I want to thank those who organized this wonderful alumni conference, particularly our hosts from the New Delhi chapter, and for all of you for honoring us with our presence. My special thanks go to Dr. Mala Kapur Shankardass, chair of the Delhi chapter and of this conference, to Jane Schukoske of the U.S. Educational Foundation of India, to Daniel Berman, the former international chair of the East-West Center Association, to Michael Anderson of the American Embassy, and the many others who made this meeting possible.
I also want at the outset to express our sympathies for the recent tragedies in this region, especially the earthquake, which has been so devastating for Pakistan. India also suffered from the earthquake, and from terrorism incidents of last month. Yesterday, there was another instance of terrorism in Karachi. Both the manmade and the natural calamities, in which innocents are the victims, reinforce the importance of international cooperation and philanthropy. Let us take a moment to remember the victims of these horrible tragedies.
Despite these tragedies, we have come together from different corners of South Asia – and the world – at this regional meeting. The EWC/EWCA alumni conferences are a very special part of the overall East-West Center program of activities. Five years ago when we had our 40th anniversary conference in Honolulu, approximately 800 people attended. Two years later we began to hold annual alumni reunions. In 2002, we held the International Conference in Kuala Lumpur. In 2003, there was a 1960s alumni conference in Honolulu, and in 2004, the International Conference was in Tokyo. This year, we have this regional meeting in Delhi, and next year, we will hold the International Conference in Hanoi.
These international meetings, as important and visible as they are, are only a part of alumni activities. Individual chapters have their own programs including not just intellectual and social events but philanthropic projects they are supporting. Several East-West Center groups, such as the Jefferson Fellows, a veteran program for journalists almost as old as the EWC itself, and Asia Pacific Leadership Program, which is our baby at only 4 years old, have started “functional” chapters and holding their own alumni reunions. Another example of alumni participation came last year, when we sent a questionnaire asking for input into our strategic planning process. Within the first forty-eight hours we had received hundreds of replies.
When I mention our alumni conferences and activities to my academic friends in the United States, they are absolutely amazed. Amazed that a relatively small, non-university institution, like the East-West Center, has such a devoted alumni network and can sustain such a vibrant program for alumni. When I have asked some of you here in New Delhi what other foreign institutions have similar alumni networks in South Asia, I have yet to have yet to hear of an equivalent with so many chapters and an ability to bring alumni from around South Asia to a single location for a meeting such as this.
There are some other unusual features of our East-West Center alumni network, which make our success seem even more improbable. First, unlike many universities, we do not really have a dominant national or geographical base, a city or region where a large part of the alumni are concentrated. Our alumni network is flung out to all quarters of the vast Asia-Pacific region. Second, of the approximately 50,000 alumni of East-West Center programs, a little more than 10 percent were on longer-term student awards. These spent most time at the East-West Center, and many are very dedicated alumni. Yet many other dedicated alumni include individuals were on short-term programs for journalists, political leaders, teachers, or other professionals. Some of our alumni, like Prime Minister Manmohan Singh of India, were conference participants, spending only a few days in Hawaii. And you may be surprised to know there are active and proud alumni of East-West Center field activities, who have never been to the East-West Center itself.
Our diversity, of course, extends to our professions. Many East-West Center alumni are in the academic world. We are teachers, professors, researchers, and academic administrators. But we are also public servants, journalists, politicians, business leaders, artists, writers, hotel managers, and many others.
What then is the secret to our success? What brings us all together at meetings like this? And what accounts for our loyalty to the East-West Center?
In thinking about this, and in asking many other alumni about their involvement with the Center, it is clear that there are many reasons we participate. Obviously, and particularly as we get older, we feel nostalgic about the formative experiences of our younger years. When those experiences include being in a place as naturally beautiful and culturally welcoming as Hawaii, it makes us doubly nostalgic. So we come to regional and international conferences to share memories and catch up with old friends and to make new friends of those who have some of the same kinds of experience. These conferences also provide a rich intellectual menu, drawn from our own ranks as well as some guests. In “catching up” with our friends, it is not just about new jobs, children, or grandchildren, but also we catch up on their interests and their latest thinking on the big issues affecting our countries and region.
