist (or as he prefers, anti-economist) Steve Keen joins us to unveil the role of money in economics and how the idea of equilibrium leads us astray. He will also explain what it means to have become the crowdfunded Professor of Economics, and why most of the things many people, within and outside academia, believe about the world of economics, finance and business are simply wrong.

Awarded the Revere Prize for most accurately forecasting the Global Financial Crisis, Professor Keen remains the leading global expert on the role of money, finance and debt in the modern world, from Australia’s property bubble, through to the list of countries he describes as the Walking Dead of Debt.

EVENT [REPORT]: Research Forum on Powering up Sustainable Development for Asia: The Future of Global and Regional Investment in Asia’s Energy Sector [Bangkok, 25 January 2019]

On 25 January 2019, Center for Social Development Studies together with Konrad-Adenauer-Stiftung e.V. and Chatham House co-organized a Research Forum on “Powering up Sustainable Development for Asia: The Future of Global and Regional Investment in Asia’s Energy Sector”, which was held in Chulalongkorn University. For more information about this forum, please visit the link here.

Picture © Konrad adenauer stiftung 2019

Picture © Konrad adenauer stiftung 2019

You can read the report from the event here.

To read more about the findings from the event, please read the excerpt and visit the link below for an article by one of our co-organizers, Sam Geall from Chatham House.

Asia’s cryosphere, the vast stores of frozen water in the high mountains that feed the rivers on which some 1.3 billion people depend, is warming far faster than average, an expert assessment warned recently, adding that two-thirds of Himalayan glaciers could disappear by the end of the century.

This and other warning signs make clear the need for a sustainable energy transition in Asia, not only given the urgency of mitigating climate change, but also because renewable energy technologies can help to provide cheap and reliable energy to areas where grid-based provision is unreliable or otherwise prohibited by geography or high costs.

A green transformation, if done right, can address poverty reduction goals and improve health and environmental quality. But achieving this requires rethinking many assumptions about the current system that generates and distributes electricity, and its interconnections with a genuinely sustainable society.

Read more at this link here.

EVENT [REPORT]: Disaster and Displacement - A Human Rights Perspective [Bangkok, 28-29 November 2018]

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On 29 November 2018, the Center for Social Development Studies (CSDS) hosted a workshop led and coordinated by our partner the Raoul Wallenberg Institute, to discuss about disaster and displacement in Asia Pacific. The discussion is part of a ten-country study on a range of types of disaster and displacement scenarios understood through a human rights perspective. The overall study examines how state actors fulfill their obligations to prevent displacement, conduct evacuation, protect people during displacement, and facilitate durable solutions in the aftermath. Aspects of the ongoing research were presented during the workshop by the researchers involved.

Regarding the prevention of displacement, the experience of Thailand and the Philippines were shared. For Thailand, Dr. Carl Middleton from Center for Social Development Studies (CSDS), Chulalongkorn University, presented on the 'Hat Yai Model', which is an effort to develop ‘soft infrastructure’ in the form of improved flood warning, and the strengthening of local government, community, civil society and local business capacity and collaboration to live with floods over the several days when it occurs. While it still has room for improvement, the researchers propose that the ‘Hat Yai Model’ as a preventative measure should be widely promoted in Thailand and beyond as a means to promote constructive state and non-state cooperation, enhance community empowerment and awareness, as well as to reduce the community’s vulnerability to flood disaster. Ryan Jeremiah D. Quan from Ateneo de Manila University School of Law presented the research on displacement prevention effort in the Philippines, particularly during the Typhoon Haiyan, which revealed that even though there is a disaster prevention system in place, there is a gap between the guidelines that are implemented by the government agencies on the national and provincial level and the experience and needs of the local government personnel in the field.

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The studies from Indonesia and Vanuatu provided insights about the evacuation process, especially for vulnerable groups. The study on Indonesia was presented by Andika Putra from ASEAN Studies Center, Universitas Gadjah Mada (UGM). The study, which focused on recurrent eruptions of Mount Sinabung and how it affected persons with disabilities, revealed how the disaster management system and the rights of persons with disabilities are managed under two different legal frameworks, which are yet to be synchronized at both national and local level. It is also noted that when the government doesn't present itself, non-government actors such as religious groups played an important role in supporting people with disability.

Lack of representation from vulnerable groups was also found in the case of Vanuatu, which was struck by Cyclone Pam in 2015. Tess Van Geelen in her presentation showed how there is no permanent position within government institution to consistently represent these groups. Such a condition led to the lack of protection provisions in government policies and effective approach in responding to disasters. International assistance has supported the development of many exemplary protection policies, however, the government staff is presently not equipped with the skill to implement the protection policies.

In terms of protection of affected people during disaster, researchers looked at the experience from the 2015 earthquake in Nepal, and flooding in Bangladesh and Cambodia. The study in Nepal by Dr. Bala Raju Nikku highlighted the limited access to basic necessities and services, as well as mental health issues that became very common among displaced persons. Currently, there is limited capacity in the government to address this issue, and therefore mental health issue is not included in the protection planning. In the future, the researcher argued that it is very important to psychosocial assistance as the first aid for people facing the issue of displacement, especially for vulnerable groups such as women, children, and persons with disabilities.

The displacement scenario was revealed to be different in Bangladesh. MD Abdul Awal Khan from the Law Department of Independent University, Bangladesh, said on his presentation that currently there is no systemic plan on displacement organized by the government, causing people to move haphazardly. There is an existing policy with statutory provisions regarding disaster management, but the lack of implementation mechanism and strategies made it inadequate to mitigate when disaster happens. The lack of coordination between concerned government agencies is particularly affecting persons with disabilities, because there is no existing plan to handle such situation.

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Ratana Ly from Cambodia on her research examined how people who live with annual flooding experience displacement. People in area that flood has been living there for generations; they are tied to the land and are unwilling to move away to other areas, even though disaster may happen every year. From the Cambodia research, it was shown that disaster management-related policies need to address the local knowledge, so that policy can reflect local values.

The final two studies presented were on China and Myanmar examining durable solutions to the aforementioned issues. In China, Tang Yixia found on her research that the legal framework for disaster relief had encompassed various aspects from the prevention measures before disasters, emergency rescue measures at the time of disasters, coping strategies after disasters, as well as incorporating special provisions on the rights of women and minors. However, in implementation, human rights and gender perspective are still being left behind, which makes the protection of displaced persons’ rights not fully effective.

