Foundation hosts forum addressing Asian betterment

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Foundation hosts forum addressing Asian betterment

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The Asia Foundation, a non-profit, non-governmental organization that supports programs in Asia aimed at improving governance, laws, women’s roles, economic development and international relations, hosted a forum last Tuesday.
Founded in 1954 in San Francisco, the group is one of the largest non-governmental organizations in Asia to facilitate development efforts and collaborates with private and public partners in carrying out its programs. With its headquarters in San Francisco and an office in Washington D.C., it has a total of 20 offices ― 18 in Asia.
The forum, held at the Royal Hotel in central Seoul, was organized in pursuit of two main purposes. One aim was to help network between Korean non-governmental organization leaders, embassy members and The Asia Foundation’s representatives from other Asian countries. The other was to connect Korean organizations to those that are interested in various types of developmental assistance that Korea can offer to other Asian nations, concerning education, women’s rights and policies to strengthen democratic values and encourage economic growth.
“In certain aspects, Korea can offer much more assistance to other developing nations in Asia than, for example, the United States or United Kingdom, because it has experienced a similar developmental history,” said Edward Reed, the Korea representative of The Asia Foundation. He added, “As a result, Korea is looked at [by other Asian countries] as a model in many ways.”
Two of the foundation’s representatives, Douglas Ramage of Indonesia and Jon Summers of Afghanistan, gave presentations on “Development Challenges in Islamic Societies,” with Shin Hei-soo, former vice-chair of the United Nations Commission on the Elimination of All Forms of Discrimination against Women, moderating the session.
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When asked about the areas in which Korea can offer aid to Indonesia, Mr. Ramage answered, “As a fellow Asian country, Korea has relevance. In other words, Indonesia can take the experience that Korea went through in reducing poverty, combating corruption and stabilizing a democratic government to put in the context of the situations in Indonesia at the moment.”
Mr. Ramage, who joined the foundation’s Indonesia office in 1996 and is the author of numerous publications on Indonesian politics, also talked extensively about the need to combat trafficking and to enable educational reform in Indonesia. He mentioned that the foundation focuses on Indonesian schools to provide civic education content from an Islamic perspective. Furthermore, Mr. Ramage stressed the foundation’s role in combating trafficking in Indonesia with close relations with the local police and government.
Mr. Ramage discussed the development challenges and experience of Indonesia, or “the world’s largest Islamic society,” and Mr. Summers spoke of Afghanistan’s experiences as a “post-conflict Islamic society.”
“It is an exciting time to be involved in Afghanistan’s civil movements toward democracy,” said Mr. Summers. “The main focus during my term at the Afghanistan office has been in supporting the development of a new constitution by establishing an interim government through Afghan’s grand assembly, called the Emergency Loya Jirga,” he explained. Working closely with the UN and the interim government of Afghanistan, the foundation aided The Afghan Constitutional Commission to draft a new national constitution which reflects the input of the Afghan public. The Afghan office has also led programs for women and girls to have opportunities for education and professional training after the overthrow of the Taliban.
The Asia Foundation in Korea plans to have two to three forums of this nature annually and hopes to hold the next forum later this year.


by Cho Jae-eun
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