The RSIS Centre for Non-Traditional Security (NTS) Studies' Blog


Indigeneous Knowledge in Adapting to Natural Disasters in the Cambodia-Laos-Vietnam Development Triangle

Posted in ASEAN-Canada Partnership by NTSblog on August 1, 2014

Over the past decades, the occurrence of natural hazards has been more frequent and intense, so much so that they have severely impacted communities. With advancements in technology, scientists are able to better predict environmental and climatic changes. However, the application of these technological advancements in rural areas is difficult due to lack of financial and human resources.

In light of this, indigenous knowledge – practical experiences in detecting and responding to the natural disasters that has been handed from generation to generation amongst locals – would be more useful and feasible. Livelihoods of communities living in the Cambodia-Laos-Vietnam Development Triangle (CLVDTA) are based on agricultural production activities, raising livestock and fishing. These livelihoods are vulnerable to weather and climate change. Thus, the question raised is: how can indigenous knowledge contribute to detecting, adapting and responding to natural disasters as well as to guarantee sustainable livelihoods for local people?

Based on research fieldwork conducted in Kon Tum province of Vietnam, locals were asked the above-mentioned question, through which their answers revealed local strategies in early warning systems in the event of natural hazards. The local people noted that they could predict an incoming flood based on changes in the river, namely if the river water turns to red and white foam appears floating, and the water level fluctuates.

In the case of Ratanakiri province of Cambodia, when asked the same question, local people in Phum Buon commune shared that they could know when the flood come if they saw the tail of Trokut (a type of lizard) change colour (i.e. to black), or the Trech (a type of red ant) nets were located at higher on the tree tops. After identifying these signals, the local people would tell each other to take precautions to minimize the negative effects of natural hazards.

In addition, indigenous knowledge also provides practical experiences to the local people in order to help them to adapt to the changes of surrounding environment. In fact, over many years, local communities and ethnic groups in this region have been faced with these challenges. The local people with their practical experience have to find solutions to adapt to the changes such as planting appropriate crops suitable for drought and flood conditions[i], finding alternative food sources (from farming to fishing when the flood season arrives), or relying on a reciprocal system that provides funds from family and friends for assistance[ii] after suffering natural disasters.

The use of indigenous knowledge in detecting, forecasting and adapting to natural disasters has been always playing important roles, contributing to minimize the impact of natural disasters to local people. This research tries to provide a comprehensive account and suggest suitable solutions to predict and respond to disasters in the CLVDTA in order to minimize its impacts on local people livelihoods.

Notes:

[i] Recently, short-day plants and industrial crops such as beans, cassava… with better resilience to the harsh external conditions have been planted. Moreover, by dint of using indigenous knowledge, local people created organic manures and fertilizers using traditional forest products, manure, and leaves to limit the use of chemical pesticides.

[ii]The role of communal sharing traditional in rebuilding houses, sharing foods, providing basic tools, and so on is one of the most common coping strategies to natural hazards in the region.

 

This blog post has been written by Anh Tuan Nguyen. Anh Tuan is currently a PhD candidate in International Economic Affairs at the Graduate Academy of Social Sciences in Vietnam, and Junior Fellow (2013-2014) under the ASEAN-Canada Research Partnership. For more information on the ASEAN-Canada Research Partnership, please click here.

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Exacerbated disaster impacts from hydropower development in downstream Vietnam

Posted in ASEAN-Canada Partnership by NTSblog on August 1, 2014

Hydropower plays an important role in Vietnam’s energy production, as government development plans set it to contribute to 23.1% of electricity by the year 2020, with hydropower projects in nine river basins across the country. Along the Gia Vu – Thu Bon river in Quang Nam province alone, there are 42 approved hydropower projects, which will contribute 7% electric energy from hydropower of the country.[1] In addition, hydropower also provides additional functions such as stream flow regulation, flood control and agricultural irrigation.[2]

Fieldwork conducted in the downstream commune of Dai An in Dai Loc District, Quang Nam province, however, seems to suggest that the hydropower projects have not achieved the above-mentioned additional functions. In addition to negative implications of hydropower projects such as increasing poverty, limited access to natural resource access and increased gender inequality in downstream communes.

First, rather than control floods, hydropower development amplified the negative impacts downstream area during the flood season. According to Quang Nam Provincial People’s Committee (PPC)’s report on the 2013 floods, 92000 households were affected, 11600 ha of agricultural land was inundated, with damage estimated at 1000 billion Dong. Dai Loc district was the hardest hit with damage totaling to 37 billion Dong and 80% houses flooded. Residents in Dai An commune noted that they have lost as much as half of the value of their assets, and livelihood activities had to cease for about one month during flood season. The impact of the floods was also exacerbated by water discharged from hydropowers, and late emergency warnings given to locals, who did not have enough time to prepare for the impending flood.

Second, hydropower development increases the likelihood of drought. 25000 ha of agricultural land along Gia Vu – Thu Bon river experience water scarcity thus making it difficult for farmers to cultivate. In 2013, drought as a result of the dams from hydropower development reduced crop productivity by 10% and raiseed 15% of cost for crop cultivation. In 2014, Quang Nam PPC estimated a loss of 30% of crop productivity if hydropowers continue keeps water in the reservoir in July.

Third, increased salination results in less water availability for downstream communities’ agricultural and household use. Salinitation occurred for 35 days in May to June 2014 in a downstream area of Gia Vu Thu Bon river, which supplies water for 80% people in Da Nang province.

Based on interviews with communities, three causes were cited for the above-mentioned situation – natural disasters, climate change and hydropower development on the Gia Vu-Thu Bon river. Moreover, many most interviewees agreed that drought and flood were made worse by the hydropower projects. The lost of forestland as a result of constructing hydropower plants coupled with the plant’s ineffective water management systems lead to the increased occurance of floods and drought.

In short, while the impacts of hydropower development on downstream areas are increasingly complex and destructive, it is still considered an important solution for meeting Vietnam’s energy needs. In order to reduce damage in downstream area, investors in hydropower projects should come to an agreement with other stakeholders on the need to supplement reforestation projects and ensure water management processes – including compensation schemes – that do not jeapoardise the wellbeing of downstream communities.

[1] Hoach Nguyen Huy, 2012, Hydropower in Vietnam: status quo and development plan.

[2] WCD. (2000). A new framework for decision-marking.

This blog post has been written by Pham Thi Nhung. Nhung is a lecturer at the Hue University of Agriculture and Forestry , and Junior Fellow (2013-2014) under the ASEAN-Canada Research Partnership. For more information on the ASEAN-Canada Research Partnership, please click here.

Answering the Borneo Development Challenge with Green Strategies

Posted in ASEAN-Canada Partnership by NTSblog on July 31, 2014

Borneo’s tropical rainforest has come into the international spotlight since the reduction of tropical deforestation is seen as a means of stabilising global greenhouse gas emissions. The commitment under international conventions and agreements related to sustainable management and conservation of the rainforest have been made. What is central in these agreements is that development plans in improving the socio-economic well-being of communities in the subregion should not jeopardise the existence of Borneo rainforest as one of world’s most biodiversity regions.

Economic growth in developing countries is often heavily dependent on natural resource extraction. Likewise, the BIMP-EAGA subregion which is dominated by resource-based activities and the agricultural sector has become amongst the least industrialised area within its respective countries. In subregional areas, deterioration of natural resources as a result of irresponsible economic activities is compounded by the other challenges facing by the member countries such as population growth, urbanization, infrastructure deficits and the impacts of climate change. The problematic situation can be done with simultaneously enhancing productivity and efficiency of natural resources used through more efficient water, energy and transport infrastructure utilization. Green growth policies can therefore be considered an investment, in which benefits will be received in the future.

It was previously noted that decisions on land use and transport infrastructure systems are the most striking example of how regional integration and economic growth can be directly contradict with nature conservation as well as affect density in city or region. Both in the ​​conservation zones and urban areas, transport infrastructure and land use planning should be able to improve well-being and productivity, which are critical for the development, also provide environmental advantages. In green growth strategies, infrastructure policies are a core issue because of its great potential to regret nor benefit in the future.

In conservation zones, land use planning system based on identification and protection of natural areas with substantial biodiversity values can be a tool to direct and to control the impacts of development on these areas. In city planning process, green spaces are integrated with roads and transit facilities along with high density land use planning which bring people closer to public transportation.

Green infrastructure is thus a potential way of conserving the environment by addressing the ecological and social impacts of urban sprawl, as well as fragmentation and accelerated consumption of open land. Exploring green strategies as an approach to economic development in the areas surrounding Borneo’s tropical rainforest is part of my study under tbe ASEAN-Canada Research Fellowship.

This blog post has been written by Paramitha Yanindraputri. Paramitha is currently Research Coordinator for Skills to Succeed Indonesia in Save the Children, and Research Fellow in Urban Development Studies at the University of Indonesia, as well as Junior Fellow (2013-2014) under the ASEAN-Canada Research Partnership. For more information on the ASEAN-Canada Research Partnership, please click here.

When the Forest is depleted: Resource Conservation in Border Regions

Posted in ASEAN-Canada Partnership by NTSblog on July 31, 2014

Transboundary cooperation in West Kalimantan and Sarawak has materialized by involving national governments, donor agencies and NGOs. Transboundary cooperation in Borneo Island has existed, taking forms on bilateral agreement between Indonesia and Malaysia. The cooperation scheme has involved not only the two countries but also NGOs such as the WWF and ITTO as a donor agency. The cooperation was institutionalized as the Heart of Borneo initiative. Despite all the efforts, the progress has been slow and the impact is also limited.

Proponents of transborder natural resource governance initiatives believe that the cooperation is not only important for the purposes of natural conservation but also in contributing to conflict resolution and borderland development. However, managing resources in border regions are faced with multiple challenges. Contesting interests among parties, institutional barriers, and social-economic conditions are some factors that could hinder the progress.

Although there is an increasing level of local awareness on resource conservation, local governments still perceive conservation efforts as a way of restricting development initiatives.[1] Local governments believe that the land is better used for purposes other than conservation, such as plantations, which can contribute to the local government’s revenue. Limited institutional capacity and contestation between local and central government are some other potential factors that hamper the conservation efforts.

Despite all the challenges, the prospects of resource conservation in border areas is favourable. The development of ecotourism to promote economic and social developments is promising. Kapuas Hulu district, for instance, initiated an ecotourism roadmap and tourism board as one of the strategies bridging conservation and development’s need (generating local income). The opening of the Badau border in 2012 is expected to not only strengthen ecotourism in the region but also improve the cooperation between Indonesia and Malaysia. [2]

International initiatives continue to be developed in the area. The institutionalization of cooperation   such as Heart of Borneo (HoB), BIMP EAGA and Sosek Malindo are some of the initiatives which are trying to merge conservation with the development efforts. Those institutions will provide support and make the collective efforts and governance become more viable.

Empirical data on the challenges and opportunities in border areas are not only imperative to strengthen any conservation work but also can be potentially used to identify the limit of governing transborder area. This research clarifies that to make the conservation work in the border more effective, attention need to be paid on local political, economic and institutional dynamic, as well as on how different interests compete and negotiate.

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[1] In several areas in West Kalimantan, World Wild Fund (WWF) initiates watershed forum which involves forest restoration, capacity building and sustainable of resource use.

[2] Due to the opening of the border, human and capital mobility is increasing. This open a chance to increase interaction and economic cooperation between the two countries. See here for more information.

This blog post has been written by Ali Muhyidin.  Ali is a PhD candidate at the University of Tokyo, associate lecturer at University of Indonesia and Binus University, and Junior Fellow (2013-2014) under the ASEAN-Canada Research Partnership. For more information on the ASEAN-Canada Research Partnership, please click here.

The façade of ecotourism: issues with tourism promotion in Karimunjawa National Park

Posted in ASEAN-Canada Partnership by NTSblog on July 22, 2014

Karimunjawa National Park is very unique for two key reasons: its beautiful marine attractions and close proximity to the densely populated island of Java. Having been heavily overfished during the past few decades, park authorities are now making efforts to protect and rehabilitate the park’s marine resources. As part of these efforts, tourism is being promoted as an alternative means for local residents to earn a living as opposed to other livelihood activities that are more resources intensive such as fishing. Working together with the National Park Authority, the Wildlife Conservation Society (WCS) has been investing in community-based programs that aim to build tourism enterprises.

However, our investigations during our field research for the ASEAN-Canada Research Partnership has revealed fundamental issues with the promotion of tourism as a sustainable alternative livelihood in Karimunjawa.

On the one hand, tourism promotion in the park has been extremely successful when we consider the dramatic of increase of visitors over the past few years. However, on the other hand, the chaotic and uncontrolled development of tourism has detrimental impacts on the environment and poses new conservation issues for park managers, for which they have yet to find any concrete solutions.

To illustrate this enormous increase of visitors, in 2008 the total number of tourist to the park amounted to approximately 13,000 for the entire year, while as in 2014 the same amount of visitors have been reported flow into the park during a single week in the high season. This enormous boom in tourism is undoubtedly good for the local economy, but at what environmental cost?

During our research in Karimunjawa National Park we found that the regulatory framework for tourism in the region is severely lacking. As one WCS employee points out, the regional Department of Tourism is only concerned with the promotion and development of tourism and doesn’t offer any regulations for its sustainable management. Nationally, the potential harmful environmental impacts from tourism are regulated under Law No. 32 – 2009 on the Protection of the Environment. However, since Indonesia’s era of decentralization, the implementation and enforcement of this law and others related to sustainable tourism falls to the provincial, regional and municipal governments that are often unprepared to take on such a complicated task. What further exacerbates the problem is the lack of cooperation between various government offices throughout all levels of government. This can lead to clashes of interests between different institutions and often produces gaps and overlaps in their activities.

In addition, there is insufficient ecotourism and conservation training offered to people working in the tourism trade. It is not uncommon to see tour guides standing on coral or boat drivers throwing garbage directly it the sea while on the job. Such a fundamental lack of environmental awareness and the lack of agreed upon best practices for tourism workers clearly illustrate that Karimunjawa currently doesn’t meet any kind of ecotourism standard.

A tour guide with his client stand on top of an already damaged piece of coral in a popular snorkeling spot off Menjangan Kecil, Karimunjawa National Park

A tour guide with his client stand on top of an already damaged piece of coral in a popular snorkeling spot off Menjangan Kecil, Karimunjawa National Park

These issues highlight the importance of providing better support mechanisms for ecotourism if any semblance of sustainability is to be reached. Management should proactively put in place proper regulatory frameworks and education programs before investing in the full on promotion of tourism. Otherwise, the only kind of tourism that risks developing is mass tourism along with its severe environmental impacts.

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This blog post has been written by Gilles Maillet. Gilles is a GIS Specialist at Yarmouth Active Transportation, and Junior Fellow (2013-2014) under the ASEAN-Canada Research Partnership. For more information on the ASEAN-Canada Research Partnership, please click here.

Upstream-Downstream Water Use and Flows

Posted in ASEAN-Canada Partnership by NTSblog on July 22, 2014

In my research on water management in upstream and downstream communities along the Mekong Delta, two sites over 120 kilometres from each other were chosen as case studies – Dong Thap and Tra Vinh Provinces of Vietnam. The upstream Dong Thap Province is prone to floods, pollution and extension (agriculture development), while downstream Tra Vinh Province, often experiences saltwater intrusion, pollution, and extension.