Myanmar, which has ratified various international human rights treaties, also has existing national laws and policies which promote protection of the human rights of displaced persons in the context of disaster. Prof. Dr. Khin Chit Chit of Yangon University revealed in her presentation that there is even a provision within the national law that require the government to prioritize children, women, and persons with disabilities. However, a more detailed regulation is needed to ensure that the government has a long-term plan to manage risks within these vulnerable groups. Harmonization between the disaster management laws with other related laws is also needed to ensure the substantial protection.

The feedback gathered during the consultation workshop, with valuable inputs from international organisations and experts in regards to internally displaced persons in the context of disaster, will be incorporated into these ongoing studies, will be incorporated into the finalization of the research projects.

For the research in Thailand and about the wider project, please visit our project page here, for updates.

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EVENT [REPORT]: Policy Forum on Resource Politics and the Public Sphere In Southeast Asia: Deliberation, Accountability and Alternatives [Bangkok, 13 December 2018]

In Southeast Asia, access to resources, ranging from land and water, to clean air and energy, are central to livelihoods and wellbeing. The distribution of access to resources reflect state policies and societal values, as well as the inclusiveness and accountability of decision-making processes that link them together and result in their translation into practice. The public sphere is the arena where state policies and societal values interact and are debated, including on potentially contested issues such as access to resources. It includes public venues, and via the mass media and social media.

Civil, political and media freedoms are necessary for a vibrant public sphere, but they are increasingly challenged in Southeast Asia, and in practice accountability occurs only in part. Opportunities to utilize the public sphere for accountability and exploring alternatives vary across Southeast Asia due to diverse political and legal systems. It is important to reflect on the implications of these trends, and explore established and new opportunities to maintain an active public sphere for deliberating public policies and societal values, ensuring accountable decision-making and debating alternative development visions.

To address the challenge and opportunities of the public sphere in Southeast Asia, on 13 December 2018 the Center for Social Development Studies co-organized a policy forum together with the Foundation for Community Educational Media (FCEM), and Heinrich Boell Stiftung (HBS) Southeast Asia Office. Civil society, academics, journalists, lawyers, and other stakeholders joined the event at the Faculty of Political Science, Chulalongkorn University to discuss the trends, opportunities and challenges of the public sphere for ensuring fair resource politics in Southeast Asia.

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The Deputy Dean for Research Affairs of the Faculty of Political Science, Asst. Prof. Dr. Pandit Chanrojanakit, welcomed the participants by highlighting the importance of these kinds of discussions to explore the alternative ways of maintaining public participation in the continuously shrinking civic space in Southeast Asia. He also highlighted the main questions that the policy forum should address, namely: the role of civil society, government and business; an evaluation of the opportunities and challenges in local, national and transnational laws; and the role of mass media and social media.

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The first session, moderated by Jakkrit Sangkamanee from the Faculty of Political Science, Chulalongkorn University, explored the trends, opportunities, and challenges related to resource politics and the public sphere in Southeast Asia. Naruemon Thabchumpon from the Faculty of Political Science, Chulalongkorn University, reflected on how the public sphere has shaped Thailand’s resource politics. She explained on how democracy has evolved in Thailand with a shrinking public sphere and raised the important question of how civil society movements can respond to these challenges. Asfinawati, the Executive Director of Indonesia Legal Aid Foundation (YLBHI), talked about the difficulties organizations in Indonesia are facing due to existing and new laws - such as the blasphemy law and the electronic information and transaction law – that is narrowing the civic space, but she also highlighted the opportunities and strategies of local and traditional communities movements that are occurring across Indonesia.  Benjamin Tay, the President of the People’s Movement to Stop Haze (PM Haze), reflected on Singapore’s experience of haze, explaining the impacts of the haze to Singaporean people’s livelihoods and highlighting the importance of community engagement both locally and across borders, as well as raising public awareness through the media. Mong Palatino, the Southeast Asia Regional Director of GlobalVoices, raised the situations of grave concern in the Philippines, particularly for environmental defenders with the targeted killings and surge of violence towards them. He noted how it has also led to a disturbing trend in the region on impunity and silencing the media.

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The second session, moderated by Chantana Banpasirichote from the Faculty of Political Science, Chulalongkorn University, discussed transboundary accountability mechanisms and the public sphere. Eang Vuthy, the Executive Director of Equitable Cambodia, shared lessons learned from civil society in Cambodia on land issues, demonstrating how it is possible to transform community-company land conflicts through dialogue, but it is also necessary to empower communities so that they can participate effectively in the process. Premrudee Daoroung from Project Sevana Southeast Asia/Lao Dam Investment Monitor discussed about hydropower projects in Lao and how existing mechanisms in Laos has supported the expansion of the dam business, whilst not ensuring project developer’s accountability. Carl Middleton from the Center for Social Development Studies, Chulalongkorn University, explored hard-law and soft-law transnational accountability mechanisms and the public sphere in Southeast Asia. He argued that transnational public spheres are created, affirmed and reinforced only through the actions of affected communities, civil society groups, and allied individuals. Commissioner Edmund Bon, Malaysia Representative to the ASEAN Intergovernmental Commission on Human Rights, discussed about the right to development and how it could facilitate public opinion and create the public sphere.

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The third session, moderated by Chiranuch Premchaiporn from the Foundation for Community Educational Media (FCEM), discussed the role of public spaces, mass media and social media in protecting the local commons and community livelihoods. Tran Vi from the Legal Initiatives for Vietnam presented an overview of the impacts of industrial pollution caused by Formosa, a Taiwanese company, that affected Vietnam in 2016. She explained the history and ongoing efforts of civil society, including how Vietnamese and Taiwanese groups have collaborated to assist people in affected areas. Mokh Sobirin, the Executive Director of Desantara Foundation and from the Kendeng Movement in Indonesia, demonstrated how the momentum of local people’s movements, when supported by the urban middle class, can be a vital element for democratization and ensuring an active public sphere in the case of natural resources management in Indonesia. Tay Zar Myo Win, an independent researcher and previously a MAIDS student at Chulalongkorn University, shared lessons from electricity planning in Dawei City, Myanmar. He  concluded that the public sphere can contribute towards the accountability of the government by allowing civil society and the people to communicate with and hold accountable the government even in hybrid governance regimes that are not fully democratic. Vincy Usun from Baram Kini reflected on the anti-dam protest movement in Baram, Serawak, and how the civil society movement was successful in their efforts to stop the Baram Dam with their people’s movement, blockades, talk sessions in the cities, and dialogues sessions between professionals.