But there is something much, much more in the East-West Center alumni network than a society of friends and professional colleagues. This is the commitment not so much to an organization as to an idea and mission – the East-West Center mission of a vibrant, peaceful, prosperous, and just Asia-Pacific community as a key building block of the global society of the future. And it is a commitment to a way of trying to achieve our vision, which is through cooperative programs of partnership in which no one should be privileged and no one left out, whatever their ethnicity, nationality, or gender. Our collaborative research activities, student scholarships, seminar and exchange programs – and our alumni activities – are dedicated to our mission and carried out through our methodology of partnership.
I want to talk about our mission, vision, goals, and values because our Board of Governors, with your input, has encapsulated these into a Strategic Plan to provide guidance for our institutional development over the coming half decade. Our East-West Center Association and individual chapter leaders have just begun the process of rewriting their own strategic plan for the EWCA in the context of the Center’s strategic plan. I also want to introduce my colleagues at the EWC.
The strategic plan begins with the mission of Asia-Pacific community building, validating its importance. When I was last in New Delhi in March of this year, my colleague Muthiah Alagappa and I had an opportunity to have a brief visit with the prime minister. Because he is an alumnus, the Prime Minister knew of our organization and mission, and he emphasized to us that this mission is all the more important now than it was when the Center was established some forty-five years ago. I truly believe this to be so.
Compared to any previous era of history, we live in a world of tremendous dynamism and change. Much of this is for the good, especially in the Asia and Pacific region. Nations have regained their freedom. Many have become democracies with vibrant civil societies. The average individual lives a longer and healthier life. Especially in East Asia, the last four decades have witnessed tens of millions of people moving from low income to middle income or from middle income to high income status. With rising incomes, educational opportunities have exploded, including international educational opportunities. In the 1960s, with a few hundred of students, the East-West Center scholarship program was one of relative few avenues by which Asian and Pacific students came for tertiary education in the United States, and now tens, even hundreds of thousands come every year. New technologies link us as never before, so that even when we are thousands of kilometers away we are in almost instantaneous contact with our families, friends, and professional colleagues wherever they may be.
The forces that we usually group under the heading of globalization have been generally powerful and positive forces in our lives. But we also know that globalization has accelerated processes of change that many people in our countries find threatening of traditions, values, status and jobs and thus very frightening. In one form or another globalization is associated with many of the most serious modern challenges countries face – wrenching economic adjustments, increased social and communal tensions, the spread of HIV/AIDS and other infectious diseases, increased drug trafficking, environmental degradation and international terrorism. Many people are simply unprepared or unwilling to adjust to or benefit from globalization. Some may react with feelings of hopelessness while others may react in violent opposition or become passive sympathizers of those opposing change.
Thus the very forces that bring positive change also create new and even more difficult challenges. In our globalizing world, it is not possible for nations, even the biggest and most powerful of nations, to wall themselves off from these challenges or to solve them on their own. International cooperation is absolutely essential to the effective management and eventual solution of the issues of our time. But international cooperation in this era is not just a matter of diplomats getting together and negotiating treaties. There needs to be a base of common understanding and knowledge about the problems, not just among specialists, but among the broader public opinion leaders. There also needs to be sensitivity to the interests of other societies because even if there can be agreement on scientific aspects of an issue like global warming or avian flu, the impact on and capacity of nations differ. Common or coordinated strategies must take these into account. Nor is the value of international cooperation limited to international problems. The problems can be largely domestic in character where we benefit from each other’s experience.
International education, which we celebrate this International Education Week, provides the foundation for cooperation and enhanced cross-cultural understandings of issues and different interests. International education in general, and the East-West Center in particular, are needed as never before. How can we – the East-West Center -make ourselves even more effective in carrying out this mission?