Local farmers living downstream are faced with limited water resources due to reduced water supply from upstream. As a result of various development activities such as rice and vegetable cultivation, aquaculture, and industrialisation, the water flow downstream is much slower. In particular, the development ofof irrigation systems in upstream areas retains much of the water for irrigating the farmlands. For upstream communities, water supply is perceived to be abundant given the natural conditions that make it easily available.

In the contrast, downstream communities are faced with water scarcity, in particular, increasing salinity of water surrounding communities, which has resulted in agricultural farmlands being protected by sluice gates. Fresh water is only accessed from upstream via digging and dredging the canals. Even though the area is protected, local communities are suspicious of the water quality from the canals as there has been a case of salinity due to human activities. Moreover, the conflict between local rice and aquaculture farmers emerges as a result of both sides requiring water of varying quality for their respective activities. A mixing of these two types of water quality, results in the water being polluted and unusable for either side. This problem is particularly acute for downstream communities as they are dependent on the water flow from upstream. Polluted water upstream will therefore mean polluted water downstream.

 The two sites of the research are called , which refers to community settlements located on higher ground than its surrounding areas – a difference of about 1- 2 meters. This geographical difference makes it difficult for communities to develop a proper irrigation system, and therefore resulting in limited availability of water for both household and agricultural use.

 The research also revealed how the implications of existing water management practices could also exacerbate ethnic and gender disparities. In terms of ethnic compositions, Kinh people are predominantly found in the upstream areas while Khmer people are largely located downstream. Poor and near poor households are found downstream, where the ratio of male and female is 4.5:5.5. Research also showed thatwomen were more active water users than men as their time at home and their role in their family are more than men, Poor and near poor households were the most disadvantaged in having access to clean water, as they are unable to afford it. It seems Khmer Ethnic Group is priority water users for clean water and sanitation program in order to according to national policy (Ethnic Group and Poor Group are priority to access clean water for free in the community).

This blog post has been written by Ly Quoc Dang. He is currently Researcher and Teaching Assistant at Mekong Delta Development Research Institute, Can Tho University, and Junior Fellow (2013-2014) under the ASEAN-Canada Research Partnership. For more information on the ASEAN-Canada Research Partnership, please click here.

Culprit or Victim? Conflicting Narratives on Indonesian Palm Oil Industry

Posted in ASEAN-Canada Partnership by NTSblog on July 15, 2014

This blog discusses the significance and impact of competing narratives in shaping Indonesian policies on palm oil. Narratives are central to policy making processes. Hence, to understand a particular policy making process, it is important to understand the narratives employed by the actors involved. Policy debates are not only an interplay between arguments or facts, but a contest between discursive frameworks or stories, as illustrated in various works by scholars (such as Jacobs and Sobieraj, Bedsworth, Lowenthal and Kastenberg and Birdgman and Barry).

Fieldwork research in Indonesia discovered two conflicting narratives in the palm oil industry-related policy making process. The first, constructed byNGOs, is the “Source of Destruction” narrative. Here, the palm oil industry is portrayed as the source of destruction, and is based on Indonesia’s palm oil industry rapid expansion due to rising demands in 2000s, which led to environmental degradation and adverse social impacts. According to this narrative, efforts to halt further destruction were partly successful, but not enough. Corrupt practices amongst companies and government officials made it difficult to push real reform. The narrative concludes with the call for action to push more reform, such as by reviewing the existing plantation permits of palm oil companies.

The second narrative, the “Trade War” narrative, was constructed by palm oil companies and their association (GAPKI) and views Indonesia’s palm oil industry as a target of trade wars waged by developed countries. Due to oil palm’s competitive value in the 2000s, it overtook other vegetable oils in the market. Responding to this development, according to this narrative, developed countries, who are producers of these less competitive vegetable oils, began a black campaign against palm oil to regain their domination in the vegetable oil market. This was done via controlling NGOs, enacting non-tarrif barriers to their market, and putting pressure on the government of Indonesia. The efforts by the developed countries are almost successful, marked by the moratorium and the President’s visit to the Greenpeace’s ship. The narrative conludes with a call that it is the time for Indonesian people to fight back.

Workshop for Journalists and Students on “Correcting the Negative Perceptions on Indonesia’s Palm Oil Industry.”The nationalist attributes (e.g. the national hat or “peci” with red and white pin) and the nationalist slogans during the talk are not a coincidence.

Workshop for Journalists and Students on “Correcting the Negative Perceptions on Indonesia’s Palm Oil Industry.”The nationalist attributes (e.g. the national hat or “peci” with red and white pin) and the nationalist slogans during the talk are not a coincidence.

In terms of the impact on policy making processes, both narratives have been partly successful in shaping the Indonesian government’s policies on palm oil. The “Source of Destruction” narrative colored the introduction of the Law on the Prevention and Elimination of Forest Destruction and the moratorium for forest conversion in 2011 (Presidential Instruction No. 10/2011), which is extended until 2015 (Presidential Instruction No. 6/2013). However, the “Trade War” narrative was also successful in halting important demands from the NGOs, such as reviews on existing concession permits. The “Trade War” narrative also contributed to the establishment of the inter-ministerial task force against the anti-palm oil black campaign and the inclusion of palm oil in Indonesia’s economic diplomacy.

By focusing on the narratives shaping the policy making process on palm oil in Indonesia, this research seeks to provide a comprehensive understanding on the dynamics surrounding the process, which is significant to ASEAN and Canada. For ASEAN, especially Indonesia and Malaysia, palm oil is an important export commodity. For Canada, as a producer of canola oil and soybean oil, it is a rival for palm oil producers in the global vegetable oil market. In this context, understanding the competing narratives in Indoensian’s palm oil industry (shaping various related policies, including Indonesia’s economic diplomacy) is important to understand the relationship between Indonesia, a major actor in ASEAN, and Canada.

This blog post has been written by Shofwan Al Banna Choiruzzad.  Shofwan is Executive Secretary of the ASEAN Study Center and lecturer in the Department of International Relations of the Faculty of Social and Political Sciences at the University of Indonesia. He is also Junior Fellow (2013-2014) under the ASEAN-Canada Research Partnership. For more information on the ASEAN-Canada Research Partnership, please click here.

Utilizing Resources for Livelihoods: Constraints and Opportunities

Posted in ASEAN-Canada Partnership by NTSblog on July 15, 2014

Livelihood systems of the two villages more or less depend on land and forest resources. Farmers in Tualzaang mainly focus on land for both food and cash crops whereas those in Ngalzaang mainly utilize lands for growing food crops and forests for earning cash income. The farming system in Tualzaang is semi-permanent while farmers in Ngalzaang employ traditional shifting cultivation. As a result, household food sufficiency level is significantly higher in Tualzaang (3.9 months) than in Ngalzaang (2.3 months). Similar regard with less significance applies to mean household income, i.e. 780,000kyats in Tualzaang and 710,000kyats in Ngalzaang (1USD=965kyats) for the year 2013. While farmers in both villages are not food-sufficient through their own production, farmers in Tualzaang gain a significantly higher level of food sufficiency and a slightly higher level of household income than do farmers in Ngalzaang.

Another finding indicates that livelihood systems in Tualzaang are more productive and sustainable since farmers employ crop rotation by intercropping maize with various legumes. This enables them to gain maize yield of 11.6 baskets per acre (1 basket=33.3kg) even on repeated farm lands without fertilizer inputs compared with the 6.8 baskets per acre harvested on newly cultivated lands in Ngalzaang. Per acre yield rates of other major crops as upland rice (15.5 baskets), groundnut (17.6 baskets), and potato (318.2kg) also are very low compared with those obtained in other parts of the world. On the contrary, farmers in Ngalzaang practice shifting cultivation primarily because arable land areas are still abundant. They also see that cultivation on repeated lands attracts more weeds and produces lower yield unless fertilizer is applied. For practicing shifting cultivation by felling trees does not always guarantee food sufficiency, farmers in Ngalzaang inevitably employ certain coping strategies that depend again on forest products, of which many increasingly disappears.

The study also finds that there is limited innovation or value addition in linking resources to livelihoods. Farmers know well that early weeding (i.e. during September-October) is the best to capture the effects of conservation farming that enhances soil fertility, conserves moisture, reduces weed infestation, and maintains higher yield. This suggests that farmers can fulfill the key features of conservation farming if they start weeding about 4-6 months earlier. Similar regards apply to forest products that can fetch higher prices if processed to meet market demand. Again, most cultivated lands in both villages are freehold and most forest products in Ngalzaang derive from reserved forests. Unfortunately, most villagers do not know about the related laws (i.e. land law, forest law, etc.) regulating the use and/or extraction of resources. Their access to resources may thus become limited unless villagers take proper protection measures (certificate, license, etc.).

Finally, this study finds the need of innovation in utilizing resources for livelihoods. Yet, there is a crucial need of changes as to the way of thinking and behavior of villagers before any innovation in resource use takes place. Without those changes being ensured, every investment made for linking resources to livelihoods will surely get in vain.

 

This blog post has been written by Cin Khan En Do Pau (John).  John is Actions Coordination Director for the Center for Resources Mobilization, Research Fellow at RCSD-Chiang Mai University (2012–13) and Junior Fellow (2013-2014) under the ASEAN-Canada Research Partnership. For more information on the ASEAN-Canada Research Partnership, please click here.

Valuing the environment in contested peripheries

Posted in ASEAN-Canada Partnership by NTSblog on July 15, 2014

In a previous entry, I wrote about the planned hydro dams integral to ASEAN’s long-term economic and energy strategies. The size of the dam cascade to be built on the Salween River will be the first of its kind globally, justifying close scrutiny of resulting impacts on natural resources, ecosystems and communities. Systematically studying these environmental impacts and related risks can inform local discourse on human and environmental security in the face of “economic development” (a topic of much academic study, particularly “development” impacts on marginalized groups, i.e. Ferguson 2009,).

The Total Economic Value (TEV) framework places monetary value on changes in environmental features, including those that cannot be traded in markets (such as aesthetic value). TEV is widely accepted as a tool for estimating environmental values compatible with Cost-Benefit Analysis (CBA), a component of the Canadian government’s suite of regulatory decision-making tools.[1] A notable outcome of TEV is a list of economic and non-economic environmental features of relative importance for the well-being of communities affected by the change(s). Directly eliciting these features from community members provides valuable evidence on which to inform public debate and conceptualize losses and damages to groups most impacted by the project.

In early June 2014, I spoke with village leaders upstream from the Hat Gyi site about their concerns for the environment and their livelihood. Transparent information about the dam’s effects on local ecosystems and environmental risks has been limited[2]; in its latest consultations with these villages, the Electricity Generating Authority of Thailand (EGAT) “promised only two of our houses would flood.”[3] Distrustful of EGAT’s claim, village leaders fear damages will exceed EGAT’s predictions. Leaders are concerned about flooding of village houses and crops; any resettlement process could be complicated by legal issues. For instance, government-owned parklands entirely surround existing homes.

Worse, relocation to arable land is not guaranteed, putting villagers’ agriculturally-focused livelihoods at risk. Fish navigation could be interrupted, despite dam designs for a fish ladder and conclusions from a preliminary RFID tagging study near the site concluding otherwise (arguably, neither method is efficient as a fishway management technique[4]). Tourism, which brings income through hospitality services, food and handicraft sales, may suffer if the main port floods.

Further complicating the issue is Thailand and Myanmar’s discouraging record compensation, resettlement and (in Myanmar’s case in particular) human rights abuses, for investment projects. Villagers are also disappointed at a lack of meaningful input in public consultations about the Hat Gyi project.[5] The dam site itself is in a war zone, rendering it effectively inaccessible; EGAT has limited its presence at the site after the death of one of its workers near the dam site.

Eliciting environmental values for losses near the Hat Gyi site in isolation seems short-sighted in a context of deep political nuances and limited transparency. We should seek to modify economic methods to capture these intricacies and to create a framework for human and environmental security.

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[1] Treasury Board Secretariat (2007) The Canadian Cost-Benefit Analysis Guide: Regulatory Proposals. www.tbs-sct.gc.ca

[2] EGAT and Chulalongkorn’s 2007 Environmental Impact Assessment lacks a full sensitivity analyses or full disclosure on compensation calculations. See: Hutgyu Hydropower Project Environmental Impact Assessment, Environmental Research Institute, Chulalongkorn University, 2007

[3] Interview, Sob Moei district, June 2, 2014

[4] Cooke, S.J. and Hinch, S.G (2013) Improving the reliability of fishway attraction and fishway passage efficiency estimates to inform fishway engineering, science and practice. Ecological Engineering 58 (2013) 123-132.

[5] Interview, Sob Moei district, June 2 2014

 

This blog post has been written by Liliana Camacho. Liliana is an economist and policy advisor with the federal Department of Environment in Canada, and Junior Fellow (2013-2014) under the ASEAN-Canada Research Partnership. For more information on the ASEAN-Canada Research Partnership, please click here.

What role for civil society in imagining a “borderless ASEAN”?

Posted in ASEAN-Canada Partnership by NTSblog on July 11, 2014

With continued calls and planning for a “borderless ASEAN” in 2015,[1] existing cross-border or transboundary institutions and policies need to be examined. I have been particularly concerned with the processes of evaluating the environmental and social impacts of existing cross-border development. This matters because sustainable development and growth in the region require the capacity to evaluate and respond to impacts that cross national borders. The major challenge I identify in preliminary analysis is the inclusion and recognition of cross-border civil society networks and their potential contributions to imagining a more sustainable, borderless ASEAN.

Regarding governance and assessment of cross-border natural resources, the Mekong River Commission (MRC) is an important institution to examine within Southeast Asia. It the only transboundary river basin commission in the region.[2]

However, recent incidents involving the proposed Xayaburi dam on the Mekong River in Laos have called into question the MRC’s legitimacy in the region. The Xayaburi project is being pursued by the Laos government even as a cross-border Strategic Environmental Assessment (SEA) of the 12 Hydropower Projects on the Mainstream Mekong commissioned by the MRC Secretariat and member governments concluded that the project (as part of the series of mainstream dams) poses a high risk to people and ecologies of the basin.[3] The 2010 SEA also report states that a moratorium on the mainstream dam projects is needed in order to better understand the risks posed to lower Mekong countries.

But, what is the role for civil society in this process of cross-border decision-making and assessment?

As part of my research, I attended the most recent MRC International Workshop and the 2nd MRC Summit in early April 2014 in Ho Chi Minh City, Vietnam. Four years on from the landmark SEA, the mainstream dams were still at the forefront of concerns; although these concerns were voiced largely outside the official meeting, for instance, in the press or at parallel meetings.