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The last session, moderated by Srijula Yongstar from Heinrich Böll Stiftung Southeast Asia Regional Office explored the alternative spaces for counter discourses. Kyi Phyo from Mekong Energy and Ecology Network (MEENet) and Aung Myint Tun from Green Rights Organization presented the successful example of how communities and civil society had managed energy, water and forest resources in Danu self-administrative area in Southern Shan, Myanmar at the local level. Charoenkwan Chuntarawichit, a youth member from the Southern Peasants Federation of Thailand (SPFT), discussed about access to land and livelihoods in Southern Thailand, comparing the land allocation for Special Economic Zone versus arable land.  Toshi Doi, a Senior Advisor from Mekong Watch, drew lessons from his recent research on Laos’ dominant development narrative that emphasizes on large hydropower dam construction, in contrast to how communities provide alternatives to the dominant narratives through local stories. Lastly, Kirsten Han from New Naratif shared about this new online multi-media platform that aims to provide an alternative media analysis of what is happening regionally in Southeast Asia, and to bring important issues from each country to the attention of regional readers.

For the closing remarks, Mr. Manfred Hornung from Heinrich Böll Stiftung Southeast Asia, emphasized the importance of protecting the multiple public spaces where different approaches to development can be deliberated and tested, whilst not viewing these different approaches as ‘alternatives’ as that could reduce their perceived value but rather seeing them as viable replacements for the current mainstream development. He acknowledge that there is a shrinking space that can limit the freedom of expression, even though the public space at large should be the space for anyone to express their opinion. Naruemon Thabchumpon from the Faculty of Political Science, Chulalongkorn University ended the forum with a story of how she was inspired by the committed spirit of two women activists who passed away recently, highlighting that in the matter of public sphere, it’s not about waiting for those in authority to grant public space, but how communities and civil society can create these spaces as well. Appreciating that many people had attended the policy forum and actively participated, she shared her optimism that people in Southeast Asia still and will continue to protect spaces to voice their opinions on things that matter to their societies.

The presentations from this public forum can be accessed here. All of the sessions were broadcast on Facebook Live and can also be viewed on the above link.

EVENT [RESOURCES]: Policy Forum on Resource Politics and the Public Sphere In Southeast Asia: Deliberation, Accountability and Alternatives [Bangkok, 13 December 2018]

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Program and List of Panelists:

08.15 - 09.00  Registration

09.00 - 09.15  Welcome remarks by Assoc. Prof. Dr. Pandit Chanrojanakit, Deputy Dean for Research Department, Faculty of Political Science, Chulalongkorn University

09.15 - 10.30  Panel 1: Resource Politics and the Public Sphere in Southeast Asia: Trends, Opportunities, Challenges

Chair: Jakkrit Sangkamanee, Faculty of Political Science, Chulalongkorn University

10.30 - 11.00  Coffee break

11.00 - 12.30  Panel 2: Transboundary accountability mechanisms and the public sphere

Chair: Chantana Banpasirichote Wungaeo, Faculty of Political Science, Chulalongkorn University

12.30 - 13.30  Lunch

13.30 - 15.00  Panel 3: Protecting local commons and community livelihoods: Role of public spaces, mass media and social media

Chair: Chiranuch Premchaiporn, Foundation for Community Educational Media

15.00 - 15.30 Coffee Break

15.30 - 16.45 Panel 4: Deliberating alternatives: Spaces for counter discourses

Chair: Srijula Yongstar, Heinrich Böll Stiftung Southeast Asia Regional Office

16.45 - 17.00  Closing Reflections

  • Mr. Manfred Hornung, Director, Heinrich Böll Stiftung Southeast Asia Regional Office

  • Professor Surichai Wun’gaeo, Center for Peace and Conflict Studies, Chulalongkorn University

EVENT [REPORT]: Book Launch "Dead in the Water: Global Lessons from the World Bank's Model Hydropower Project in Laos" [Bangkok, 19 October 2018]

On 19 October 2018, the Center for Social Development Studies (CSDS) hosted a book launch for "Dead in the Water: Global Lessons from the World Bank's Model Hydropower Project in Laos". The book launch event discussed several topics related to the book's themes, inviting four panelists who also contributed chapters to the book.

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Bruce Shoemaker, the co-editor of the book who is an independent researcher on natural resource conflict issues with a focus on the Mekong region, presented an overview of the book highlighting amongst other issues the impact that Nam Theun 2 has had on biodiversity in the Nakai-Nam Theun National Protected Area. Glenn Hunt, a Ph.D candidate at the University of Bern, Switzerland followed by discussing the livelihoods resettlement program on the Nakai Plateau and analysed it using the five pillars of livelihood restoration program which includes commercial forestry, fisheries, agriculture, livestock and off-farm.

Carl Middleton from Center for Social Development Studies (CSDS), Faculty of Political Science, Chulalongkorn University, discussed the legacy of the Nam Theun 2 project in the discourse on sustainable hydropower and the need to re-frame the debate from sustainable hydropower towards comprehensive forms of energy options assessments. Kanokwan Manorom from the Faculty of Liberal Arts, Ubon Ratchathani University, discussed the downstream impacts of the Nam Theun 2 project on the Xe Bang Fai river basin, focusing on women and the ethnic minorities living around the area and how the project affected their livelihoods negatively in their everyday life. The book launch was moderated by Kasira Cheeppensook from CSDS.

The shared presentations from this discussion can be accessed here. The discussion was broadcast on Facebook Live and can be viewed at the above link.

EVENT [RESOURCES]: Book Launch "Dead in the Water: Global Lessons from the World Bank's Model Hydropower Project in Laos" [Bangkok, 19 October 2018]

 
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Program and List of Panelists

Moderated by Kasira Cheeppensook (Center for Social Development Studies, Faculty of Political Science, Chulalongkorn University)

Panelists:

EVENT [RESOURCES]: Understanding the Lancang-Mekong Cooperation Framework and China’s role in the Mekong Region [Bangkok, 3 September 2018]

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Program and List of Panelists:

08.15 - 09.00  Registration

09.00 - 09.15  Welcome remarks by Assoc. Prof. Dr. Ake Tangsupvattana, Dean of Faculty of Political Science, Chulalongkorn University

09.15 - 10.45  Session 1: The Belt and Road Initiative:  Geopolitical implications for Asia

Moderator: Asst. Prof. Dr. Carl Middleton, Center for Social Development Studies, Faculty of Political Science, Chulalongkorn University

  • 'Geopolitics and Geoeconomics of the Belt and Road Initiative' by Dr. Thitinan Pongsudhirak, Institute of Security and International Studies (ISIS), Chulalongkorn University

  • 'The Belt and Road Initiative: A Perspective from China' by Mr. Li Hong,Permanent Mission of the People's Republic of China to the United Nations Economic and Social Commission for Asia and Pacific (UNESCAP)