Under our Board Strategic Plan, we emphasize five broad programmatic goals and an organizational goal. Our programmatic goals all relate to coping with the challenges and maximizing the opportunities of globalization. First, we will continue to enhance our collaborative research activities. We have capabilities in several broad areas: economic development, governance and security, the environment, and population and health issues. We are extending our reach to educational policy issues and to human rights. It is the intention of the Center to maintain a small, high quality core staff in these areas, while reaching out to the best talent wherever it is in the world to supplement our capabilities. Most of our collaborative research capability is encompassed in our Research Program, whose director, Dr. Nancy Lewis, is with us.
Second, through our educational and seminars program, we will be continuing to expand our efforts to strengthen the human resource base of an Asia-Pacific community. Our goal, as you know, is to provide training not just in disciplines or professions, but also in cross-cultural relations and knowledge of Asia and the Pacific, including the United States, as a whole. We call this developing “regional literacy.” A unique educational feature of the East-West Center is that we work self-consciously to build international understanding and relationships rather than just consider them possible byproducts of an international educational experience. For some years, our educational program languished, but today our educational products and student numbers are growing. You will learn more from Dr. Terence Bigalke, director of education, who is here to meet with you as well as potential new students and collaborating educational institutions in South Asia.
Third, we believe that for international cooperation to be sustained and effective, it must be institutionalized. The East-West Center supports the establishment of rules of the game, of regular processes through which specialists and practitioners meet to address themselves to issues, and of effective organizational structures to serve as frameworks for analysis, cooperation, and collective action. We pursue through this goal through a number of our programs, including our Research Program, East-West Center Washington, the Pacific Island Development Program, and the rapidly growing number of dialogue activities of East-West Seminars, whose director, Ambassador Raymond Burghardt is with us.
Fourth, we want to place major emphasis on conflict reduction, since conflicts are so destructive to understanding, relationships, and community building. In a certain sense, we can say that the whole East-West Center in one way or another is about conflict reduction. But our targeted programs address particular conflicts and build the analytical capacity to better prevent, manage, and resolve conflicts. This work is carried out under the leadership of Dr. Muthiah Alagappa, director of East-West Center Washington. In the case of the Pacific islands, we also are acquiring a capacity to address conflicts in the field. This week, while we are meeting in New Delhi, the director of our Pacific Island Development Program, Dr. Sitiveni Halapua, is in the island of Maileta in the Solomon Islands, conducting a village “tok stori” grassroots dialogue as part of the nation-rebuilding processes occurring in that small, but troubled country. He has conducted other nation-building and conflict-reducing activities in Fiji and Tonga.
As our final programmatic goal, since the East-West Center looks both East and West, we are seeking to help the United States to strengthen its ability to engage effectively with the Asia-Pacific region through programs directed at the United States. Some of our efforts in this area include our U.S. Asia-Pacific Council, which encompasses a large group of prominent Americans interested in the region, our programs in Washington, D.C. for Congressional staff, think-tank personnel and others who influence U.S. policies, the public outreach efforts we make in secondary U.S. cities through East-West Seminars programs, and our programs to encourage faculty and curriculum development in smaller colleges and secondary schools in the United States. Other outreach is under the director of Ms. Karen Knudsen, the director of external relations for the East-West Center, who is here in Delhi and last year visited quite a number of South Asian chapters along with Daniel Berman, who then returned to this region for an extended period.
Aside from these five program goals, we have an organizational goal – that is one of strengthen the East-West Center as an organization in order to better carry out our other goals. The East-West Center needs strengthening in several ways, most notably in diversifying and buttressing its basis of support. Many of you were with the East-West Center when it was almost exclusively funded by an appropriation of the U.S. Congress. This is no longer the case; appropriated funding accounts for about a half of our budget, and the other half needs to be raised each year from foundations, contracts, and individuals.
Over the past eight years, pursuant to two previous action plans, the East-West Center had already changed in many ways. Two nights ago, I was speaking with one of our alumni chapter leaders, who expressed surprise that the East-West Center has an office in Washington. So let me bring you up to date on some of the major changes, starting with Washington.