As an observer, the lack of discussion and lack of representation of people affected by the proposed developments in the basin at the MRC Conference and MRC Summit was disconcerting. Outside the MRC meetings, the Save the Mekong Coalition, representing a broad group of individuals and organizations, held a parallel meeting which focused on civil society’s role and also highlighted their exclusion from the Summit. In a letter sent to regional prime ministers, the coalition called for a halt to development, and noted that “the MRC has failed to define its role and facilitate inclusive and accountable decision-making.”[4]

Lack of involvement by affected people or engagement with civil society in the region, formal or otherwise, exemplifies one of the most pressing challenges for proponents of both “borderless ASEAN” and sustainable regional growth in the coming years. Alternatively, this gap represents a significant opportunity for regional intuitions to recognize regional civil society’s ongoing work to meaningful engage and imagine a more sustainable regional development.

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[1]According to ASEAN, “borderless ASEAN 2015” hinges on establishing the the ASEAN Economic Community (AEC) for improved regional economic integration, “with the following key characteristics: (a) a single market and production base, (b) a highly competitive economic region, (c) a region of equitable economic development, and (d) a region fully integrated into the global economy.” http://www.asean.org/communities/asean-economic-community

[2]Since 2001 the MRC includes ASEAN as a partner organization.

[3] ICEM. 2010. MRC Strategic Environmental Assessment (SEA) of hydropower on the Mekong Mainstream. Hanoi, Viet Nam. www.mrcmekong.org

[4]See letter dated 3 April 2014 at www.savethemekong.org

This blog post has been written by Vanessa Lamb. Vanessa is a Post-doctoral Associate at the York Centre for Asian Research (YCAR) in Toronto, and Junior Fellow (2013-2014) under the ASEAN-Canada Research Partnership. For more information on the ASEAN-Canada Research Partnership, please click here.

Joint Crediting Mechanism: A More Pragmatic Approach to Developing Emerging Carbon Markets

Posted in ASEAN-Canada Partnership by NTSblog on July 11, 2014

Beyond developing voluntary Emissions Trading Schemes (ETS), Indonesia and Thailand are simultaneously exploring other market readiness initiatives to address the multifarious challenges that lay ahead on the road to successful carbon markets.[1] The Joint Crediting Mechanism/Bilateral Offset Credit Mechanism (JCM/BOCM), by which the Japanese government helps hosting developing countries set up carbon offset projects whose credits can be applied towards GHG reduction targets in Japan, is emerging as a more pragmatic – and increasingly appealing – approach to developing nascent carbon markets in Indonesia and potentially later in Thailand.

Through the JCM, Japan contributes funding and technical assistance to approved carbon-offsetting projects in eleven developing countries on the condition that these projects will generate emissions credits for the Japanese market.[2] In other words, the JCM extends from the lessons of Clean Development Mechanism (CDM)to not only help hosting developing countries invest in carbon reduction projects that can generate emissions credits to supply the carbon market, but even guarantees that market by ensuring demand.

According to the JCM Secretariat in Jakarta, a key strength of the JCM is that it is simpler to implement than any other carbon market mechanism in the sense that it has a lower criteria for qualifying projects. As of 2014, Indonesia’s JCM program has already begun piloting feasibility studies, implementation projects and supporting programs with the expectation that the JCM will be in full force in 2015. The private sector is expected to be the main actors of the JCM.

Thailand is also interested in potentially joining the JCM. An interview with a Senior Policy Officer at the Thailand Greenhouse Gas Management Organization (TGO), which is responsible for developing the voluntary ETS, reveals that political disruptions in the country have been a cause of delay in the signing of the JCM agreement with Japan.

Quite significantly, the JCM appears to be gaining traction in Indonesia as an alternative approach to contributing to the ultimate UNFCCC objective of facilitating global emissions reductions, but in a more straight-forward bilateral cooperation that supports the full-cycle supply and demand flow of carbon credits between two countries. Compared to the EU ETS, which has witnessed multiple carbon market stakeholders oversupply the European market with low-priced credits, or the CDM which has imposed high qualifying criteria that developing countries have struggled to meet, a relatively simpler two-way crediting mechanism such as the JCM has high potential to wedge its influence on emerging carbon markets by helping developing countries build up capacity where autonomous emissions trading may not yet be technically or economically viable.

Of the ten ASEAN member states, four are already signatories to the JCM: Indonesia, Vietnam, Laos and Cambodia. If Thailand joins too, half of ASEAN will be building their carbon markets with assistance from Japan. Closer scrutiny of the development of the JCM and its appeal to Indonesia and Thailand in my research fieldwork reveals a more promising uptake of this bilateral crediting mechanism relative to the slower-coming ETS in these two countries as well as across the ASEAN region more broadly.

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[1]In a previous blog post titled “Preparing for Emissions Trading Schemes in Indonesia and Thailand: Progress and Challenges”, I suggest that in order to developing well-functioning carbon markets, Indonesia and Thailand must overcome a number of hurdles including but not limited to: restoring industry interest in carbon markets, garnering sufficient political support, bolstering the regulatory environment, and enhancing technical capacity to conduct rigorous MRV.

[2] As of June 2014, the 11 partner developing countries involved in the Japan-led JCM are: Mongolia, Bangladesh, Ethiopia, Laos, Indonesia, Costa Rica, Kenya, Maldives, Vietnam, Palau and Cambodia.

This blog post has been written by Shelly Hsieh. Shelly is a post-graduate Research Fellow at the Asia Pacific Foundation of Canada, and Junior Fellow (2013-2014) under the ASEAN-Canada Research Partnership. For more information on the ASEAN-Canada Research Partnership, please click here.

Gains & Losses of Hydropower Development for Resettled Communities

Posted in ASEAN-Canada Partnership by NTSblog on June 13, 2014

Hydropower development is a major part of Vietnam’s economic development strategy. To date, Vietnam has built approximately 450 hydropower plants dams out of which 268 are already in operation. 40 percent of these hydropower plants are allocated in the central and highland regions of the country.

That said however, there are potentially adverse socio-economic implications from these hydropower projects. According to the Quang Nam Provincial People’s Committee office’s planning report in central Vietnam, 42 hydropower projects have been approved. This translates into possibly affecting over 37000 people, inundating 20,000ha of land including forests, agricultural land and urban areas.

In terms of displaced communities, the building of Song Tranh II hydropower with capacity 125 MW in Quang Nam province affected 4 communes comprising of 9500 persons from 834 households, out of which 4,369 persons were resettled. Tra Bui is the most affected commune with 353 resettled households with 1,706 persons. Resettlement brings its own set of challenges in the form of limited access to natural resources. First, there is limited availability of land for cultivation. The average land area decreases from 1.5ha/household to 0,1ha/ household. Land in these resettlement areas are also often of bad quality and on high slopes, therefore unable to be used for cultivation. Second, water access is limited if not scarce. Without small lakes or natural irrigation in the resettled area, water for daily activities as well as cultivation must come from the mountain creek. In the dry season, water becomes more and more scarce. The third challenge from resettlement is the loss of forest land. Song Tranh II hydropower construction has resulted in a loss of about 1200ha of forest land including planted and natural forest areas, which would be viable sources of livelihood (through timber and non-timber products) for communities had they not resettled.

As such, the diversity of income activities is lesser than before resettlement. Most households often gain income from cultivation, forest products, husbandry and paid employment when living in their original communes. However, with resettlement, they only have one income activity, which is temporary employment. This has subsequently let to decline in the average working day number per labor per year from 200.5 days to 120days, and a rise in unemployment rates from 20% to 60%, especially amongst women.  As the result, average income per person per year falls from 4.2 million VND before resettlement to 2.67 million VND at present and the poor rate increase 50 % to 87 %.

Food insecurity, increasing gender injustice and natural disasters are also vulnerabilities faced in resettled communes. The rate of malnourished children is 20%, 85% of household are ill-nourished from 2-3 months. Feedback from women’s group discussions demonstrated a sense of worry and insecurity as they are dependent on their male family members who work. Since2012, earthquake occurs continuously and irregularly, the highest intensive is 4.7 richer leading to 80 percent of house was cracked and inclined.

To sum up, natural resources access and diversity of livelihoods of resettled people are limited and unstable, thus raising the level of vulnerability. To enhance quality of people’ living, two projects are development cage fishing model and livelihood improving for resettlement area have been proposed. These projects are funded by Quang Nam Provincial People’s Committee, will bring to opportunities such as new jobs, increasing awareness and knowledge through technical training courses, supporting money, financial and food.

While this blog analyses only the impacts of hydropower projects on resettled commune, research under the ASEAN-Canada fellowship also includes downstream commune, which would thus provide a comprehensive account of the hydropower’s impacts on affected communes. Based on this comprehensive account, only then can conclusions and recommendations be made for sustainable development of hydropower.

This blog post has been written by Pham Thi Nhung. Nhung is a lecturer at the Hue University of Agriculture and Forestry , and Junior Fellow (2013-2014) under the ASEAN-Canada Research Partnership. For more information on the ASEAN-Canada Research Partnership, please click here.

Water Users: Differentiated access and utilisation amongst communities in the Mekong Delta

Posted in ASEAN-Canada Partnership by NTSblog on May 27, 2014

In the Mekong Delta, water is the lifeblood of local communities given its multiple uses – water for drinking, cooking, and sanitation as well as in supporting livelihood activities such as growing rice, fruits and vegetables, and aquaculture Research in both upstream and downstream communities has noted the use of water for irrigation of rice and sugar cane fields, fish and shrimp farms, vegetable and fruit gardens, small businesses and services. The research study will assess two areas along the Mekong Delta of varying issues and social circumstances. Dong Thap Province, an upstream area, faces flooding, pollution and water scarcity which makes water management difficult. But, the local community in the downstream in Tra Vinh Province of the Mekong Delta experiences water scarcity and management issues, pollutions as well as salt water intrusion, Khmer Ethnic Minority communities are found in the downstream area, and there are just few individuals of Khmer Ethnic Minority in an upstream area. Men and women are divided in the difference of 48 and 52 percent of population in both upstream and downstream communities. The poverty rate of the areas being studies are the biggest in both Tra Vinh and Dong Thap provinces.

In terms of decision making processes for community water management, poor families have a limited say in these matters despite being participants in these meetings, consultations and workshops. Their limited voice co-relates to their small land ownership and limited funds to contribute to water projects. As such, these poor families use poor quality water such as shadow ground water) and polluted water from the rivers and even canals that originate from rice fields and fish farms. The rich or middle classes are able to access high quality water as they have money to build deep pump station or even purchase water.

There is also differentiated participation in decision making amongst men and women. Men are invited into the meetings as they are owners of the households. Women also join but their opinions are over-ridden by the men. Members of the ethnic Khmer community do not participate much in the discussions as they assume water management to be the government’s responsibility. At upstream, there is a few Khmer ethnic group, they migrated from Cambodia and live in Vietnam side, in the contrast of upstream, many Khmer ethnic group in the downstream. Their role in decision making process of water management in the community is lesser than the Kinh (Vietnamese).

Moreover, through my research I have found that representation for community water management is limited for women, poor people, and Khmer ethnic minority. A Khmer community upstream lives in the border areas, but are not recognised by the provincial government as they state that there are no Khmer ethnic communities in the province, while local government officials say that although they are Khmer people, they are Vietnamese citizens.

This research will thus elaborate on these differentiated water access and utilisation – where the vulnerable groups such as women, Khmer minority and the poor are dominated by men, the Kinh majority and the wealthy.

This blog post has been written by Ly Quoc Dang. He is currently Researcher and Teaching Assistant at Mekong Delta Development Research Institute, Can Tho University, and Junior Fellow (2013-2014) under the ASEAN-Canada Research Partnership. For more information on the ASEAN-Canada Research Partnership, please click here.

Transport Connectivity and Environmental Consequences in the Borneo Economic Corridor

Posted in ASEAN-Canada Partnership by NTSblog on May 27, 2014

The East ASEAN sub region characterized by under-development and remote areas yet which possess outstanding ecosystems and natural resources. As part of improving ASEAN Connectivity to achieve a competitive and resilient region, the BIMP EAGA was established. The cooperation among EAGA countries needs to be intensified by improving the enabling conditions such as transport connectivity. The West Borneo Economic Corridor (WBEC) of BIMP EAGA which links West Kalimantan (Indonesia), Sabah and Sarawak (Malaysia) and Brunei Darussalam was endorsed to promote physical and cross-border mobility in order to enhance trade and investment activities within the corridor with Pontianak in Indonesia and Kota Kinabalu in Malaysia as gateways to regional and international markets.

The island of Borneo, which comprises territory from Indonesia, Malaysia and Brunei Darussalam, contains one of the richest natural endowments on earth, which include oil, coal, gas mining as well as tropical rainforest area that serves as valuable ecosystem with rich biodiversity and high carbonsequestration potential. Tropical rainforest area within WBEC stated as a global biodiversity hotspot which constitute as home to six per cent of the world’s biodiversity and containing the headwaters for 14 of Borneo’s 20 major rivers.

The unsustainable practices on the fulfillment of requirement in transport sector may affect the natural capital and related impacts of climate change as more people, goods and services are transported within and across the region. On the other hand, declining natural capital and climate-related natural hazard may also interrupt the economic activities.

In the mining sector, the construction of land transportation access resulted in direct habitat removal and habitat fragmentation, as well as increased noise pollution, vibration and dust associated with mining activities which bring negative impact on the habitat adjacent to the mining site. Meanwhile, river sedimentation and erosion has potentially caused costly dredging or even temporary shutdown as the mining companies in the Borneo depend on river-based transport to deliver their output to market.

Furthermore, transportation improvement influenced the change of spatial, economic activities and natural capital degradation in Malaysian Borneo. The development of land transport infrastructure in Sabah changed the settlement patterns of rural population as they created new village close to roads. The opening of road access also resulted in market opportunities for logging activity, which affected the traditionally shifting cultivators as they have lost access to forest resources. Meanwhile, in Sarawak, road construction and logging activities in area adjacent to forest had contributed to river siltation and further disrupted the process of fish proliferation.

Fostering economic growth through transportation connectivity in the sub region is important, nevertheless the consequences for GHG emissions need to be considered, infrastructure should also be resilient to anticipate climate change impacts and its development have to be sustainable to avoid natural capital degradation.

The above discussion on the relationship between economic activities and environment in Borneo in association with transport connectivity is part of a larger study under the ASEAN-Canada Research Fellowship on potential solutions of green growth for answering the dilemma of economic growth versus environmental protection in West Borneo Economic Corridor.

This blog post has been written by Paramitha Yanindraputri. Paramitha is currently Research Coordinator for Skills to Succeed Indonesia in Save the Children, and Research Fellow in Urban Development Studies at the University of Indonesia, as well as Junior Fellow (2013-2014) under the ASEAN-Canada Research Partnership. For more information on the ASEAN-Canada Research Partnership, please click here.

Alternative livelihoods for sustainable growth? – Ecotourism in Wakatobi National Park

Posted in ASEAN-Canada Partnership by NTSblog on May 27, 2014
A divemaster, and one of the very few fishermen on Tomia working in ecotourism, returns from bringing a client out on a dive.

A divemaster, and one of the very few fishermen on Tomia working in ecotourism, returns from bringing a client out on a dive.