  • 'What does the Belt and Road Initiative mean for US-Thailand relations?' by Benjamin Zawacki, Independent Analyst

  • 'Debt Diplomacy?: The experience of Sri Lanka' by Amantha Perera, Journalist

10.45 - 11.15  Coffee break

11.15 - 12.45  Session 2: Transboundary Water Cooperation – Progress and Challenges

Moderator: Dr. Ukrist Pathmanand, Mekong Research Center, Institute of Asian Studies, Chulalongkorn University  

12.45 - 13.30  Lunch

13.30 - 14.45  Session 3: Rise of the Lancang-Mekong Cooperation Framework: Emerging cooperation issues

Moderator: Kamol Sukin, China Dialogue

14.45 - 15.15  Coffee Break

15.15 - 16.45  Session 4: Reporting on the Mekong and China’s role: Trends, challenges and successes for Southeast Asia’s media

Moderator: Sim Kok Eng Amy, Earth Journalism Network

16.45 - 17.00  Closing Reflections

  • Dr. Sam Geall, China Dialogue

  • Professor Surichai Wun’gaeo, Center for Peace and Conflict Studies, Chulalongkorn University

EVENT [REPORT]: Policy Forum on Understanding the Lancang-Mekong Cooperation Framework and China's role in the Mekong region [Bangkok, 3 September 2018]

On 3 September 2018, the Center for Social Development Studies (CSDS) and the Faculty of Political Science of Chulalongkorn University hosted a policy forum discussing the Lancang-Mekong Cooperation (LMC) and China's role in the Mekong region. The forum was co-organized with chinadialogue, The Third Pole, and Earth Journalism Network. Over ninety participants were spending the full day discussing important issues on the cooperation framework and initiatives in Southeast Asia.

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The Dean of the Faculty of Political Science, Assoc. Prof. Dr. Ake Tangsupvattana, opened the event with welcoming remarks highlighting how the countries of mainland Southeast Asia are facing a period of rapid change with growing flows of investment from China into a range of projects. He observed that whilst economic growth continues, there remain unresolved challenges on environmental sustainability, social equity, and public participation.

The first session, moderated Dr. Carl Middleton from CSDS, discussed the geopolitical implications of the Belt and Road Initiative for Asia. Dr. Thitinan Pongsudhirak from the Institute of Security and International Studies (ISIS) of Chulalongkorn University raised the question on how the Belt and Road Initiative posed challenges to the existing legal international regimes, while Mr. Li Hong who is the Permanent Representative of China to United Nations Economic and Social Commission for Asia and Pacific (UNESCAP) discussed the ideas behind the Belt and Road Initiatives and how it is an open initiative and it is expected to be a joint effort between the countries instead of just centering on China. Legal and Political Analyst Benjamin Zawacki explained the impact of Belt and Road Initiatives for the relations between Thailand and the US, including US proposals for a Free and Open Indo-Pacific strategy, as well as the crucial role Thailand could be playing once it takes up the ASEAN chair in 2019. Wrapping up the session was Amantha Perera, a journalist from Sri Lanka, who shared the experience of Sri Lanka dealing with investments from China which has led in some cases to a so-called “Debt Trap” when loans failed to perform. He also reminded how environmental impact from investments are rarely being properly assessed and not publicly disclosed.

The second session, moderated by Dr. Ukrist Pathmanand from the Mekong Research Center of Chulalongkorn University, discussed the progress and challenges on transboundary water cooperation. Dr. Anoulak Kittikhoun, Chief Strategy and Partnership Officer of the Mekong River Commission (MRC) Secretariat explained about the MRC and how it was increasingly engaging with China, including through the LMC. Dr. John Dore, Lead Water Specialist from Australia's Department of Foreign Affairs and Trade highlighted how around transboundary water governance on the Mekong River involved not only governments, but multiple actors and coalitions through multi-track diplomacy that influences development directions and decision-making. Meanwhile Supalak Ganjanakhundee from The Nation newspaper reflected on the Xe Pian - Xe Nam Noi disaster and how he expected the existing initiatives in the Mekong Region, including the MRC, to play a bigger part in responding to the disaster.

The third session, moderated by Kamol Sukin from chinadialogue, discussed emerging cooperation issues with the rise of the LMC. Courtney Weatherby from the Stimson Centre raised the issue of energy market shifts. In particular, she addressed how the price of non-hydropower renewables were dropping quickly, there are now innovations in energy transmission, and how China’s current excess hydropower could drastically alter investment needs in the Lower-Mekong region. Dr. Chayanis Krittasudthacheewa from Stockholm Environment Institute (SEI) explained the necessity of sustainable scientific cooperation across the region to address knowledge gaps. She also highlighted how better approaches to knowledge production and need to influence policy, in particular the “co-production of knowledge” between researchers and practioners. Dr. Apichai Sunchindah, an Independent Development Specialist, highlighted the lack of sufficient cooperation between different existing regional frameworks and how ASEAN could help in backing initiatives in the Mekong Region to balance the influence of China.

In the last session, moderated by Sim Kok Eng Amy from Earth Journalism Network, journalists from China, Myanmar, and Vietnam shared the trends, challenges, and successes for Southeast Asia's media on reporting the Mekong and China's role. Wang Yan from News China highlighted journalists' role in reporting regional issues such as helping to facilitate communications between upstream and downstream countries and communities. Zayar Hlaing from Mawkun Magazine in Myanmar shared the story of the Sino-Myanmar pipeline project and its impact on the livelihood of people living along the pipeline. Bui Tien Dung from Vietnam shared about the importance of networking and capacity building for journalists working on environmental and social issues in the Mekong Region to improve the quality of the reporting. This session also highlighted the importance of cooperation between media and research institutes to help inform public debates.

For the closing remarks, Dr. Sam Geall from chinadialogue highlighted the importance of improved communication between China and the Lower Mekong countries and the role that journalists could play. Professor Surichai Wun'gaeo from the Center for Peace and Conflict Studies of Chulalongkorn University ended the forum with a reminder that any regional inter-governmental cooperation needs to be understood from the perspective of the impact on people’s lives, and emphasized the importance of always putting the well-being of people as the priority.

The shared presentations from this discussion can be accessed here. Some of the sessions were broadcast on Facebook Live and can also be viewed on the above link.

PRESENTATION: Making Research Matter: From Theory to Praxis

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How can research make an impact on real-world problems in Southeast Asia? This was the theme of an invited keynote presentation by Dr. Carl Middleton at the Urban Climate Resilience in Southeast Asia Partnership (UCRSEA) Annual Workshop on 7th May 2018 in Yangon, Myanmar.  

