East-West Center collaborative research team interviews street vendors to assess air-pollution risk in Hanoi, Vietnam

The Asia Pacific region is experiencing rapid political, social, economic, and environmental change. Some countries in the region lead the world in economic growth, while others lag behind. Some boast long and well-established democratic traditions, while others struggle with issues of governance and human rights. And everywhere, policymakers are dealing with environmental challenges, population change, health risks, pressure for greater political participation, and uncertainties in the global economy.

The East-West Center Research Program engages the research and policy communities in the US and the Asia Pacific on issues of common concern. Research staff collect, evaluate, and analyze information from a wide range of sources from the region and beyond. The goal is to provide more complete knowledge and deeper understanding of the environments, societies, economies, and governments of the Asia Pacific region. Research is conducted in close collaboration with networks of individuals and institutions throughout the region and is shared broadly with planners, policymakers, and regional specialists as well as with the general public. In addition to their own collaborative activities, the research staff help to define, inform, and support the activities and partnerships of the Center's leadership, education, seminars, media, profession-development, and training programs, resulting in a strong institutional identity in support of the EWC mission.

The East-West Center currently conducts research in three broad areas:


The Center’s research addresses pressing environmental issues, critical health concerns such as HIV/AIDS and emerging infectious diseases, rapidly changing population dynamics, trade and economic development, governance and human rights, and decision making under conditions of uncertainty. Researchers provide expert analysis to governments and national and regional organizations through consultations, publications, conference participation, and engagement with the media.

Environment, Population, and Health

Pacific RISA, the Pacific Regional Integrated Sciences and Assessments Program (, supports integrated research across the social and physical sciences to expand the options of decision-makers facing climate variability and change. Pacific RISA is one of 11 programs in the United States funded by the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA).

Center scholars are involved in a number of collaborative research projects on economic development and environmental change in South and Southeast Asia. One new project examines Forest Dynamics in the Middle Hills of Nepal after 25 Years of Community Forestry Management. Another ongoing project looks at Forest, Agriculture, and Urban Transitions in Mainland Southeast Asia, focusing on Cambodia, Lao PDR, Myanmar (Burma), Thailand, and Vietnam.

Recently completed studies include an assessment of the Economic Development and Land-Use Change: Expansion of Cash Crops in Southeast Asia, with a focus on rubber, an exploration of Modernization and Emerging Infectious Diseases: The Case of Avian Influenza in Vietnam, a comparative analysis of the Social and Environmental Impact of Rapid Urban Growth in India and Pakistan, and collaborative research and training on Community Management of Natural Resources in Burma (Myanmar) and Bangladesh.

The National Transfer Accounts (NTA) project is a collaboration between the East-West Center, the Center for the Economics and Demography of Aging at the University of California Berkeley, and national and regional organizations in 47 countries in Africa, Asia, Europe, and North and South America. By providing estimates of income, consumption, saving, and both public and private transfers for specific age groups, NTA adds an important dimension to measures of Gross Domestic Product (GDP) and other widely used economic indicators. These estimates provide insights into the financial and welfare consequences of alternative policies on taxation, pensions, healthcare, education, and other social programs. In October 2015, the NTA project hosted a conference on the Demographic Dividend and Population Aging in Asia in collaboration with Statistics Korea (KOSTAT).

Researchers at the East-West Center have recently completed an international study on Policy Responses to Low Fertility. Results are being published in two edited volumes and a series of United Nations policy briefs and will be discussed at an expert group meeting at United Nations headquarters in New York. This project is part of collaborative, long-term work on Family Change in Asia and the United States. A series of studies examine attitudes and behavior in relation to education, marriage, divorce, cohabitation, childbearing, childcare, employment, and relationships with parents and children using survey data from Japan, South Korea, and other Asian countries as well as the United States.

The East-West Center conducts Policy Analysis, Research, and Training on the HIV Epidemic in Asia. Center scholars have developed two computer models for use in analyzing the spread of the epidemic—the Asian Epidemic Model (AEM) and the UNAIDS Estimation and Projection Package (EPP). Software developed at the Center enables national health programs to analyze their local HIV epidemics and develop effective policy responses. Beginning in Thailand and Cambodia and extending to Burma (Myanmar), Hong Kong, Indonesia, Nepal, the Philippines, Vietnam, Peru, and Ukraine, collaborative research teams have investigated the dynamics of the epidemic and have helped develop successful prevention strategies.

Innovation, Economic Integration, and Growth

Research at the East-West Center examines how the Globalization of Innovation is transforming relationships between the United States and Asia, with particular emphasis on the Chinese government's innovation policies and the innovation capabilities and strategies of China-based high-tech firms. One objective is to assess the implications of China’s innovation push for the United States. Interviews with key players are used to examine Chinese policies on intellectual property rights, government procurement, and the use of standardization as a tool of innovation policy.

A collaborative project focuses on the Trans-Pacific Partnership (TPP) Agreement, currently under negotiation among the United States and eight other countries. This is an ambitious effort to sustain and invigorate America's economic linkages with the dynamic economies of the Asia Pacific region.

Governance, Security, and Justice

The Asian International Justice Initiative (AIJI) is a collaborative project between the East-West Center and the WSD Handa Center for Human Rights and International Justice at Stanford University (previously known as the Berkeley War Crimes Studies Center). Since 2003, the two centers have worked together on justice initiatives and capacity-building in the human-rights sector, focusing on Southeast Asia. To date, AIJI has conducted training, monitoring, and community outreach projects in connection with the Khmer Rouge trials in Cambodia, East Timor, and Indonesia, including Papua. The Initiative also works at the regional level to support the work of the ASEAN Inter-governmental Commission on Human Rights, and the Human Rights Resource Center for ASEAN. In addition, AIJI conducts an annual Summer Institute for International Humanitarian Law and Human Rights.

Effective democratic governance is central to the East-West Center's mission of promoting a peaceful, prosperous, and just Asia-Pacific region. In pursuit of this mission, the Asia-Pacific Governance and Democracy Initiative (AGDI) is a multi-year project that undertakes policy relevant research, organizes capacity development and leadership workshops and senior level dialogues among scholars and policymakers, and publishes books and policy briefs on important governance and democracy topics in the region. Current work focuses on issues of local governance, public-administration reform, and disaster management. A new project focuses on Urban Governance for Sustainable Development in Asia. In addition, AGDI recently worked with the East-West Center's Seminars Program on a Pakistan-United States Journalists Exchange program and with the environment study area on a Comparative Study of Rural-to-Urban Transitions and the Peri-Urban Interface in India and Pakistan.

Other research looks at the Impact of the Rise of China on Region Security in Asia and the Pacific. This work includes assessment of the prospects for peace or conflict in the South China Sea.