Marine protected areas (MPAs) have gained enormous traction during the past few decades as a means to tackle concerning trends in overfishing and marine resource degradation in Indonesia. A common management strategy found in most of these MPAs is the development of alternative livelihoods that aim to wean resource users away from exploitative activities, the most important of which being fishing. Resource users are encouraged, by means of economic incentives, to shift their livelihood strategies towards more sustainable ones such as ecotourism or seaweed farming in the hopes of not only reducing fishing pressure on the local marine ecosystem, but to also promote sustainable growth within the region. However, the implementation of such alternative livelihood initiatives are not so straightforward when we consider how these projects almost always take place within dynamic and complex socio-ecological systems, each of which being unique with its own set of local specificities.

The objective of this research project is to study the principal factors that affect either the success or failure of alternative livelihood strategies within several Indonesian MPAs. The preliminary results from our fieldwork, which is currently being undertaken in several Indonesian MPAs, has already shed light on several key factors that highlight the difficulties in successfully developing alternative livelihoods within such highly complex socio-ecological spaces. For instance, in Wakatobi National Park (WNP), there is a strong push by the local government to increase the importance of ecotourism in the predominantly fishery based economies of local communities within the park. Although community members readily express their interest in the idea of ecotourism, very few are actually taking concrete steps to enter the industry. According to government and NGO officials, this lack of “willingness” is one of the main challenges facing ecotourism development in WNP. Efforts to counteract this are already being undertaken through workshops that aim to increase awareness about potential ecotourism benefits and to offer training for several tourism-related activities. However, as things stand, there is a severe lack of local capacity for ecotourism.

With fishing so tightly woven in the cultural identities of Wakatobi communities, fishermen are very hesitant to leave the one industry they have depended on their entire lives for another that has yet to show any real concrete benefits for the local community. This finding conforms with the work of other researchers that has criticized the common assumption amongst marine resource managers that fishermen are readily willing to give up fishing for another livelihood activity.

Despite the hindering factor outlined above, along with a few others such as poor transportation and local government corruption, the efforts WNP managers have made to establish an adaptive co-management style framework within the park is a positive step towards the long term goals of ecotourism development. By giving greater authority to local community groups in the management of ecotourism in their respective areas, the hope is that the future development of the industry will be able proceed even without outside assistance from NGOs and the government.

This blog post has been written by Gilles Maillet. Gilles is a GIS Specialist at Yarmouth Active Transportation, and Junior Fellow (2013-2014) under the ASEAN-Canada Research Partnership. For more information on the ASEAN-Canada Research Partnership, please click here.

Natural Disasters in Kon Tum Province: Some Signs of Climate Change

Posted in ASEAN-Canada Partnership by NTSblog on May 18, 2014

Kon Tum is a mountainous province located in the North of the Central Highlands of Vietnam. Its western part share borders with Laos and Cambodia. Kon Tum’s terrain is divided by many undulating hills and narrow valleys, lower from north to south and from east to west. The province is included in the Se San River system, thus the watershed area consists of three major rivers such as the Tra Khuc, Thu Bon and Vu Gia.

Kon Tum’s climate has similar traits of not only tropical climate of the southern monsoon Vietnam but also plateau climate. Rainfall distribution changes overtime, with heavy rainfall in July and August (rainy season lasts from May to October). The dry season lasts from December to April. These factors contribute to creating a different set of characteristics of the typical natural disasters that are usually experienced in various provinces in Vietnam, such as droughts; storms, tropical depressions and floods and landslides.

According to the Hydro-Meteorology Station of Kon Tum, annual average temperature has increased from 0.5­­oC to 0.7oC for the period 1980-2009 thus contributing to scorching hot weather over a longer period of time. Moreover, it is relatively obvious that there has been reduced rainfall and increased evaporation during the rainy season, thereby contributing to the severe drought and increased fire risks. Rainfall and its distribution have been very different over time and space. The difference in rainfall between communes in the province has increased dramatically (1.350 mm – 1.450 mm for the period 1995-2010)¹ and the total annual rainfall decreased approximately 2 percent over the last 30 years.

Notably, natural disasters have recently occurred with more unusual and radical trends. Facts have shown that natural disasters such as floods and drought have occurred frequently, in particular flash floods in the rainy season and the dangerous weather phenomena including thunderstorms, tornadoes, etc. In 2009, 5 typhoons and 4 tropical depressions appeared in the South China Sea with Typhoon Ketsana (known in the Vietnam “No.9”) taking a strong toll on Kon Tum’s infrastructure and production activities.²

These developments therefore raise the following questions: Is the climate change responsible for the recent increase of natural disasters in the province that has led to skyrocketing cost by the disasters borne by the local communities? It can be said that it is too early to conclude that the natural disasters in the province caused entirely by climate change. However, it is undoubtedly true that those signs of climate change in Kon Tum are more apparent and might have negative impacts on the lives of local people as well as this province’s development in upcoming years.

The looking for signs of climate change in Kon Tum enables to have more comprehensive analysis in the research on the effects of natural disasters on local people’s agricultural production activities. Natural disasters and climate change have close relationship and are both biggest challenges for the development of not only Kon Tum but also the whole the Cambodia-Laos-Vietnam Development Triangle Area.

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¹Source: Department of Natural Resources, Kon Tum.
²The most heavily affected areas in Kon Tum is Tu Mo Rong, Mang Ri, Dak Na, Dak Sao, Dak Ha, Te Xang, Dak To Kan.
 
 

This blog post has been written by Anh Tuan Nguyen. Anh Tuan is currently a PhD candidate in International Economic Affairs at the Graduate Academy of Social Sciences in Vietnam, and Junior Fellow (2013-2014) under the ASEAN-Canada Research Partnership. For more information on the ASEAN-Canada Research Partnership, please click here.

What can ASEAN do? ASEAN People’s Forum recommends ASEAN adopt “environment” pillar

Posted in ASEAN-Canada Partnership by NTSblog on May 18, 2014
 “Salween not for Sale” demonstration during the ASEAN People's Forum. Other demonstration during the Forum included a call for the safe return of disappeared activist Sombath Somphone from Laos, and the presentation of banners calling for greater attention to LGBT rights across ASEAN.

“Salween not for Sale” demonstration during the ASEAN People’s Forum. Other demonstrations during the Forum included a call for the safe return of disappeared activist Sombath Somphone from Laos, and the presentation of banners calling for greater attention to LGBT rights across ASEAN.

Leading up to the 2014 ASEAN Summit,[1] the ASEAN People’s Forum (APF) was held in Yangon, Myanmar from 21-23 March 2014.[2] The APF is an independent meeting parallel to the summit, and this year it was a venue for large plenary presentations alongside the 35 workshops on issues of critical importance for the region.

By day three over 3000 participants—including individuals from non-government organizations, embassies, youth, independent civil society members, researchers, and academics—had registered. This exceeded the organizer’s 1200 person aim and represents the largest turnout since APF’s inception in 2005. The overwhelming interest also fuelled conversation and enthusiasm throughout the meeting.

As a forum participant conducting research on transboundary environmental issues, the statements and issues raised in workshops posed significant counterpoints to the standard notions of development and transboundary cooperation under the so-called “ASEAN Way.”[3]

The ASEAN Way can be described as a kind of regional cooperation which seeks to avoid conflict by privileging state sovereignty or national interest. Within this approach, questions remain regarding what role civil society can play or advocate for, and if national governments are the best representative of environmental issues in a system that has primarily emphasized the acceleration and expansion of regional economic development.

One of the most anticipated outcomes of the APF is the “People’s Declaration,” a set of recommendations that are made to the leaders meeting for the ASEAN Summit.[4] An important component of the 2014 recommendations include the call for an additional environment pillar.[5]

Environmental concerns were raised within the APF’s workshop session titled “Investment in Myanmar: Repetitive Experiences with Other ASEAN Countries? Challenging for Peace and Self-determination of Local Communities.” Participants discussed how to contend with ASEAN’s policy of non-interference in cases of transboundary development and investment. Presentations focused on, for instance, the Dawei Special Economic Zone and the Shwe Gas Pipeline, both proposed in Myanmar but with environmental and social impacts to and investment from Thailand.

At the end of this session, the moderator summarized what many of the individual presenters had highlighted, mainly that “We need to regulate across borders. We need a fourth environment pillar for ASEAN.”[6]

While ASEAN has taken a proactive role in promoting regional energy development, achieving sustainable growth requires the capacity to evaluate and respond to impacts that cross national borders. My research will evaluate the opportunities for cross-border strategic environmental assessment (SEA), and investigate the barriers and challenges to its widespread implementation in ASEAN. As part of on-going research, I will be examining cases of transboundary energy development, such as Dawei.

Photo 2 ASEAN Youth from APF 2014

A demonstration by the ASEAN Youth that opened the ASEAN People’s Forum on March 21, 2014.

An important component of this research includes analysis of the policy discussions and demonstrations that take place at regional meetings, such as the APF or the ASEAN Summit. Instead of solely focusing on interviews with government delegates or policy documents, I focus on the gaps and interactions embodied in these meetings in order to better understand the negotiations and contestations by and among ASEAN civil societies and governments over pressing environmental issues which cross national borders.

 

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[1] This year the ASEAN Summit will be held in Naypyidaw, Myanmar from 9-11 May 2014.
[2] While I use “APF” the full name is the ASEAN Civil Society Conference/ASEAN People’s Forum (ACSC/APF).
[3] For discussion of the ASEAN Way, see also: Ke, Jian and Qi Gao. 2013. Only One Mekong: Developing Transboundary EIA Procedures of Mekong River Basin, Pace Environmental Law Review 30(3). http://digitalcommons.pace.edu/pelr/vol30/iss3/3
Acharya, Amitav. 2001. Constructing a Security Community in Southeast Asia: ASEAN and the Problem of Regional Order. Routledge.
[4] The declaration in full: http://aseanpeople.org/wp-content/uploads/2014/03/Official-Statement-of-ACSCAPF-2014.docx
[5] The three existing ASEAN pillars include: political and security cooperation, economic cooperation, and socio-cultural cooperation.
[6] Quoted from transcript of workshop March 22, 2015.

 

This blog post has been written by Vanessa Lamb. Vanessa is a Post-doctoral Associate at the York Centre for Asian Research (YCAR) in Toronto, and Junior Fellow (2013-2014) under the ASEAN-Canada Research Partnership. For more information on the ASEAN-Canada Research Partnership, please click here.

Economics, Rights and the Salween: markets versus people or markets for the people?

Posted in ASEAN-Canada Partnership by NTSblog on May 18, 2014

A recent publication by the Asia-Pacific Water Forum recognizes the significance of water for economic and environmental security and calls for an improvement to the management of natural resources to minimize economic and human losses in the Asian region. ASEAN’s natural resource policies should focus on human and energy security issues both long term (i.e. ensuring sufficient energy to power economic growth) and short term in nature (i.e. building the capacity to react to fluctuations in supply or demand). Some governments have touted large-scale hydropower infrastructure projects as a viable solution to these challenges in light of rising industrial demand in ASEAN. The 13 hydro dam projects on the Nu/Salween River, one of the longest free-flowing rivers in Southeast Asia running through China, Thailand and Myanmar, are altogether expected to generate more than 15,000 megawatts of electricity.

But not everything is smooth sailing. The Electricity Generating Authority of Thailand (EGAT) has warned that communities living along the river at the proposed Hat Gyi dam site bordering Myanmar and Thailand will be directly affected by the infrastructure project. More worryingly, studies of hydro dams around the world suggest an even greater number of downstream communities experience alterations in aquaculture and floodplain agriculture and flooding with the construction of such dam projects.[1] Many of the ethnic minority communities by the Hat Gyi site have been entrenched in long-lasting conflict with the Myanmar government about natural resources, corroborating the need for a management approach to the dam issue that incorporates public participation and appropriate compensation for environmental and human injury or loss arising from the project. Similarly, Canada has had its own share of conflict between oil pipeline proponents and affected First Nations communities, demonstrating the international scope of these issues.[2]

Fortunately, both law and economics may provide recourse to affected communities as well as help to secure energy resources for economic development. The UN has a number of instruments governing the rights of indigenous communities; however, minority groups have seemingly fewer resources.[3] Economic theory, particularly valuation of environmental goods and services, can be constructive in the Hat Gyi scenario whereby it creates a price, or “monetizes”, the Salween’s water resources. Monetization, while contested by economic experts[4], may facilitate discussions with decision-makers in a language relevant to the economic development discourse and provide a means to incorporate non-market values into the determination of appropriate financial returns on natural resources. Tangible tools include Canada’s Department of Natural Resources’ guidelines on participation of aboriginal communities in the country’s natural resource sector; and the Canadian Council of Ministers of the Environment’s recommendations on water valuation methods and applicable situations.

Ultimately, however, no law or economic tool will be necessary and sufficient for compensating for potential losses or changes faced by riparian communities in the quest for economic development. Above all, infrastructure projects that may have adverse impacts on the people within a country’s borders should entail a requirement for transparent, well-governed and meaningful redistribution process to all parties affected.

In light of these circumstances, my project under the ASEAN-Canada Research Fellowship seeks to conduct an economic valuation of the Salween’s water resources along the Thai-Myanmar. By integrating advanced environmental economic methodologies with multi-disciplinary methods, the project hopes to contribute to the knowledge and acceptance of integrating local community knowledge, participation and value perceptions in market mechanisms that determine natural resource development along ASEAN trans-boundary waterways.

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[1] See B.D. Richter et al, 2010 in Water Alternatives Journal.
[2] See Kinder Morgan’s pipeline proposal, Chevron’s Kitimat LNG project; and the Alberta Bakken oilfield proposal.
[3] Colchester 2000 enunciates a number of pieces of international law relating to this, such as Article 27 on the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights and the International Convention on the Elimination of All Forms of Discrimination. (World Commission on Dams Thematic Review – Social Issues I.2, Dams Indigenous Peoples and Ethnic Minorities)
[4] See F. Foster, 2003; Pearce, 1999; and H.E. Daly and K.N. Townsend, 1993.

 

This blog post has been written by Liliana Camacho. Liliana is an economist and policy advisor with the federal Department of Environment in Canada, and Junior Fellow (2013-2014) under the ASEAN-Canada Research Partnership. For more information on the ASEAN-Canada Research Partnership, please click here.

Preparing for Emissions Trading Schemes in Indonesia and Thailand: Progress and Challenges

Posted in ASEAN-Canada Partnership by NTSblog on May 18, 2014

Both Indonesia and Thailand are in the process of developing voluntary Emissions Trading Schemes (ETS) as one of many potential methods for mitigating the countries’ increasing greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions. Indonesia aims to launch its voluntary ETS by the end of this year while Thailand plans to commence voluntary emissions trading in 2015. Depending on the experiences of these voluntary ETS – as well as the progress of other GHG emissions reduction programs – Indonesia and Thailand will further assess the potential for implementing mandatory ETS.

In Indonesia, the National Council on Climate Change (DNPI) is preparing a domestic Nusantara Carbon Scheme (Skema Karbon Nusantara) which grants 1 UKN (Indonesian carbon unit) per ton of CO2 reduction to qualifying projects. A separate Joint Committee in Jakarta is responsible for developing a Joint Crediting Mechanism (JCM) with Japan, which contributes technical assistance to Indonesian JCM projects that can thereafter generate emissions credits to sell to the Japanese market. Indonesia has also joined the World Bank’s Partnership for Market Readiness (PMR)to explore various carbon market designs and instruments that may influence the country’s decision to engage in a multilateral carbon market.