Dr. Carl Middleton presenting his research

Dr. Carl Middleton presenting his research

In a presentation titled “Making Research Matter: From Theory to Praxis,” Dr Middleton argued that there is much to be learned from transdisciplinary research methods. Specifically, he suggested that:

  • Academic knowledge alone is not enough to achieve sustainable development. Multiple actors and multiple forms of knowledge (local, practical, political…) must be involved.
  • The earlier in the research process we work together, the better; process is everything to build trust, legitimacy, networks, and a shared understanding of the problem, the research itself, and ultimately the solutions
  • Engaging in real world problems for a researcher means maintaining academic research principles (furthering knowledge and theory) whilst simultaneously working with others. All partners should maintain a critical engagement with each other.

The full presentation can be downloaded here.

The overall focus of the workshop was to strengthen research capacity in Southeast Asia to address urban resilience to climate change and people-centered vulnerability. Visit UCRSEA’s website for further details on their research program. 

Contact at CSDS: Dr. Carl Middleton

Participants of the Annual Workshop

Participants of the Annual Workshop

EVENT: KNOTS Train-the-Trainer (TTT) Workshop

From 1-4 May 2018, academia and researchers involved in the KNOTS program gathered at the Political Science Department at Chulalongkorn University, Bangkok, Thailand for a special Train-the-Trainer (TTT) workshop aimed at helping build and teach a transdisciplinary curriculum. After a successful summer school held in northern Vietnam in 2017, this workshop continued the work of the EU Erasmus+ sponsored initiative, that serves as a response to the increasingly evolving topics of  social inequality, climate change and migration, with the aim to bridge the higher education sector and non-academic actors. From Germany to Vietnam, this international team has been meeting across the globe in a highly collaborative and international effort to build and grown the transdisciplinary program known as KNOTS, with the hopes that as this method and mindset continues to spread, it will allow for greater engagement of not only multiple stakeholders, but greater connection to local communities, who have often in the past been left out of the research taking place in their own spaces.

Using the Political Science faculty's smart classroom, which came enabled with interactive and connectable LED screens, group-work friendly mobile tables/chairs, whiteboard desks and smart whiteboards, the four days of sessions were designed to not just upskill the program's academics to go out and teach transdisciplinary research methods, but to be interactive and iterative in a way that will continue to shape the content so it is custom and bespoke for the participant's particular situation, country or learning cohort. As with most training programs, the initial sessions covered the history and background of transdisciplinary methods, how to rethink our current scientific/research paradigms and then jumped into how to actually begin creating and teaching such a program. 

As the TTT progressed throughout the week, close attention was paid to getting feedback from trainees, as this project is still in its infancy and like all good research projects and collaborative efforts, thrives on constructive criticism and alterations to the original plan. With the foundation of transdisciplinary methods laid out by Dr. Carl Middleton (Chulalongkorn Univ.) and Dr. Petra Dannecker (Univ. of Vienna), a deeper dive into social inequality, migration and environmental issues was presented, and how they can/should be looked at through a transdisciplinary lens. Like the foundational sessions, importance on trainee input and feedback was given in order to best frame the conversations for the situations currently being experienced here in Southeast Asia.

KNOTS participants attending the train the trainer event

KNOTS participants attending the train the trainer event

EVENT: Salween Studies Research Workshop - The Role of Research for a Sustainable Salween River

Salween River near Hpa-an
participants of the 2018 Salween Studies Workshop (Credit: R. Irven)

participants of the 2018 Salween Studies Workshop (Credit: R. Irven)

The 2018 Salween Studies Research Workshop gathered researchers and experts from around the world on 26 & 27 February at the University of Yangon, Myanmar to discuss the present situation of this important river as well as the future of the basin, its people and natural ecologies. This research workshop was also the final meeting of the Salween Water Governance Project and as such, represents the culmination of three years of research and collaboration among the “Salween University Network.” The workshop was co-hosted by the University of Yangon, the York Centre for Asian Research and CSDS, with the kind support of CGIAR WLE and Australian Aid. Over sixty participants were able to spend two full days diving into important issues and developments all related to the unique Salween River, with topics ranging from the traditional conversations around water management and natural conservation to more contentious presentations on peace/conflict and alternative development planning. The abstract booklet for the entire workshop is available for download here. With great diversity in backgrounds, nationality and expertise, it can be concluded that the wealth of knowledge exchange and learning that took place during this workshop was not only inspiring to all those in attendance, but has set the bar for future gatherings on the topic, aimed at creating real action and planning for Salween River sustainable and inclusive development. 

Prof. Maung Maung Aye

Prof. Maung Maung Aye

In total, 30 individuals presented their research or current work/projects in twelve separate, themed panels, with the addition of important keynote and closing statements. In the opening address by Professor Maung Maung Aye, the seasoned Salween advocate highlighted the importance of research and the scientific process to the past, present and future of the Salween River. Given the political and often violent upheaval that has been ever-present along the river and throughout the country over the past decades, persistent and continued research has the ability to greatly boost the efforts of knowledge transfer, policy change and conservation, which is seen as a major benefit to the millions who depend on the river. He also stated that past conferences and this workshop continue to highlight the need to better link researchers with the decision-making processes that are taking place, which will also allow for more effective collaboration between the many various actors who relate to the river in some way. Professor Maung concluded that those in the room (and outside) need to continue thinking outside of the box to create more inclusive solutions to the problems stemming from river development and most importantly, be sure to include local community perspectives in all policy processes.

Chiang Mai University's Professor Chayan Vaddhanaphuti kicked off the second day of the workshop with a focus on the states of knowledge and geographies of ignorance of/in the Salween Basin, issues that lie under the surface of the conversation, but have a mighty effect on how decisions are made and who controls what. Dr. Chayan is known throughout the region for his transdisciplinary community based research, so his spirited and inspiring keynote about the importance of analyzing how knowledge is produced, understood and dispersed, in terms of development and conservation on the Salween, was extremely timely and an important addition to the workshop's conversations and vision.

For the closing remarks, Dr. Khin Maung Lwin discussed how research and policy making on the Salween River (and beyond) is related, a topic most in the audience could relate to, as many are active not only in research, but policy change. The question of how the two concepts should be related and work with each other is certainly a complicated one, particularly in Myanmar these days, but as Dr. Khin Maung Lwin pointed out, based off of just the research and work presented during the workshop, the two most certainly compliment each other in many situations, and policy making cannot happen properly without research, and quite often, research is made practical or relevant if it affects policy. The trick with connecting both is to find a happy medium, a balance between two delicate processes, only made even more complicated when looking at many of the issues that face the river and the people who depend on it. 