East-West Center Washington is a program office that manages projects on Asian security and governance issues as well as issues of U.S. policy toward Asia and Pacific regional cooperation. As an integral part of the East-West Center, the office in Washington also helps us better bring our expertise from Hawaii to Washington and to monitor developments in Washington that affect our programs. East-West Center Washington has visiting fellows and typically hosts Honolulu-based programs such as the Jefferson Fellows for journalists, the Senior Journalist Seminar with its outreach to the Muslim world, and the Asia Pacific Leadership Program students. It also has a vibrant publications program. Begun in September 2001 with only Dr. Alagappa, East-West Center Washington now consists of 5 Ph.D. level research staff, 5 student staff, and several visiting fellows, including several from South Asia.
In Maui, the East-West Center provides the leadership and managing direction for the Pacific Disaster Center. The director, Dr. Allen Clark, is also with us, and he is busy on this trip meeting with disaster specialists and responsible officials in Delhi. As you can imagine, the PDC, which altogether has about 40 staff, has been very busy in this year of major disasters. The Pacific Disaster Center had personnel in the tsunami-affected region at the beginning of the year and in Louisiana more recently. It has offered services to Pakistan. It also is helping Thailand develop a multi-hazard center to be better prepared to anticipate and respond to disasters.
A third important development, which I have already mentioned, has been the dramatic expansion of our student programs under Dr. Bigalke. We have more educational products than ever before, and after many years of stagnation the number of students has almost tripled to reach levels of 30 years ago. Our dormitories and student activity buildings are humming with life, and education, exchange and sharing occur in the classroom and the kitchens.
A fourth development is the creation of a new position, the Director of Strategic Plans and Partnerships. Ms. Carol Fox, who holds this position, just joined the East-West Center in June. Ms. Fox has a special role to play in coordinating and monitoring our strategic plan implementation, developing new activities, promoting institutional partnerships, and searching for resources to permit us to better achieve our goals.
You have heard me mention many of our directors here. In fact, virtually all the Center’s senior management are participating in this subregional conference. I have not done exhaustive research on this, but except for our Tokyo meeting last year, I think that we have never had so much of the senior management in one place out of Hawaii before, certainly not to a regional conference. This is a tribute to the importance that we attach to strengthening and deepening the East-West Center’s engagement with institutions and individuals in South Asia. Frankly our engagement with South Asia has not matched our engagement with East and Southeast Asia, and we want to correct this situation. We seek your advice and ideas, we look forward to new partnerships, and we are very pleased to see so many new and renewed alumni chapters in this region. We dream of being able to establish an East-West Center office in the region to promote our engagement with you. This is more than just a dream; it is a plan, and a plan we hope to make a reality within a year or two.
That would be another big change. But before end, I want to stress our institutional values because these, like our basic Congressionally-determined mission, do not change. They do not change because they are the defining characteristics of the East-West Center that in their combination give us our uniqueness and identity.
What are these values?
It goes without saying that in everything we do, we seek to adhere to the highest academic and ethical standards.
We seek to be practical and policy oriented. For us, academic studies, no matter how outstanding, can never be ends in themselves. Rather, they provide a framework through which real world problems can be addressed more strategically, more systematically, and more effectively.
We are a forum for the open exchange of views. As an institution, we do not promote particular policies. As individuals we have full right to express our views freely.
We are a model of “cooperative public diplomacy.” The Center is not a place for the West to study the East, but a meeting place for East and West to build friendship, understanding and community, working in partnership and equity.
We respect the cultural diversity of the peoples of the region and the world. There is no place for discrimination or prejudice in our Center.
The Center continues to be for and about people. We work, and I quote here, “with the people and nations” of the region, irrespective of whether we may or may not like their governments. In particular, we will continue to seek to bring outstanding young women and men from all over our region. The Asia Pacific community we envision is for future generations and they must and will be a part of its building.
Our East-West Center community has a mission. We have goals, which you as alumni helped to shape. We have a proud legacy – a legacy of people we have influenced and of ideas and ideals we have generated. We have energy, which I can certainly sense in this room. And, as this conference will so well demonstrate, we also have daunting and constantly challenges to address. I look forward to this conference, which I think is just the beginning of a much richer menu of collaborative activities that the East-West Center and the East-West Center Association can conduct in South Asia as our contributions to building a peaceful, prosperous, and just Asia-Pacific region.