In Thailand, the Thailand Greenhouse Gas Management Organization (TGO) has partnered with the World Bank to develop a trading scheme for energy efficiency certificates in an Energy Performance Certificate Scheme (EPC). TGO has also launched a Thailand Carbon Offsetting Program (T-COP) and a Thailand Voluntary Emission Reduction (T-VER) Program, both of which aim to encourage private sector and individual participation in emissions reduction initiatives.

While the scope of the voluntary ETS – whether it concerns sector or jurisdiction – has yet to be defined in either country, what is clear is that the governments of Indonesia and Thailand are already working alongside local and international organizations on a number of carbon market-readiness activities that can help pave the way for a voluntary or mandatory ETS.

However, many challenges remain for ETS development in Indonesia and Thailand. Firstly, in these countries where economic growth, poverty reduction and income inequality dominate development priorities, ETS will not jump to a higher rung on the national agenda unless the market becomes more stable. Skeptics questioning the value of carbon markets point to the oversupply and low prices of certified emissions reduction (CER) credits that have been generated from Clean Development Mechanism (CDM) projects, along with questionable emissions reductions and pervasive uncertainties about the future of the international carbon market following the end of the latest Kyoto commitment period in December 2012. While Indonesia and Thailand have opted to explore the potentials of carbon trading regardless, they still require greater technical support and stronger regulatory environments to build and sustain domestic carbon markets.

Research conducted under the ASEAN-Canada Research Partnership examines a range of government policies and programmes that are intended to bolster carbon market development in Indonesia and Thailand and potentially support a voluntary or mandatory ETS in the near future. Using ETS as a framework, the study aims to contribute to discussions about the prospects and challenges of creating and sustaining carbon markets in Indonesia and Thailand in the wake of post-Clean Development Mechanism (CDM) pessimism and uncertainties about the future of carbon markets more generally.

The outcomes of Indonesia and Thailand’s ETS have significant implications on regional and international carbon markets. Successful programs in Thailand and Indonesia can complement carbon market developments in Malaysia and Vietnam, and potentially generate greater interest in carbon trading among other ASEAN countries.

This blog post has been written by Shelly Hsieh. Shelly is a post-graduate Research Fellow at the Asia Pacific Foundation of Canada, and Junior Fellow (2013-2014) under the ASEAN-Canada Research Partnership. For more information on the ASEAN-Canada Research Partnership, please click here.

Not Giving Up: A Closer Look at Indonesian Palm Oil Companies’ Corporate Diplomacy

Posted in ASEAN-Canada Partnership by NTSblog on May 18, 2014

Is the development of palm oil industry in Indonesia(and Malaysia) a blessing or a curse? Or both of them?

Since the last two decades, palm oil has increasingly become more significant for these two countries. Rising demands from China and India have driven the development of palm oil industry further. Now, Indonesia and Malaysia supply around 90% of certified palm oil (CPO) in the global market.

Globally, proponents of the palm oil industry have hailed palm oil as an important factor that contributes significantly to the food security of people in the developing countries. The proponents also argued that palm oil is an ideal crop for the developing countries in the tropics. This positive view is also popular among the ranks of the government of Indonesia, who also see palm oil as an important commodity that will bring tremendous benefits for the welfare of its people.

However, for many others, the development of palm oil industry in Indonesia is portrayed as a disaster. In its report, Greenpeace argued that the palm oil sector was the single largest driver of deforestation in Indonesia during 2009-2011. It accounts for about a quarter (300,000 hectares) of forest loss, which contributed significantly to global carbon emmissions. Apart from the enviromental impacts, many also raised concerns about the negative impacts of the expansion of palm oil industry in the social aspects, from land conflicts to human rights abuses.

As the industry grows, demand for more control for its business practices is also growing. Global and local NGOs are stepping up their pressure on the government to prevent further damage allegedly caused by the expansion of palm oil industry. Apart from pressurising the government, NGOs are also attempting to influence the market and try to disrupt the demand from environmentally and socially problematic palm oil companies. Greenpeace, for example, frequently directs their criticisms towards global companies who bought palm oil from ‘dirty’ sources in Indonesia.

My research, conducted under the ASEAN Canada Junior Fellow scheme, attempts to understand how Indonesian palm oil companies are responding to such development. What kind of corporate diplomacy is employed? While the research is focusing more on Indonesia’s case, it also tries to look at their counterparts, the Malaysian palm oil companies.

Preliminary research has found that Indonesian palm oil companies frequently responded to the pressures by accusing them as part of a global ‘black campaign’ against palm oil. According to the narrative (which I identify as “trade war narrative”), campaigns by NGOs to put more controls to the palm oil industry are supported by countries which are producing rival vegetable oils (soybean and rapeseed). The next rounds of the research will try to understand the construction of such narrative and how the narrative is projected through various channels.

This blog post has been written by Shofwan Al Banna Choiruzzad.  Shofwan is Executive Secretary of the ASEAN Study Center and lecturer in the Department of International Relations of the Faculty of Social and Political Sciences at the University of Indonesia. He is also Junior Fellow (2013-2014) under the ASEAN-Canada Research Partnership. For more information on the ASEAN-Canada Research Partnership, please click here.

Transboundary Cooperation for Conservation in the Heart of Borneo: Case Study of the Border between Indonesia and Malaysia

Posted in ASEAN-Canada Partnership by NTSblog on May 18, 2014

Ecosystems should not be divided by administrative or political boundaries, given their interconnected links amongst each other. Without careful consideration of these interconnectivities, policies and interventions on natural resources may bring about unintended consequences at both the domestic and international levels. In light of these circumstances, my research examines transboundary cooperation for conservation in West-Kalimantan, Indonesia and Sarawak, Malaysia. The cooperation is not only important for conserving biodiversity but also in potentially improving local livelihoods and economic growth in the region. That said, however, varying institutional and social-economic conditions between the two countries could hinder the progress of cooperation.

Transboundary cooperation in West Kalimantan and Sarawak came into formal existence in 1993 when the two governments agreed on “Joint Cooperation in Developing a Transfrontier Reserve”. The cooperation has also been supported mainly from the International Tropical Timber Organization (ITTO). In 1993 for instance, ITTO initiated a project and provided grant assistance for establishing the transfrontier reserve along the border of Indonesia and Malaysia. In 2001, ITTO along with Indonesia Ministry of Forestry and the World Wild Fund (WWF) signed a Memorandum of Understanding (MoU) for the involvement of community on transboundary management.

However, promoting conservation and development in border areas is not an easy task. Priorities, funding and management capacity vary between the partner nations. Government agencies and private sector companies in both Malaysia and Indonesia, for instance, have different scenarios on the expansion of protected areas, continued logging, large-scale agricultural development, increased smallholder agriculture and also infrastructure and ecotourism development. These problems have obstructed efforts to enhance the level of cooperation. Cultural differences have sometimes also made cooperation more complicated.

Identifying further challenges and opportunities, as well as understanding stakeholders’ interests in the area would help to foster and strengthen transboundary cooperation. As the case study indicates, the transboundary conservation effort involves several strategies such as ecotourism and joint task force. Since it operates at the regional, national, and local levels, implementation of these strategiesneed to consider multiple levels of policy.

This blog post has been written by Ali Muhyidin.  Ali is a PhD candidate at the University of Tokyo, associate lecturer at University of Indonesia and Binus University, and Junior Fellow (2013-2014) under the ASEAN-Canada Research Partnership. For more information on the ASEAN-Canada Research Partnership, please click here.

Livelihoods in Myanmar: Unproductive if land-based, destructive if forests-based

Posted in ASEAN-Canada Partnership by NTSblog on May 18, 2014

This blog post presents my preliminary findings from a study that was conducted in Tualzaang and Ngalzaang villages of Tedim Township in Chin State of Myanmar. The two villages are selected based on the types of resources mostly used for livelihoods and the study mainly focuses on land and forest resources.

In Tualzaang village, most households engage in farm work especially by growing maize (of local variety) as staple crop and groundnut as cash crop. Unlike many other villages in Chin State, farmers of Tualzaang village cultivate on freehold lands and most principal households own 3-4 plots of land. Extended households ensure access to land through social ties and rarely through formal purchase or rental. The shifting cycle of cultivated land is more than 15 years compared with the 6-7 years cycle practiced in other parts of the region, thereby making the farming system semi-permanent. Most households are self-sufficient only for about 4 months through their own maize production. Other resources available in Tualzaang include mangoes, fig fruits, gooseberries, fresh water fish, pine trees, and firewood, etc. Most households have separate plots of land for firewood, but there is no common practice for sustainable production.

In Ngalzaang village, farm lands are nominally freehold, but all are managed by village authorities. The village authorities first designate respective plots for farm land and allow land owners to choose their preferred plots. Then the rest are randomly allocated among all other households of the village. Most households in this village grow maize and upland rice alternately and the shifting cycle is about 6-7 years. In cases of both maize and upland rice, no household repeats cultivation on the same land since arable land is still abundant for this village. Most households are food-sufficient for 6 months through their own production. Available forest resources in this village include teak and other hard woods, wild elephant foot yam, various wild plants especially orchids, honey, and wild animals, etc. As in Tualzaang Village, all households in Ngalzaang also have separate plots of land for firewood, but the difference is that they also have a productive and sustainable practice in collecting firewood.

In both villages, villagers are not convinced about the standing rules and regulations as to access to land and the exploitation of forest resources. The villagers themselves have realized that their uses of land and forests are neither productive nor sustainable. In addition, coping strategies (for food and income) take longer than major livelihood activities that there is a vicious cycle of food insufficiency since cash income earned through the coping strategies is mainly used for purchasing food. Where people depend on forest resources as their major income source, there is no measure of conservation or reproduction or value addition. Therefore, most forest resources are increasingly threatened by the risk of extinction without any increase in income. However, the relationship and coordination among government departments are still limited while there is increased collaboration between government departments and development agencies.

This blog post has been written by Cin Khan En Do Pau (John).  John is Actions Coordination Director for the Center for Resources Mobilization, Research Fellow at RCSD-Chiang Mai University (2012–13) and Junior Fellow (2013-2014) under the ASEAN-Canada Research Partnership. For more information on the ASEAN-Canada Research Partnership, please click here.

Once the Land is Gone: Periurban New Towns as Vectors of Socioeconomic Integration

Posted in ASEAN-Canada Partnership by NTSblog on December 11, 2013

For nearly three decades now, national and municipal governments throughout the ASEAN have encouraged the implementation of new masterplanned communities on the periphery of large urban centers. This is despite the repeated warnings of scholars and urban analysts for whom this model of urban development generates more problems than it brings benefits to the region’s rapidly urbanizing territories and societies. As discussed in an earlier blog post, this critical perspective emphasizes the destabilizing effects that so-called “new towns” have on pre-existing socioeconomic dynamics and their role in the impoverishment and marginalization of periurban people.

For the most part, these warnings are rooted in studies of land acquisition processes and in analyses of farming households’ fate in the early years after the land is gone. While important, the focus on the first step in the land redevelopment process ignores the opportunities for socioeconomic integration that might—and actually do—emerge after the construction of a new town. While I do not dispute the view that new towns are problematic for ASEAN’s future urbanism, I contend that a longer-term perspective on the relationship between new towns and periurban populations can help scholars to move beyond the mere critic of these projects and toward the formulation of more effective policies to mitigate their negative impacts on surrounding populations.

This proposition derives from the exploratory case study of the livelihood trajectories of sixteen households living in two periurban villages of Hanoi. During the late 1990s, these households lost their agricultural land for the construction of two of Vietnam’s first new town projects. Echoing earlier research, I found that these people struggled considerably during the first years following the expropriation. The difficulties met by these people in their transition out of agriculture stemmed from inadequate qualifications and from the lack of state support. In interviews, many ex-farmers lamented that they have been let down by a communist state which, up to the reallocation of their agricultural land, had supported their livelihoods by giving them access to land on which they could grow food.

Yet, three to four years after their land was gone most households in our two research sites had re-established sustainable livelihoods. To do so, they tapped into the residential lands available next to their main residence to build makeshift buildings which they rent out to seasonal migrants and workers looking for cheap accommodation at commuting distance from Hanoi’s city center. Looking back, the households that we interviewed assess this post-agrarian income earning activity as less strenuous and more stable than rice farming. Most of them also hold a very positive view of the new towns built next to their villages which they see as beautiful, clean, and modern places that have embellished the face of their localities.

The resilience of ex-farming families in our two case studies and their positive perception of new town developments can certainly not be generalized to the rest of Hanoi or, for that matter, Vietnam. Yet, the fact that such positive stories exist at all on the outskirts of ASEAN cities must be taken into account before claiming, as many critiques of the new town model of urban development have done, that the planned city sweeps the poor away.

This blog post has been written by Danielle Labbe. Danielle is Assistant Professor of Urban Planning at the University of Montreal and a Junior Fellow for 2012 under the ASEAN-Canada Research Partnership. For more information on the ASEAN-Canada Research Partnership, please click here.

Hydropower, Economic Growth and Inequality in Cambodia

Posted in ASEAN-Canada Partnership by NTSblog on June 15, 2013
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Cambodia imports all of its petroleum products, which are the main source of energy for power generation in the industrial, transport, residential and commercial sectors. With such a high dependence on oil, the price of electricity in Cambodia is the highest in the Southeast Asian region. As such, the massive demand for electrical power and infrastructure demand is unaffordable for the Cambodian Government. In light of these circumstances, the Royal Government has decided to encourage and create necessary conditions to attract private sector investment in the power industry. Through this condition, all potential hydropower projects are being developed with the support of investment from foreign companies, particularly Chinese companies.

Amongst the range of energy sources utilised to faciliate economic growth, hydroelectricity is a cheap and sustainable energy source. In the long term, the improvement of power supply and reduction of power price could be significant because of its benefits for economic growth and employment through absorbing the Foreign Direct Investment. Moreover, unemployment in Cambodia can potentially be reduced by increasing of foreign direct investment in Cambodia. Lower electricity prices can encourage the growth of small and medium enterprise in Cambodia, which contribute substantially to economic growth and poverty reduction in Cambodia.

That said, however, there are about 90,000 people of ethnic minority backgrounds living in the middle Se San Basin in Cambodia and Vietnam down-stream from the Yali Falls Dam, who engage in subsistence farming as their main occupation (Halcrow, 1998). The Se San River supports a rich variety of plant and animal life, which provide local people with water for drinking, washing and irrigation as well as other  resources particularly for Cambodian side, where livelihoods almost totally rely on access to natural resources from aquatic and terrestrial ecosystems. The previous livelihood systems might not be able to be sustained for these effected people. Moreover, these impacts have been serious for indigenous people living along the Se San River. In the case of Yali Falls, flood waves as a result of the initial operational tests of this project have resulted in a loss of lives, property, livestock and crops. The villagers have also stopped fishing due to the reduced fish population in the river. Before the dam was constructed, they could get between 2 to 20 kg of fish per day from this river for domestic consumption and sale (about 2 USD per kg).  The dam has made them lose their income from fish and increase their spending to buy meat for domestic consumption. As such, the impact of hydropower dam should be minimized in order to reduce the inequality between the downstream and upstream community. The government and developers of hydropower projects should provide more support to the affected communities in recovering their livelihood from the resettlement.