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EVENT: 2nd International Conference on Burma/Myanmar Studies

Burma Studies Conf

From 16-18 February 2018, academics, researchers, and civil society convened in Mandalay, Myanmar for the 2nd International Conference on Burma/Myanmar Studies hosted by the University of Mandalay in conjunction with Chiang Mai University. This three-day event gave participants an opportunity to present their most recent research on all things related to Burma/Myanmar, from the effects of hydropower construction on the country’s rivers and communities, to health trends of Burmese migrants in northern Thailand. For full details on the conference and to download all the abstracts for the presentations detailed below, please follow the link. CSDS Researchers convened three separate panels during the event, and supported Salween fellows and visiting researchers to present on the panels. 

The first CSDS session, convened by Carl Middleton, focused on the sometimes-drastic changes that are now taking place in many of the sites within the Salween Basin as the effects of hydropower and land development transform communities and livelihoods. With a session title of “Local Livelihoods and Change in the Salween Basin,” four researchers from the Salween Fellowship program (Dr. Mar Mar Aye, Dr. Khin Sander Aye, Hnin Wut Yee and Dr. Cherry Aung) presented findings from their research. Satellite imagery was used in Dr. Khin Sander Aye’s research to show how forest and agricultural land cover was changing due to a lack of management and conservation, and the negative impacts this was already causing in community’s local economies and individual livelihoods. Similarly, Dr. Cherry Aung’s research focused on how new developments on the Thanlwin River, and in particular its estuary, were affecting natural ecology and fish populations, where the drastic decline of fish populations (some have even gone extinct) is causing major problems for the people and economies that depend on them. Dr. Mar Mar also used an analysis on how plants are being tapped for their medicinal purpose and how the changes in this practice is effected by development projects and economic improvements in the study area. Fellow Hnin dived deeper into the hydropower development debate by looking specifically at how women are not only impacted by these new plans, but how they are (or are not) included in decision making processes that will have major impacts on their lives and livelihoods.

Joanna Göetz presenting

Joanna Göetz presenting

In the afternoon, Vanessa Lamb convened a session that looked at the cultural and political implications and transformations of the Salween River and the communities that are located on or around it. Civil society member and research fellow John Bright presented on how the traditional understanding of human rights as well as a lesser known frame of cultural rites could be used to increase participation and decision-making power of local communities that are most effected by river developments, concluding with a presentation of the Salween Peace Park concept that has been growing in popularity among many involved in the riparian debate. Similarly, Alec Scott, co-authoring with Carl Middleton, analyzed river developments from a frame that recognizes that there are multiple pathways in the debate, further complicating the not-so-simple debate by bringing in more actors and viewpoints on the benefits or damages created from hydropower developments on the Salween River. Visiting CSDS Research Fellow Joanna Göetz took a step back from the normal conversation to question the current definition of water and scale in the governance conversation. By redefining the debate and understanding of these concepts amongst various actors (both state, government and citizen), she argued that this could have very important implications for future development, most of which would not be positive for the everyday person. Finally, Dr. Vanessa Lamb took a look at flooding, and how various communities, particularly those who practice riverbank gardening, utilize and harness monsoon flooding, shining a new spotlight on how we understand disaster narratives and some uncovered truths behind them.

Mandalay Palace

The last of the sessions organized by CSDS was that of “Development and Transition in Myanmar: Exploring a New Political and Economic Landscape Since 2010,” led by Dr. Nauremon Thabchumpon where panelist delved into discussion about change and future implications of such transformations. This session took on a more formal and technical tone, with panelists looking at specific development projects, laws and finance structures and how they are creating new status quos and relationships in the political and economic sectors. Looking at newly established legal and political reform, Wolfram Schaffer used various case studies to demonstrate his argument that rather than state-building, recent changes in governance and rule-of-law are resulting in greater trans-nationalization between Myanmar and its neighbors, particularly given increased bi-lateral development projects and trade in the region. Nattapon Tantrakoonsap from Chulalongkorn University's Institute of Asian Studies took the recent case study of the Mandalay-Ruili Road Connection project to highlight Myanmar’s new and growing relationship with China, as well as the fact that this relationship is not static but rather one that continues to change as its border situation, forest policy and special economic policy continues to alter course. MAIDS alumni Zaw Aung also used the country's current development policies and plans to determine how these were resulting in economic transitions both for the post-military government as well as the nation, a transformation which has important implications for the citizens of Myanmar who are eager for change and prosperity. With the return of the civilian government (the first in 50 years), the economic effects of a growing democracy and liberalization of the markets could spell success if enacted correctly, or financial disasters for millions. Dr. Naruemon Thabchumpon also focused on the effects of economic changes on the democratic transition and how these trickled down to effect the public sector and the growing civil society movements. Her presentation made the case that these transitions in both the economic and political spheres were resulting in expanded spaces for the public sector and civil society participation in the democratic movement, but not without a sleuth of challenges that comes with such a transformation. Lastly, a presentation by Carl Middleton on work conducted with Naruemon Thabchumpon, Fransiskus Adrian and Tarmedi Surada Chundasutathanakul discussed how the road link project of the Dawei Special Economic Zone (SEZ) has sparked and transformed conflict among communities on the project's route, and threatens local livelihoods and ways of traditional life. While power structures continue to grow asymmetrically, mainly benefitting the state and project developers, new spaces are appearing in which the public and civil society can challenge the current narrative. 

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Lastly, in a separate panel that had a focus on Chin State, Dr. Carl Middleton presented his research on water insecurity in Hakha town, Chin State, Myanmar, culminating the over year-long field research that was conducted there. With a growing population and decreasing peace and resources, accessible and clean water for all is of major concern for the region and the town is making due with community water groups and small-scale private activities. The research presented uncovered that structural violence, not just population growth, was a major factor behind the decline of water security in Hakha Town, so matters of justice actually stand to be addressed on top of traditional water governance methods. 

csds researchers (Left to Right: Alec Scott, SAw John & Dr. Mar mar aye) (Credit: R. Irven)

csds researchers (Left to Right: Alec Scott, SAw John & Dr. Mar mar aye) (Credit: R. Irven)

EVENT: "Towards a Creative Diplomacy Agenda: Exploring New Approaches for Contemporary Transboundary Water Governance"

Why Think Tanks and Civil Society Networks Matter

Towards a Creative Diplomacy Agenda:
Exploring New Approaches for Contemporary Transboundary Water Governance

 

As part of a special day of worldwide events, spanning over 100 cities and with 160 organizations involved, Chulalongkorn University (CSDS, Chula Global Network and the Center for Peace and Conflict Studies) hosted a Why Think Tanks Matter event, moderated by Prof. Kasira Cheeppensook, focused on the topic of how civil society can create a stronger diplomacy agenda for transboundary water governance and riparian diplomacy. This series of global events was sparked to help highlight the crucial role think tanks and civil society now play in analyzing, developing and promoting policy solutions, particularly as the rise of populism, nationalism and protectionism increase worldwide, signaling an end to the traditional post-WWII order of politics and society. Particularly here in Southeast Asia where a change in the relationships between the environment, social movements, governments and human rights is creating a new set of security challenges, solutions are required amongst all institutions to cooperate in a more consistent and effective manner. 

World leaders at the LMC

Paired with this important topic were the issues and opportunities that face this region in particular, of perhaps the most precious resource for humankind: water. With the region's rivers serving not only as the lifeblood to millions of people, but also as boundaries to many nations in South and Southeast Asia, the importance of pragmatic and effective diplomacy, not just by governments, but by civil society institutions, will be vital to the success and stability of the region for the foreseeable future. 

As the organizations and institutions tasked with such work have a tough road ahead on these topics, it is imperative that they operate with knowledge and resources that reflect and come from a variety and multiplicity of levels and stakeholders, in order to remain relevant, impactful and fair. This is perhaps the most important accompanying set of discussions that were brought up by almost every panelists, as it is recognized widely that knowledge equates with power, so it is the role of civil society to ensure that this knowledge is used in an innovative and widespread manner to promote sustainable and equitable change for all. Panelists at this event did not mince words and stressed the importance of collaboration and transparency, which are still heavily needed in the work being done at this topics at all levels. 

Panelists (Credit: D. Marksiri)

Panelists (Credit: D. Marksiri)

Professor Imtiaz Ahmed, from the Centre for Genocide Studies at the University of Dhaka, Bangladesh opened the panel by providing an alternative yet thought provoking take on the meanings and re-contextualizations of both "water" and "rivers," as he supports the idea that this must now be done in order to better understand how we use water and how it is interwoven in all parts of society and daily life. The concepts of using the new methodology of micro-narratives to better tell stories in order to bring about creative hydrodiplomacy were also brought up, adding to the innovation that this series of events hopes to spark throughout civil society. Dr. John Dore from the Department for Foreign Affairs and Trade, Government of Australia challenged the room to think outside of the proverbial box as he reviewed and analysed alternative mechanisms and organizations like the Lancang Mekong Cooperation Framework that are reshaping water policy and governance in the region, fueled by new regional players and an increasingly serious battle for depleting resources. The subsequent three presentations given by Ganesh Pangare and Bushra Nishat  (International Water Association), Dr. Sucharit Koonthanakulwong (UNESCO Chair on Water & Sustainable Development) and Asst. Prof. Dr. Carl Middleton (CSDS/Faculty of Political Science, Chulalongkorn University) all focused on local case studies where civil society, co-productions of knowledge and innovations are being employed to better engage all members of society in projects focused on hydro-diplomacy and water governance. Lastly Dr. Chariyaway Suntabutra the Former Ambassador of Thailand to Egypt, Kenya and Germany provided his insight on the panel's non-traditional methods compared with the traditional diplomacy approaches observed from his time working for the government, and stressed that these new ways of thinking are indeed vital for our shared success and survival in the future. The wrap-up to the panel given, by Surichai Wun'gaeo, served as both an inspiration and call to action for all present, with emphasis on challenging the current status quo in order to influence those in power and to make real, tangible change, starting from the lowest grassroots level all the way up to the top.  

 

EVENT: Panel Presentation at Social and Sustainability Science in ASEAN Conference

"Water (In)security and Development in Southeast Asia: Inclusions, Exclusions and Transformations"

local researcher roundtable discussion (Credit: R. Irven)

local researcher roundtable discussion (Credit: R. Irven)

On the first day of the Social and Sustainability Science in ASEAN International Conference 2018: Agri-Food Systems, Rural Sustainability and Socioeconomic Transformations in South-east Asia, CSDS organized and presented on a panel centered on conflicts over access to, control over and use of water and natural resources at scales ranging from the interstate to the individual. Four panelists presented their most recent research which focused on case studies from around the region, in Myanmar, Thailand and Lao PDR. The panel was comprised of Dr. Soimart Rungmanee (Puay Ungpakorn School of Development Studies, Thammasart University), Assoc. Prof. Dr. Kanokwan Manorom (Department of Social Science, Faculty of Liberal Arts, Ubon Ratchathani University), Saw John Bright (Karen Environmental and Social Action Network - KESAN) and Asst. Prof. Dr. Carl Middleton (Center for Social Development Studies, Faculty of Political Science, Chulalongkorn University). For more details on the conference please visit our post here or download the official program here

To download the full presentations from the panel, please visit the links below:

WORKSHOP: "Utilizing Storytelling and Innovative Social Media Strategies to Help Researchers Reach the Public"

"Utilizing Storytelling and Innovative Social Media Strategies to Help Researchers Reach the Public"

Comms training

Ahead of the first annual Social and Sustainability Science in ASEAN: "Agri-Food Systems, Rural Sustainability and Socioeconomic Transformations in South-east Asia," the Center for Social Development Studies (CSDS) and the Stockholm Environment Institute (SEI) held a special training workshop for interested participants of the conference to build their communications capacity, particularly using social media platforms and unique storytelling to reach wider audiences both online and in-person. The workshop convened on the afternoon of Monday, 22 January, 2018 and was attended by participants from around the region and beyond. Bobby Irven of CSDS and Anneli Sundin of SEI created and conducted the two hour session.*

The workshop began by going over the basics and setup for utilizing the social media platforms of Facebook, Twitter and Instagram to present research in the forms of multimedia and engaging copy to reach audiences beyond the traditional academic spheres. Actioning the recommendations and implications of scientific research was the theme of this workshop, so practical applications as they relate to social media were the focal point of this section.. The discussion then moved onto the topic of storytelling and how mastering this age-old communications strategy can actually be very effective for researchers to better engage audiences and create buildup and excitement around their various projects. Attendees were challenged to begin putting these techniques immediately into practice, with ample opportunities to begin blogging and tweeting about the conference and beyond.

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*Full presentation and materials from training will be available to public in one weeks time.