Research conducted under the ASEAN-Canada Junior Fellowship will analyze the costs and benefits of hydropower in terms of economic, social and environmental circumstances in Cambodia, Vietnam and Laos. The research focuses on analyzing the improvement of hydropower dams on affected communities and contributes to the economic development in region with less inequality.

This blog post has been written by Kesa Ly. Kesa is a Research and Development Advisor at Life With Dignity and Research Fellow at M-POWER, and a Junior Fellow for 2012 under the ASEAN-Canada Research Partnership. For more information on the ASEAN-Canada Research Partnership, please click here.

SME Development and Management in Myanmar

Posted in ASEAN-Canada Partnership by NTSblog on June 14, 2013
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Small and Medium sized Enterprises (SMEs) play an essential role in the economic development of Southeast Asian countries. Generally, the SME sector accounts for more than 90% of all firms as well as the biggest employment source contributing for over three quarters of the workforce especially for the women and the young. As such, the SME sector will remain the back bone of most of the economies in the region for some time. Supportive measures and encouragement for SME development is therefore urgently needed at both the sub-regional and national level. As such, an SME development strategy can be regarded as one of the pillars of a developing country’s national development strategy.

In Myanmar, SMEs contribute to about 90% of total enterprises and about 70% of the total work force is employed in SMEs. Although SMEs dominate every sector of the economy, supportive policy measures are still lacking in Myanmar. The status of SMEs in Myanmar among South East Asian countries is relatively low due to its low productivity, shortage of capital, outdated technology and poor market access. Moreover, there are no laws in Myanmar that pertain to SMEs.

Although SMEs can be found in every sector of the country, their legal status and statistics are available only in the manufacturing sector accounting for more than 40,000 firms and 92% of total domestic firm in Myanmar.

Among the SMEs in Myanmar, food-processing industries account more than 60% of total firms, which largely operate based on “learning by doing” in production as well as marketing. Food-processing companies include rice mills, oil mills, powdering machines, sugar mills, bean & pulses processors, ice factories and confectionaries, which make up about 90% of food-processing industries. In addition to this, rice mills make up half the number of food processing firms in Myanmar. As Myanmar adopted market oriented system in 1988 and encouraged privatization, the private manufacturing firm increased three fold during 1988/89 to 2011/12.

SMEs of Myanmar can be basically classified as the following: (1) Traditional SMEs; (2) Import substituted SMEs (Active SMEs); (3) Agricultural and resource based export oriented SMEs (Modern SMEs). That said, most of Myanmar’s SMEs are traditional SMEs, which constitute more than 80% of the total number. Import substituted SMEs are mostly concerned with food and beverage, household utilities, plastic goods, basic electronic goods etc. They are located in the main cities and account for probably less than 10% of the total. A few export oriented industries like  modern rice mills, bean & pulses processing, fish and prawn processing, wood-based factories and garment factories have emerged recently in Yangon  and Mandalay under market oriented system.

As such, SMEs development in Myanmar is mainly concerned with the transformation of traditional SMEs into active SMEs and then eventually into modern SMEs. SMEs in Myanmar still face various problems such as lack of financing, low level of technologies, and unequal playing field with Foreign Direct Investment firms[1].

Myanmar desperately needs to solve all these problems in order to gain SMEs development. And in-depth study on how Myanmar can overcome these barriers and effective policy recommendations for ways to maximize the growth of SMEs is urgently needed.


[1] Survey result conducted by ASEAN Canada Junior Research Fellow from Myanmar.

 

This blog post has been written by Nang Saw Nandar Hlaing. Nandar is a researcher with the Union of Myanmar Federation of Chambers of Commerce & Industry (UMFCCI), and a Junior Fellow for 2012 under the ASEAN-Canada Research Partnership. For more information on the ASEAN-Canada Research Partnership, please click here.

Exploiting the potential of developing the CLV Development Triangle

Posted in ASEAN-Canada Partnership by NTSblog on June 14, 2013
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The Development Triangle Area comprises of 13 provinces with a total area of 143.9 thousand square kilometers, population of approximately 7 million people (as of 2012) and population density of 48. Interestingly, most provinces share the same natural environment, culture and ethnic groups. Moreover, the Triangle is located in an area that is of economic, political and strategic importance to the three countries.

The CLV Development Triangle has abundant natural resources. It is located in Indochina’s central highlands. Fertile farmlands – up to 600,000 hectares – in this region have received investments for developing industrial tree planting areas, which is seen to be a profitable venture.  However, many fertile farmlands continue to be fallowed, have a lack of water for farming during the dry season and lack suitable cultivation methods.

There is a large area of natural forest with abundant and diverse systems of plants and animals. These forests contain many kinds of valuable wood – high in quality and primary nature reserve wood (total natural area of forest land is about 8.87 million hectares). The area conserves the unique species of flora and animal systems of the various countries and the wider region. Currently, however, indiscriminate exploitation of forest resources – activities such as illegal logging and poaching – have not been closely controlled and managed. Therefore, the benefits of natural forest resource development and genetic code preservation need to be urgently acknowledged and protected.

The CLV Development Triangle is also rich in water resources, including surface water and underground water, as this areas is the source of the major rivers in the three countries. In particular, a characteristic of the headwater river is high watershed slope and large amount of water, which has attracted interests to develop hydropower. Moreover, the groundwater reserve in this area is relatively large and plays an important role in daily serving and production activity needs of inhabitants. However, provinces in Cambodia and Laos have, to date, not utilized hydropower effectively. Electricity networks for local communities are still limited, and many areas still do not even have electricity for lighting. Moreover, there are many shortcomings and limitations in the irrigation systems and groundwater exploitation which support residents’ agricultural and animal husbandry activities.

In addition, there are vast reserves of mineral resources in the area that are untapped – including bauxite, gems, gold, aluminum, zinc, etc – which have attracted the attention of investors. However, the exploitation largely by foreign investors is rampant, spontaneous and has caused serious consequences for the ecology of the region.

Ecotourism and cultural tourism of ethnic minorities is also extremely remarkable here. Unique original culture have been conserved and developed by ethnic groups. Besides, there are many primitive natural conversation areas where have unique biodiversity. However, these potentials have not been seen sufficient investment and development.

Finally, the development triangle has many potential benefits as a base for developing efficient commodity futures market, which would promote socio-economic development and improve residents’ quality of life. However, such potential has so far been utilized spontaneously for planned development purposes. The question is how to not only develop the economic benefits of natural resources, but also maintain the sustainable development of this region in the future.

This blog post has been written by Hoang Thi My Nhi. My Nhi is a PhD candidate at the Vietnam National University, a researcher in the Institute of Southeast Asia Studies, Vietnam Academy of Social Sciences (VASS), and a  Junior Fellow for 2012 under the ASEAN–Canada Research Partnership.

For more information on the ASEAN–Canada Research Partnership, please click here.

Local Politics and the Limits of Micro-Regionalism in Border Areas

Posted in ASEAN-Canada Partnership by NTSblog on June 14, 2013
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The cross-border cooperation between West Kalimantan in Indonesia and Sarawak in Malaysia shows rich evidence on how the dynamic interaction between the local and central governments has a great effect in determining the future of regional integration in the region. As a region that is far from the center of economic development in their respective countries, the successful cross-border cooperation between West Kalimantan and Sarawak can be seen as a success for ASEAN countries in overcoming development gaps within and across countries. Furthermore, successful cross-border cooperation might be seen as the emergence of the so-called micro-regionalism, which is defined as a cross-border integration within combination of two or more territorial elements that are contagious or linked by the seas ‘below the national level’ and ‘across national borders.

Theoretically speaking, the existence of cross-border cooperation mechanism between sub-national actors can foster deeper cross-border cooperation through the creation of more coordinated policies among political elites across countries in the border areas.  Furthermore, the existence of sub-regional institutional mechanisms as a top-down initiative from central governments should have fostered deeper cross-border cooperation in the border areas. The decentralization process experienced at the sub-national level may also foster micro-regionalism in the border regions by increasing the role of local governments in managing cross-border cooperation with their counterparts. Besides, the emergence of cross-border production networks due to the enhanced private sector involvement, and the increased economic cross-border activities is also the primary mover of the emergence of micro-regional cooperation in the border areas.

Sarawak Infrastructure in the border areas (road after Tebedu)

Sarawak Infrastructure in the border areas (road after Tebedu)

Despite the existence of cross-border cooperation mechanisms like Sosek Malindo, institutions for sub-regional integration like BIMP EAGA, the decentralization process, the greater business actor involvement, and the increased trade border activities which are arguably the prerequisite for the emerging of micro-regionalism, the emergence of the so-called micro-regionalism remains limited in this border region. This research finds that local politics, political antagonism between the local and central elites, as well as defective decentralization have hindered the emergence of micro-regionalism.

West Kalimantan Infrastructure in the border areas (road leading to Entikong)

West Kalimantan Infrastructure in the border areas (road leading to Entikong)

In West Kalimantan, due to sovereignty issues is still appealing within the local politics and the perception of inferiority toward Sarawak economic growth, the local political elites tend to see Sarawak’s massive development as a threat rather than an opportunity thus create a barrier for the local elites to deepen cross-border cooperation. Furthermore, this feeling is intensified with the perception that the central government does not have the political will to develop the border areas in West Kalimantan thus creating political antagonism between local and national governments. In fact, this perception appears due to the decentralization process that does not give the local government a greater authority to conduct cross border cooperation. This makes decision-making mechanisms too bureaucratic compare with Malaysian counterpart to coordinate the development policy to foster cross-border cooperation.

This blog post has been written by Mochammad Faisal Karim. Karim is an Expert Staff to a Member of Parliament in Committee on Finance, National Development, Banking, and Non-Banking Institutions in Indonesia and a Junior Fellow for 2012 under the ASEAN-Canada Research Partnership. For more information on the ASEAN-Canada Research Partnership, please click here.

ASEAN Bond Market Initiative: A Quick Report on the Credit Guarantee Investment Fund

Posted in ASEAN-Canada Partnership by NTSblog on June 14, 2013
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The ASEAN Bond Initiative (ABMI), like the Chiang Mai Initiative Multilateralisation, was formed in the context of the aftermath of the Asian crisis.  The mechanism was established in 2003 to promote long-term investment and financial stability by helping member countries tap into regional saving pools, while avoiding currency and maturity mismatches, as seen during the 1997 crisis.  These objectives were to be fulfilled through a multipronged strategy which addresses various issues, such as supply and demand of local bonds, cross-border transaction and settlement, and credit rating system.

The 2008 global crisis accelerated the ABMI dynamic.  Being aware of the fragility and interconnection of the global economy, leaders from ASEAN+3 countries acknowledged the pressing importance of building sustainable economic growth in the region.  As a result, a New AMBI Roadmap was adopted in 2008 to give the mechanism clearer objectives, including promoting the issuance of local currency-denominated bonds and improving the necessary infrastructure for the bond markets.   In 2012, these goals were streamlined and concretized by the New Roadmap+ to achieve more tangible outcomes and address with relevant issues in the global finance.  At the 10th anniversary in 2013, the ABMI is at its vibrant stage and has contributed to the steady development of the regional bond market.

Among the various programs under the ABMI, the Credit Guarantee Investment Fund (CGIF) stands out as one that received close attention from member governments.  Established in 2010 as part of the New Roadmap, the CGIF is to provide guarantees on corporate bonds issued in regional markets.  The pool of US$700 million-paid-up-capital available to the fund, contributed by ASEAN+3 and the ADB, speaks well for the strong commitment given to this program.  Most recently in April 2013, the CGIF provided its first guarantee to the issuance of Thai-baht bonds at the value of Bt2.8 billion by Noble Group, a Singaporean–based commodities trading corporation.  This guarantee would allow Noble Group to diversify its borrowing and tap into the growing Thai bond market, while creating investment opportunities for local investors in Thailand.

Looking more closely at this development, the CGIF, and the ABMI in general, do not devoid of challenges.  First, regional bond market still have to compete with bank lending and local bond market as sources of corporate borrowing.  The case of Thai Union Frozen, whose deal with the CGIF in 2012 did not materialize reportedly due to the higher costs in issuing bonds in the Singaporean market compared to borrowing at home, illustrates this point.  This phenomenon reflects a fundamental problem in promoting regional bond market in a largely bank-based financial environment and existing advantages of big local companies in accessing domestic funds.  Second, the fund’s financial and organizational capacity can pose certain limitation to its performance.  Although the size of US$700 million is not insignificant, with the average deal size of US$75-100 million[1], the CGIF could only guarantee a limited number of companies and could hardly afford a default.  This concern is seen connected to its careful selection criteria that would require competent staff and a time-consuming approval process.  But this is a work in progress.  So far the CGIF is working toward building its organizational capacity and expanding its investment portfolio.  How it overcomes these challenges and contributes to regional financial integration should be followed closely by future research.


[1] The Thai Union Frozen deal was about US$ 75 million and the Noble Group deal was approximately US$ 92 million (calculating from the rate of Bht32 to US$1).

This blog post has been written by Supanai Sookmark. Supanai is an instructor at Carleton University in Ottawa and a Junior Fellow for 2012 under the ASEAN-Canada Research Partnership. For more information on the ASEAN-Canada Research Partnership, please click here.

Governing South China Sea Affairs: Will Cooperation and Joint Development Affect Peace?

Posted in ASEAN-Canada Partnership by NTSblog on June 13, 2013
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Since disputes that occurred in the 1980s,  affairs in the South China Sea have reflected and validated the notion of anarchy from a realist perspective. Governance over dispute settlements and other matters in the region has been absent, while each claimant tends to enforce a unilateral policy to secure its national interests. The ASEAN-facilitated effort to find a solution among the claimants in the disputed region has so far been modest in achievement.

ASEAN’s relative success in bringing the claimants into negotiation forum is an important aspect for building peace, but there are certain factors to be resolved if the claimants are determined to find peaceful settlement. First, the challenge to form a regulation (i.e. the Code of Conduct) that is acceptable to all of the claimants. In order to cope with this, compromises need to be made and incentives for compliance and cooperation need to be provided. Second, the absence mutual confidence that has been constraining diplomacy between the claimants. The options to bridge the mutual distrusts among the claimants are limited by insecurity complex generated by the balance of power in the region.  A respected leadership may be required as the bridge in the absence of mutual confidence.

In the effort to conclude an agreement, provide incentives for compliance, and build confidence, sufficient resources are fundamental. China and ASEAN has to work together and exert all possible resources, both internal and external. The on-going regional economic integration in East Asia (internal resources) can be expected to extend to South China Sea development for as long as the claimants are willing to accept and cooperate. In addition, the international community is more likely to be willing to support peaceful settlement to everyone’s benefit instead of allowing the conflict to cause strike to the regional economy. This support should be treated as opportunity for creating ways of solution to the dispute. If ASEAN and China can work together to do this, the world can expect to see economic integration also flourish in the South China Sea.

This blog post has been written by Meidi Kosandi. Meidi is a PhD candidate in International Relations at Ritsumeikan University, Japan and a Junior Fellow for 2012 under the ASEAN-Canada Research Partnership. For more information on the ASEAN-Canada Research Partnership, please click here.

ASEAN’s New Towns: Housing the Middle-Class Urbanity through Rural Dispossession

Posted in ASEAN-Canada Partnership by NTSblog on June 3, 2013
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Half of ASEAN’s 600 million people now live in urban areas, a figure expected to continue to increase in the coming decades. To accommodate this rising urban population, public planning agencies throughout the region encourage a rapid—but controlled—expansion of urban activities, built forms, and populations into the urban hinterland. While this strategy is not new in the region, it is changing with the widespread adoption of planning policies favouring the construction new so-called new towns; i.e.; large-scale, planned, suburban redevelopments geared towards middle and upper-middle-class urban households.

While they contribute to accommodate growing urban populations and while they benefit various real estate economic actors, these large residential redevelopments put intense pressure on pre-existing populations, who must adapt to rapid socio-spatial changes. At the urban periphery of Jakarta, Manila, Bangkok and, more recently Hanoi, Ho Chi Minh City and Phnom Penh, new town developments entail forced acquisitions of large tracts of land, the displacements of populations, a profound land and housing market restructuring, and the afflux of suburbanizing dwellers into erstwhile rural places.

The capacity of pre-existing populations to adapt to these profound social, economic and spatial transformations is limited. Land expropriations, in particular, have been shown to disrupt the everyday life, social networks and livelihoods of erstwhile agrarian households. While many households on the edge of large Southeast Asian cities have already diversified their livelihood into off-farm activities, a significant proportion continues to depend on agricultural land. Despite land compensations, the most vulnerable segment of this population (women, the elderly and the less educated) struggle to find adequate livelihood alternatives once they are dispossessed of the land on which they sustained their living.

The negative effects of land dispossessions are worsened by the exclusionary designs, amenities and management styles of ASEAN new towns. Physical barriers, such as poor road connections or guarded gates, limit movement between the new and old periurban places and this, in turn, restrains social and economic interaction between incoming suburban dwellers and pre-existing periurban households.

Moreover, newly built amenities and services in periurban residential developments (schools, medical clinics, community centres, etc.) are often privately managed and, given the concomitant high fees these charge, are generally out of reach for the poorer population. In some cases, this socio-spatial segregation is reinforced by surveillance mechanisms that prevent periurban villagers and migrants from practicing traditional urban economic activities (e.g., street vending) and from using public spaces in the new suburban neighbourhoods.

Throughout the ASEAN, the construction of new towns tends to marginalize populations living on the peripheries rather than providing them an entry point into the urban economy. Weak physical and functional linkages and limited opportunities for socio-economic interaction result in the gradual fragmentation of periurban landscapes, economies and populations. This lack of integration widens social gaps between wealthier suburbanizing dwellers and the thousands of villagers and domestic migrants “left behind” by the urban encroachment process.

 

This blog post has been written by Danielle Labbe. Danielle is Assistant Professor of Urban Planning at the University of Montreal and a Junior Fellow for 2012 under the ASEAN-Canada Research Partnership. For more information on the ASEAN-Canada Research Partnership, please click here.

Social and cultural development in the Development Triangle: Challenges faced by Vietnam, Laos and Cambodia

Posted in ASEAN-Canada Partnership by NTSblog on May 19, 2013
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Socio-cultural development in the Development Triangle Area of mainland Southeast Asia – comprising of Vietnam, Laos and Cambodia – continues to face several challenges despite recent support from ASEAN and other international organizations. Countries in the Development Triangle’s vary in terms of their geography, topography, social norms, religions, and nationalist characteristics. Such a diverse range of factors have to some extent also affected the general development of the region. While such diversity is also evident in other Southeast Asian countries, the Development Triangle Area countries are still considered as “bottomland” and lags far behind other countries in Southeast Asia.

Given growing social problems (such as cross-border crimes and environmental degradation), countries in the Development Triangle have recently established a consistent plan for ensuring that their basic development is equitable development. Equitable development does not only seek to address economic issues, but also socio-cultural aspects, such as increase investments in health, education and social services. Doing so would enhance the capacity of individual workers, improve the ability to develop and implement policies, enhance fairness in society, and build social security networks to eliminate poverty amongst marginalised communities amidst the conventional economic development process.

The problem that remains is how to sustain high growth while reducing the societal inequalities, which have been a result of inequitable growth, and in turn, increasing inequitable access to income and social services.

Over the last decade, thanks to cooperation among the three countries, the support of ASEAN as well as external funding of international donor countries, such as Japan and Canada, the CLV Development Triangle Area has had significant achievements. For example, there has been increasing living standards, reduced poverty levels, upgraded social services, improved educational levels, and heightened social order and security.

However, if compared with development levels of other countries in the region, the Development Triangle Area needs more internal efforts and continued effective support from organizations and donor countries.

Policies with a long-term strategic vision should be recommended to guide regional development in order to accelerate the development of the region’s assets, and subsequently facilitate equitable development to narrow the developmental gaps amongst ASEAN countries.

 

This blog post has been written by Hoang Thi My Nhi. My Nhi is a PhD candidate at the Vietnam National University, a researcher in the Institute of Southeast Asia Studies, Vietnam Academy of Social Sciences (VASS), and a  Junior Fellow for 2012 under the ASEAN–Canada Research Partnership.

For more information on the ASEAN–Canada Research Partnership, please click here.

Hubs for Cross Border Education: Singapore and Malaysia Carve out their Niche

Posted in ASEAN-Canada Partnership by NTSblog on May 10, 2013
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Cross border education refers to the movement of people and research across national borders for academic purposes. Within the Southeast Asian region, Singapore and Malaysia have actively promoted themselves as hubs for cross border education.

While these two countries aim to attract foreign students and academics, their strengths, strategies and motivations differ.

Singapore holds an enviable reputation for providing quality tertiary education. In the 2012 QS ranking of Asian Universities, the National University of Singapore came in 2nd while Nanyang Technological University came in 17th. Comparatively, the University of Malaya was ranked 35th.

The Singapore government plays a very active role in promoting Singapore as an education hub. It enjoys a healthy budgetary surplus and can afford to invest in human resource, infrastructure, and advertising. Under the Global Schoolhouse programme, the Singapore Economic Development Board (EDB) forms partnerships with leading foreign institutions and recruits foreign talent. The Singapore government also monitors closely, entry criteria, degree requirements, and remuneration for academics.

Singapore seeks explicitly to develop academic programmes that serve the needs of its economy, and to retain foreign talent on home soil.

While Singapore may enjoy a better reputation for quality education, Malaysia edges out on affordability. As an indication, the National University of Singapore charges foreign students approximately 9,500 USD per annum for its BA programmes. The University of Malaya on the other hand, charges a significantly lower rate of approximately 2,000 USD.

The Malaysian government has spearheaded the supply of lower cost education. Its investment arm established Educity in Johore, a 350 acre campus that would eventually house 8 foreign linked universities. Cost savings are gained through the sharing of facilities, as well as teaching and administrative resources.

Notably, Malaysia has built up a unique reputation in the education of Islamic finance. Unlike conventional banking, Islamic banking complies with Muslim shariah law and abides by two key principles: the avoidance of usury, and the fair division of risks and returns. The Financial Times reports that Islamic finance is growing at remarkable speed. This has fuelled demand for knowledge and expertise in this area, which the Malaysian tertiary education system is able to meet.

Similar to Singapore, Malaysia aims to focus on academic fields that serve national socioeconomic goals: banking and finance, engineering, and health sciences. One nuanced difference is that while the Singapore government has announced that student numbers and GDP share are not its emphasis, the Malaysian government has made no such statement.

Singapore and Malaysia have each carved out a niche in the market for cross border education. The former’s selling points include: quality education, sound infrastructure, and job opportunities. Dissimilarly, the latter’s selling points include: affordability and specialised knowledge in Islamic finance.

As the two countries appeal to different demand needs, they do not appear to be in direct competition with each other. Besides as the market pie for cross border education continues to expand, each is likely to have its fill.

This blog post has been written by Diane Lek. Diane is a PhD candidate at the London School of Economics and Political Science, and is a  Junior Fellow for 2012 under the ASEAN-Canada Research Partnership.

For more information on the ASEAN-Canada Research Partnership, please click here.

Utility, Morality, and Stability: Perceptions of Inequality in Indonesia

Posted in ASEAN-Canada Partnership by NTSblog on May 8, 2013
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Inequality, along with its myriad manifestations and various indicators, has garnered greater attention within recent international and regional policy debates. For example, UN agencies, academic institutions, and civil society organizations are engaged in a global discussion on if and how inequality may become an explicit target within the Post-2015 UN Development Agenda. Proponents argue that striving to reach individual developmental targets (e.g., access to drinking water) without addressing structural issues will inhibit the realization of the vision behind the Millennium Declaration.

At a regional level, ASEAN and the OECD collaborated to prepare the Southeast Asian Economic Outlook, 2013 which contains a thematic focus on narrowing development gaps. The Outlook takes a multi-dimensional approach to evaluating inequality vis-a-vis a six-point matrix called the Narrowing Development Gap Indicators (NDGIs). Within ASEAN, although poverty rates and the human resource development gap have declined, they remain significant. Both the infrastructure and the trade and investment gaps grew which brings to question whether the region is economically growing at its full potential.

Under the ASEAN-Canada Research Partnership, an assessment of perceptions on domestic and regional inequality, and also the process of ASEAN integration, has been conducted in Indonesia. Overall, twenty-two interviews were held with government officials, legislators, the ASEAN Secretariat, international organizations, and civil society.

Within Indonesia, the debate on income inequality is rich, lively, and varied. As the data is analyzed, patterns on strategic preferences and effective policy mechanisms will be presented. But the current area of interest is found in what is not being said.

First and foremost, the most noticeable absence from conversations is any expression of a moralistic imperative to address inequality. The distinct lack of a Rawlsian argument is striking: the need to address inequality based on principles of fairness in order to build a society in which differences in outcome are justifiable. A utilitarian argument is the dominant narrative; inequality must be addressed in order to avoid the least desirable outcome: instability.

Secondly, the topic of taxation has not been mentioned explicitly in discussions on effective policy mechanism to reduce inequality. There is extensive rhetoric on utilizing government spending to introduce a comprehensive social safety net for the poor, yet mentioned of taxation targeted at the wealthier middle class is lacking. If taxation was discussed, it fell under the guise of economic nationalism in relation to taxation of foreign companies. Interestingly, broad and effective taxation was the first recommendation in the OECD-ASEAN Outlook.

The absence of these two topics from interview discussions may simply be the result of the survey design. But as research moves to the Philippines these issues may become interesting points of comparison. The Philippines has reduced income inequality in recent years and has been aggressive in devising inclusive growth models.

This blog post has been written by Matthew Bock. Matthew is an Analyst and Technical Advisor based in Indonesia and a Junior Fellow for 2012 under the ASEAN-Canada Research Partnership. For more information on the ASEAN-Canada Research Partnership, please click here.

Reviewing and Evaluating Industrial Policies: Small-Medium enterprise (SMEs) development in CLMV Countries

Posted in ASEAN-Canada Partnership by NTSblog on April 25, 2013
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Recently, the Republic of the Union of Myanmar had successfully changed its political system to become a democratic presidential system. In addition, Myanmar has been transforming its economic system into a market-oriented economic system. Prompt and active political and economic reforms have particularly been made since the formation of the new democratic government in March 2011.

These political and economic reforms are vital for Myanmar, which despite being an agricultural country with vast amounts of natural resources, has been regarded as a least developing country by international organizations. Myanmar cannot and should not rely solely on agriculture if it wishes to raise its level of development. It is therefore necessary for countries like Vietnam, the Philippines, and Myanmar to focus on industrial development while scaling up agricultural development efforts. As such, Myanmar’s new government has proposed five-year national development plan and it also prepared industrial development plan which is the main engine of growth to industrialization.

As part of my research, I conducted a survey (from January to February 2013) to evaluate industrial policies of small and medium enterprises development in CLMV countries on the extent to which they take into account policy changes. The survey revealed that investment capital is an essential need for the development of SME’s in Myanmar. Other important factors are technology and upgraded industries.

On 9th January, the Central Committee and Work Committee for Development of Small and Medium Enterprises was formed at the state level. It comprises of 27 members, out of which 20 are ministers. The Committee is geared to enhance SME development as a central part of national economic development and the advancement of socio-economic well-being of Myanmar citizens. The committee represents about 99.4% of SMEs in Myanmar, which equates to 126,237 registered SMEs nation-wide. Committee members have agreed to the following duties and responsibilities: –

  • Draft laws, regulations and procedures for SMEs development and submit them to the central committee for their enactment;
  • Collect, analyze and report data and information for encouraging small and medium enterprises:
  • Remove obstacles in works for small and medium enterprises development;
  • Place emphasis on market development to ensure wide market chain;
  • Nurture sufficient number of skilled workers and create job opportunities;
  • Make contact and coordinate with local and foreign organizations to be able to receive financial and technical assistance;
  • Ensure development of micro credit business through Small and Medium Enterprises Bank;
  • Set up subcommittees and groups for respective sectors of small and medium enterprises as necessary.

By fulfilling these new responsibilities, it is hoped that Myanmar will be able to industrialize based on the growth of its SMEs. During the month of February 2013, there have been several meetings and discussions amongst government officials and the private sector, as part of a public-private consultation process concerned with development policies and laws pertaining to SMEs. These policies and laws emphasize the importance of result-oriented activities, which would thus facilitate means for upgrading industrial policies to incorporate and mainstream the role of SMEs in Myanmar.

This blog post has been written by Nang Saw Nandar Hlaing. Nandar is a researcher with the Union of Myanmar Federation of Chambers of Commerce & Industry (UMFCCI), and a Junior Fellow for 2012 under the ASEAN-Canada Research Partnership. For more information on the ASEAN-Canada Research Partnership, please click here.

Hydropower and Equitable Economic Growth in the Mekong River Region

Posted in ASEAN-Canada Partnership by NTSblog on April 24, 2013
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In a bid to meet the increasing demand for electricity in Laos, Vietnam, Cambodia and Thailand to support economic growth, several hydropower dams have been constructed along the Mekong river, with many more in the pipeline. In Cambodia, there is the potential to harness  hydropower capacity of up to 8,000 MW from 43 potential sites for dams, which are in the planning stages of construction. In Laos, the potential of hydropower development is around 26,000 MW. These hydropower projects, however, have to potential to destroy wetland econsystems, seriously threaten the quality and security of water and affect other water-related resources, such as fish as sources of livelihood and the quality of arable land for agricultural products. There are about 60 million people live in Lower Mekong Basin Countries, who rely on these resources and services that will suffer. Moreover, when the services of this ecosystem are lost, it is often the poor who are most affected.Traditional livelihood systems will likely be adversely affected and thus a grave concern for indigenous people living along the Se San, Se Kong and Srey Pok rivers. In the case of Yali Falls, Cambodians have died as a result of floods caused by test operations of hydroelectric projects, and property has been lost. There has also been an increased spread of diseases that might be related to deteriorating water quality, coupled with the general deteriorating health of Cambodians. Since then, Cambodians feel a sense of insecurity as they do not know when the next flood will occur.