For more information on the content, please visit the original announcement page

PRESENTATION: Sustainable Development, Human Rights and Impact Assessment in ASEAN

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On 29th and 30th October 2017, the ASEAN Intergovernmental Commission on Human Rights (AICHR) organized a two day workshop in Yangon on a "Rights-Based Approach to Regional Management Strategy for an Effective Environmental Impact Assessment." 

Dr. Carl Middleton of CSDS was invited to offer a presentation titled "Sustainable Development, Human Rights and Impact Assessment in ASEAN", which can be downloaded here.

The key messages of the presentation were as follows:

  • Sustainable development for ASEAN will mean choosing wisely (and steering towards) sustainable “pathways.” Impact Assessments are key tools that can inform and shape inclusive decision-making

  • Impact Assessment is simultaneously a scientific, assessment and political process. A human right based approach ensures that all appropriate knowledge and opinions are considered

  • In a region with strong economic growth and accelerating economic integration, environmental policy must keep up. A human right based approach will help environmental policy keep pace and innovate, for example on community health impact assessment

EVENT: 2017 Greater Mekong WLE Forum: 'Water Policies for a Sustainable and Inclusive Future: Research Insights from the Salween, Mekong, Red River Fellowship Program'

By Robert Irven

local researcher roundtable discussion (Credit: R. Irven)

local researcher roundtable discussion (Credit: R. Irven)

The second day of the 2017 Greater Mekong Forum on Water, Food and Energy has continued with insightful and sometimes emotional presentations from both researchers and development organizations alike and today, fellows from the MK31, MK32 and MK33 programs came together to present and discuss their projects. Years in the making, the research presented focused on the rivers and basins of the Salween, Mekong and Red, with themes highlighting water governance, healthy rivers; river food systems, healthy landscape and ecosystems and gender and social justice (see WLE website for more details). All Greater Mekong region countries were represented, and the session today gave a space not only to present projects that have been being researched and developed for years, but also a chance for attendees to personally connect with the researchers for further questioning and debate. 

The session began with a roundtable presentation of representatives from each river, highlighting commonalities of the groups research as well as lessons learned, surprising findings and what was most gained from participating in the fellowship program. The Salween representatives highlighted how much of their combined worked took a justice narrative at the end as many sought to give a voice to local or marginalized populations that would normally be unable to seek justice or a change in their evolving status quo. Hnin Wut Yee also mentioned that she was surprised to discover the fact that there is an changing attitude towards women's access to resources, a positive shift in historically and culturally patriarchal communities throughout Myanmar. The projects coming out of the Mekong River region centered around the transformation of this mighty river which is producing and again, evolving, risks for surrounding communities. The effects of climate change have also been documented and continue to present a great challenge for both researchers working and local communities living in the region. Similarly, the Red River team from Vietnam also highlighted a visible growing impact of climate change on many of their projects and noted while most communities don't necessarily recognize or understand the threat, this theme/topic is of great importance and will play an importance factor in future research in their country. 

Perhaps one of the most unique aspect of this program is the capacity and ability to which it has shaped and changed the lives of the fellows involved. Not only did the presenters' research and academic skills greatly benefit and improve from their active involvement in both field work and academic presentation through papers, blogs and conferences, but the networks and friendships that have been created both within the river cohorts and across the Greater Mekong region have culminated in better analysis, friendships and future work. One presenters commented the the program both literally and figuratively allowed her to take her work further, both in a sense where the funding allowed for greater scope and travel to remote sites, but also the level of professionally in technical writing and related outputs greatly improved. In building off of the theme of justice that was captured by many in the field, one researched commended the fellowship's ability to empower the researcher and allow her to consequently raise up more voices throughout the community she conducted her work in, particularly those of women. 

As the roundtable came to a close, attendees were invited to tour the room and visit each researcher's individual research presentations, providing them with further details and fuel for thought on a variety of issues across Southeast Asia. The researchers had ample opportunities to practice their research narratives and elevator pitches to a crowd that was hungry for knowledge and not shy to press and debate for more information. In observing the ending scene of this session, it is obvious that this fellowship program was a huge success and the research documented and the communities engaged will certainly have an impact on future policy makers and hopefully inspire new generations to go out into the unknown to uncover answers, truth and bring light to those seeking justice and change in their communities. 

Image: Poster session with all individual researchers following roundtable presentation (Credit: R. Irven)

EVENT: 2017 Greater Mekong WLE Forum: 'Bringing the Village to the Conference: Local Salween Research'

Ethnic woman in yunnan, China (Credit: Green Watershed)

Ethnic woman in yunnan, China (Credit: Green Watershed)

By Robert Irven

The 2017 Greater Mekong Forum on Water, Food and Energy has officially kicked of and researchers, scientists, policy makers, non-state actors, civil service, journalist and every other profession that you could imagine with an interest in water in Southeast Asia have all come together in Yangon, Myanmar for a three day event that will touch on a diverse and highly-inclusive array of topics related to the region and beyond. 

Our Salween water governance research, comprising of researchers and staff members from York University Center for Asian Research, the Center for Social Development Studies, Chulalongkorn University, Weaving Bonds Across Borders and Green Watershed, presented in a way that was meant to bring their fieldwork and uncovered stories from remote communities to the conference for all interested participants to see first hand what is happening on the ground there as it relates to the challenges, threats and opportunities of water governance. 

Presenters from the Mon Pan Local Research team (Credit: R. Irven)

Presenters from the Mon Pan Local Research team (Credit: R. Irven)

The first video and subsequent Q&A session, presented by the Mong Par Youth Association and Weaving Bonds Across Borders, focused on the Mong Pan region. The session revealed the intimate relationship between the community and water, as well as how the divisions of labor and responsibility in terms of gender relate to water. The session also highlighted the  implications of growing human settlements and extractive industries (logging; small scale mining) growing on the river and the wildlife and fish species there, as those who are situated on or near the river depend heavily on these resources for their survival and livelihoods.

Second, the team from KESAN researching the Daw Lar Lake in Karen (Kayin) State, Myanmar previewed a short clip from the newly launched Salween Stories multimedia platform, showcasing their findings and analysis on the community-based governance of the lake and its resources. Community action was urged, both in this case study and for the wider region as the lake's resources were changing and starting to have an effect on the local communities there.  

Lastly, the Green Watershed team took us to the Nu River (jiang/江)river basin in Yunnan, China where their documentary focused on the changing policies and attitudes in the region which is now being designated as an expansive ecotourism development project sponsored by both the Central and local governments aimed to conserve this national beauty.  

Local handicrafts from Daw Lar lake in Karen (Kayin) state, Myanmar (Credit: R. IRven)

Local handicrafts from Daw Lar lake in Karen (Kayin) state, Myanmar (Credit: R. IRven)