In order to measure the impact of dams, which can assist in reducing inequality in the country as well as the region, hydropower development policies should be given further consideration in terms of flood prevention or mitigation, the provision of irrigation for agricultural development, water supply  for domestic, municipal and industrial use as well as the improvement of conditions necessary for navigation, fishing, tourism or leisure activities. In terms of policies related to involuntary resettlement, displaced people should be engaged in the resettlement process in order to get productivity and resume responsibility for their lives. By participating in the resettlement schemes, the communities will have the chance to raise their concerns and preferences for finding alternative living areas that they find as being conducive supporting their livelihood needs. Furthermore, providing appropriate compensation packages to the resettled people should be implemented so as to ensure that they are able to recover their livelihood options in the short term.

It is with this context in mind, that my research under the ASEAN-Canada Research Partnership, will examine the improvements made in hydropower development policies in the Mekong Region to reduce the impact of hydropower dam on the affected communities. It is believed that such improvements will contribute to the economic development in the region without increasing inequality. Finally, the findings of this research will respond to the ASEAN-Canada plan of action by providing evidence-based policy improvements.

This blog post has been written by Kesa Ly. Kesa is a Research and Development Advisor at Life With Dignity and Research Fellow at M-POWER, and a Junior Fellow for 2012 under the ASEAN-Canada Research Partnership. For more information on the ASEAN-Canada Research Partnership, please click here.

The political-economy of ASEAN sub-regional cooperation in border areas

Posted in ASEAN-Canada Partnership by NTSblog on April 1, 2013
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As an economically vibrant region, Southeast Asia has been experiencing economic integration for decades through building a robust yet soft regional cooperation known as ASEAN. Besides enlarging its economic integration through open regionalism such as ASEAN+3, ASEAN countries have also initiated sub-regionalisation integration efforts. Sub-regionalisation means “those processes of growing regional interconnectedness that occur between local governments either in provincial or regency level.”

For ASEAN, sub-regional cooperation is seen as an alternative and powerful mechanism to foster deeper economic integration through cross-border cooperation conducted by sub-national actors.

This research aims to systematically analyse sub-regionalization in Southeast Asia. Despite the growing importance of sub-regional cooperation in ASEAN, there are few studies which systematically analyse this process. Thus, this research attempts to explain why some sub-regional cooperation appears to be more successful than the other?

The first field research was conducted on January 2013 in Indonesia’s Kalimantan and Malaysia’s Sarawak. Thirty-two policy makers from both the national and local levels were interviewed.

There are several findings that shed the light on the process of sub-regional cooperation in the border areas of Kalimantan.

The first preliminary finding is that the possibility of a sub-regional mechanism has emerged as a new level of governance within ASEAN, which allows the process of economic integration to benefit people in the border area.

In the case of sub-regional cooperation in border areas in Kalimantan, sub-national governments have an existing mechanism for dialogue between local elites, namely, Malindo Socio-Economic Cooperation. Through this mechanism, local elites at the sub-national level can enjoy a political space in which negotiation and dialogue can take place.

However, there are several constraints as the mechanism has occasionally faltered. Malindo Socio-Economic Cooperation’s organizational structure and decision-making mechanisms are too bureaucratic thus making it inefficient. Moreover, there is no clear mechanism that integrates policy and implementation made by Malindo Socio-Economic cooperation, BIMP-EAGA (Brunei Indonesia Malaysia Philippines East Asia Growth Area), and ASEAN.

The second finding is on the dynamic relations between the local and the national government at the sub-regional level. In line with literature on sub-regionalism, the key finding from the field suggests that the process of sub-regional integration conducted by the local government usually has stagnated due to conflicting political interest and the lack of policy coordination between local and national governments.

The third finding is the tendency for more developed countries to be actively involved in sub-regional cooperation than less developed ones. But literature shows that sub-regional projects are more likely to be promoted by the weaker states to enhance their economic capacity. In our case, it seems that the local elites in Malaysia’s Sarawak, with an approximate GDP of around $11,000, are keen to boost sub-regional integration compared to local elites in Indonesia’s West Kalimantan. This finding is a theoretical puzzle that needs to be addressed.

 

This blog post has been written by Mochammad Faisal Karim. Karim is an Expert Staff to a Member of Parliament in Committee on Finance, National Development, Banking, and Non-Banking Institutions in Indonesia and a Junior Fellow for 2012 under the ASEAN-Canada Research Partnership. For more information on the ASEAN-Canada Research Partnership, please click here.

Mind the Gap: Perceptions on ASEAN Inequality

Posted in ASEAN-Canada Partnership by NTSblog on March 27, 2013
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The ten member nations of ASEAN are seeking to build a community, as envisaged in the ASEAN Vision 2020:

…To transform ASEAN into a stable, prosperous, and highly competitive region with equitable economic development, and reduced poverty and socio-economic disparities.

Realizing this vision faces challenges from integrating highly disparate political systems and unequal economies: the GDP per capita of Singapore, a wealthy free-market city-state, is over 20 times that of Laos, a newer ASEAN member governed by a socialist party.

Within ASEAN, national policy makers and the Secretariat have been pro-active in addressing inequality by introducing the Initiative for ASEAN Integration (IAI), currently mid-way through Work Plan II (2009 – 2015). The IAI includes mechanisms to narrow the development gap between Cambodia, Laos, Myanmar, and Vietnam (CLMV) with the wealthier ASEAN-6.

Under the ASEAN-Canada Research Partnership, a mixed methodology of quantitative surveys and semi-structured interviews is being conducted with policy makers linked to ASEAN integration. The research objective is to understand perceptions on inequality within ASEAN and how these perceptions impact policy outcomes. The base assumption is that discourse on ASEAN inequality remains focused on equality of opportunity, not equality of outcome.

Background research indicates that since the Asian Financial Crisis (1997-98), two trends on inequality have been moving in opposite directions. Inequality between ASEAN members has been declining; CLMV are ‘catching up’ to the ASEAN-6. But relative income inequality within most ASEAN countries is rising as national elites capture more of the wealth. Overall, however, ASEAN members have lower domestic inequality levels in comparison to many countries in Africa or Latin America.

Inequality continues to rise in wealthier ASEAN nations such as Singapore and Malaysia, as well as low-income economies such as Cambodia and Laos. Conversely, countries of lower-middle income status, i.e., Thailand, the Philippines and Vietnam, have been able to reduce inequality slightly – within this group, Indonesia is the exception. Superficially, this runs counter to predictions based on the Kuznets curve: least developed agrarian and highly-developed service economies should have lower/declining inequality while industrial and manufacturing based economies should have higher/rising inequality.

Thus far, research interviews have revealed that managing inequality is paramount, which aligns with literature on perceptions of inequality in Asia. Without real or perceived shared benefits from regional integration, the probability of regional instability will rise. The message is clear: mind the gap.

There is a disconnect between regional policy forums and national legislators, which comes as no surprise. But this disconnect has impacts on policy outcomes. At a regional level, equality of opportunity relates to supporting CLMV so they may participate fully in the ASEAN process; the outcome is building ‘soft’ infrastructure through capacity building. At a national level, equality of opportunity relates to the ability of national economies to engage in regional markets; the outcome is to build ‘hard’ infrastructure.

Moving forward, this research will continue to explore perceptions of inequality and find institutional mechanisms suitable for transforming regional integration into inclusive, sustainable growth.

This blog post has been written by Matthew Bock. Matthew is an Analyst and Technical Advisor based in Indonesia and a Junior Fellow for 2012 under the ASEAN-Canada Research Partnership. For more information on the ASEAN-Canada Research Partnership, please click here.

East Asian Economic Integration and South China Sea Disputes

Posted in ASEAN-Canada Partnership by NTSblog on March 27, 2013
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Economic integration in East Asia is deepening in the 21st century. Trade among countries in the region has been growing in double digits yearly since the inception of the China-ASEAN FTA in 2010. Investment flows among countries in the region has also been growing significantly.

Theoretically, the ongoing economic integration in East Asia should have some positive impacts to the maintenance of peace in the region. Increasing interdependence is expected to reduce conflict potentials among states according to classical liberals. It generates incentives for peace and cooperation on the one hand, and increases costs and risks of conflict on the other hand.

However, this has not been the case in the South China Sea disputes. Despite deepening integration in the region, disputes settlement among the claimants remains an unresolved agenda. Dialogues between ASEAN and China on the Code of Conduct of the parties have so far been producing only limited progress. Tensions between China and ASEAN claimants remain high on this particular issue.

Several ideas had been discussed to solve the problem. Joint development and exploration as one alternative solution to spill the ongoing integration over onto the area, as functionalism argues, and put aside political and sovereignty claims has been discussed since the 1980s. This implies that ASEAN and China are ready for development and cooperation. The major obstacles to further progress in joint development are the absence of detailed agreement (Djalal, 2000; Townsend-Gault, 1998), lack of compliance to the 1991 Declaration (Djalal, 2000), and the parties independent act (Hyer, 1995) and negotiating behaviour. Informal negotiation through track-2 dialogues progressed, but only with little impact, if not none.

Economic integration so far has taken different track of development from the settlement of the South China Sea issues. Whether or not the integration will spillover onto the economic cooperation and development in the disputed South China Sea is yet to be seen. The chance for cooperation is there, but the actualization will depend on how both China and ASEAN manage the issue.

This blog post has been written by Meidi Kosandi. Meidi is a PhD candidate in International Relations at Ritsumeikan University, Japan and a Junior Fellow for 2012 under the ASEAN-Canada Research Partnership. For more information on the ASEAN-Canada Research Partnership, please click here.

The Chiang Mai Initiative Multilateralisation and Regional Integration

Posted in ASEAN-Canada Partnership by NTSblog on March 26, 2013
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When I was in Bangkok during the last two weeks of February 2013, there was much media and public attention on the ASEAN Economic Community.  As part of overarching regional objectives to be in effect in 2015, it is quite understandable why citizens of member countries would like to learn more about this regional project and how it would affect their lives.  Researching on the Chiang Mai Initiative Multilateralisation (CMIM), a mechanism to provide financial safety-net to ASEAN and its three counterparts, namely China, Japan, and South Korea (or the ASEAN+3), allows me to explore how this cooperation fits in and contributes to the process of regional integration.

To date my research has focused on understanding how the CMIM has evolved and what we could learn from this evolution about regional cooperation under the framework of ASEAN+3.  Evidence from written works on the CMIM and my interviews with Thai officials and scholars points to an incremental and cautious approach, which is largely a product of the preference for pragmatism and respect for national autonomy held among Southeast and East Asian policymakers.  The ten-year lapse between the birth of the CMI (Chiang Mai Initiative) in 2000 as a framework for bilateral swap arrangements among ASEAN+3 countries and when the CMIM became effective as a multi-lateralized mechanism in 2010 attests to the gradualism and caution underlying ASEAN+3 cooperation.  Central to this process of negotiation was the related issues of financial contribution and voting power, which took about two years to complete after an agreement for the CMIM was reached in 2007.  In 2010, another incremental step was made to establish the ASEAN+3 Macroeconomic Research Office (AMRO) to monitor regional economies and provide decision-making for the CMIM.  While the AMRO’s corporate status may limit its authority (compared to an international organization like the IMF), the private standing could put member countries at ease with regard to its potentially-intrusive surveillance role.  Pragmatic intention can also be seen in AMRO’s small size (11 staffs in 2011), making it relatively easy for member governments to agree on funding, while leaving opportunity to grow to future development.

As I continue to examine the financial and monetary cooperation in East Asia and their impact on regional integration, an observation can be made.  While the evolution of the CMIM has its own dynamics and rationale, the interest among ASEAN countries in forming an economic community could help inspire efforts to institutionalize the CMIM.  At the governmental level, this means more willingness to make the CMIM really work for member countries, as seen in a move in 2012 to increase its total size (from US$ 120 billion to US$240 billion) and the IMF de-linked portion (from 20% to 30% in 2012 and possibly to 40% in 2014).  However, lesser development has been made at the societal level as the CMIM continues to be known rather exclusively among policymakers and technocrats.  Implications of the CMIM’s technical nature on public perception of regional integration will need to be explored further.

This blog post has been written by Supanai Sookmark. Supanai is an instructor at Carleton University in Ottawa and a Junior Fellow for 2012 under the ASEAN-Canada Research Partnership. For more information on the ASEAN-Canada Research Partnership, please click here.

Cross-border Education Within ASEAN: A Double-edged Sword

Posted in ASEAN-Canada Partnership by NTSblog on March 26, 2013
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Cross border education, which refers to the movement of people and research across national borders for academic purposes, has gained increasing prominence within ASEAN in recent years.

Collectively, ASEAN leaders have stressed the importance of cross border education within Southeast Asia. The Cha-am Hua Hin Declaration on the Roadmap for the ASEAN Community (2009-2015) for example, listed several joint initiatives to promote cross border education within ASEAN.  Member states agreed to facilitate staff and student exchanges, create research clusters, and institute ‘semesters abroad’ programmes among ASEAN educational institutions.

Importantly, the Declaration stated that these initiatives were conceived primarily to develop ASEAN human resource so as to create a knowledge based economy, as well as to build an ‘ASEAN identity based on friendship and cooperation’. Clearly, member states view cross border education within ASEAN as a means to promote balanced economic development and cultural integration in the region.

The contributions that education makes to development are well researched. Education raises human capital and accordingly, labour productivity. It allows individuals to acquire marketable capacities, hence reduce reliance on continual external aid. Connectedly, education alleviates poverty as it gives the poor access to employment opportunities. Tertiary education in particular, drives innovation and increases the number of scientists and engineers in a given population.

Cross border education initiatives in particular, have the potential to further facilitate pursuit of the above developmental goals. It provides less developed countries with opportunities to acquire relevant, applicable knowledge from more developed countries. It gives students from less developed countries access to higher quality tertiary education. It also offers researchers from less developed countries, options to participate in research projects that they would otherwise lack the resources to conduct independently.

ASEAN member states have introduced jointly, a series of cross border education initiatives. In 1995 for example, they formed the ASEAN University Network to advance regional co-operation among universities in the region. The AUN administers scholarship applications, credit transfers and quality assessments for ASEAN students and educational institutions.

Independently, some ASEAN member states have also sought to promote themselves as hubs for cross border education. Singapore implemented the Global Schoolhouse Initiative, Malaysia set up two tertiary education hubs, Educity Iskandar Malaysia, and Kuala Lumpur Education City, while Thailand implemented a research network covering the Greater Mekong Subregion.

Whether these joint and independent cross-border education initiatives contribute to balanced growth and integration within ASEAN however, remains questionable.

Crucially, cross border education tends to absorb the most capable individuals. Sending countries may experience severe brain drain should these individuals choose not to return home. Also, granted the relatively low number of scholarships offered, cross border education plays a negligible role in improving poorer populations’ access to education.

While cross border education participants who have chosen not to return home can remit a portion of their salaries, more needs to be done. Regional education policies need to be refined, to ensure that cross border participants take on some role in sharing knowledge with, or investing in their home country.

This blog post has been written by Diane Lek. Diane is a PhD candidate at the London School of Economics and Political Science, and is a  Junior Fellow for 2012 under the ASEAN-Canada Research Partnership.

For more information on the ASEAN-Canada Research Partnership, please click here.