2011-2012 Visiting Fellow Themes

  • An Interdisciplinary Framework for Emerging Infectious Disease (EID) Risk Assessment

Emerging and reemerging infectious diseases, coupled with failures in public health infrastructure, present serious challenges to the global community. A comprehensive understanding of EID demands an integrated framework that incorporates physical, social, and biological dimensions and focuses on the intersection of human and natural systems. There is a clear and immediate need to develop a better understanding of the nature, distribution and transmission of individual pathogens in the context of rapidly changing natural and social systems. Based on decades of research on land use and land cover change in the region, researchers at the East-West Center are exploring the relative importance of EID risk associated with different factors in disease emergence and distribution, which in turn can be used both to identify geographic 'hotspots' for specific EID’s as well as providing a basis for policy guidance in the form of intervention. Proposals which explore different risk factors (related to individuals, their cultural, socio-political, and economic contexts, and/or their surrounding natural environment) in infectious disease emergence or examine the interplay between natural and social systems involved in the emergence or reemergence of infectious disease are welcome.

  • Assessing Market-based Environmental Policy Instruments in Asia

Many Asian countries have traditionally relied on rigid command-and-control (CAC) approaches. With the poor environmental performance of such approaches and the cost and complexity associated with their implementation, more and more countries in this region are transforming from current reliance on CAC regulations to market-based policy instruments. Market-based instruments, such as pollution charges, green taxes, tradeable permits, and penalties for the infringement of environmental regulations, are common ways to internalize externality costs into the market prices. The added costs would be imposed on polluting companies and added to the cost of production.  These costs could be reduced by cutting pollution. This is seen to increase not only cost-effectiveness but also flexibility in complying with the set environmental regulations. Proposals for either an in-depth, single-country, or a multi-country comparative study that evaluate whether such instruments are effective, draw on lessons learned, and investigate the prospective for wider implementation in Asia are welcome.

  • Assessing Risk from Vegetation Fires

Conservatively estimated at $4.5 billion, the damage from the fires and haze in Southeast Asia (1997-1998) was more than the combined damage assessed for the Exxon Valdez oil spill and India’s Bhopal chemical disaster. Slash-and-burn methods of cultivation have largely been blamed for this. Though this is mainly an anthropogenic problem; climate phenomenon such as El Niño have aggravated the situation. The problem of burning agricultural residues is severe, but the practice has received less attention than the role of slash and burn cultivation.  Proposals that address human exposure, health, land use and land cover change, spatial modeling including GIS, atmospheric modeling and links to climate change are welcome.  Projects that employ quantitative methods will be given priority.

  • Climate Variability and Change Mitigation and Adaptation in the Asia-Pacific Region

Climate variability and change presents serious environmental, health, economic, and governance challenges to the Asia-Pacific region. An interdisciplinary approach is needed to understand the interplay of physical and social dimensions of a changing climate and to develop effective ways of mitigating and adapting to climate risks.  Researchers at the East-West Center are exploring the impacts of a changing climate on ecosystems, human health, and various economic sectors (and the inter-relations among these impacts), the role of different countries in addressing climate risks, how the resilience of vulnerable communities might be increased, how climate data can be communicated most effectively, natural disaster risk management, and the socio-cultural aspects of understanding and responding to climate risks. Proposals that examine how the interplay of physical and social systems amplifies or attenuates climate risks for populations in the Asia-Pacific region are welcome.  Priority will be given to proposals that focus on policy making about mitigation and adaptation strategies.

  • Migration and Resource Management

The role of migrants drawn to areas of rapid, large-scale resource developments has been identified as being a key factor in the initiation of conflicts associated with these developments. Given the central role that large-scale forestry, mining and oil operations have in the economies of a number of Asia-Pacific countries, this is a pressing development issue for the region. There is little research into the types of migrants drawn to such developments, the nature of the relationships that develop between locals and migrants, and the processes that lead to conflict in these areas (such as land disputes and disputes over resource benefits). Proposals that examine the range of factors that influence the scale and nature of resource-induced migration in the Asia-Pacific region are welcome. Priority will be given to proposals that focus on policy and decision-making to reduce the conflict associated with such migration.

  • Changes in the Strategic Environment of Northeast Asia

The single most important of the changes in the strategic environment of Northeast Asia is the “rise” of China as an economic, political and military great power with commensurate regional and global influence.  China’s own foreign policy is changing, with Beijing showing signs of transitioning from a post-Deng orientation of avoiding an international leadership role toward a greater willingness to assert Chinese interests and to reshape the norms of international affairs.  Other states in the region are also adjusting their policies in reaction to China’s growing relative strength.  For them, the question of whether to accommodate China, cling more closely to the United States, or attempt both approaches simultaneously becomes more acute.  To these developments can be added additional variables such as democratization (and the possibility of its spread to China), aging and population decline, and generational change in the traditionally U.S.-aligned East Asian societies of Japan, South Korea and Taiwan.  Against this larger backdrop, proposals that address specific issues of interest such as China-U.S. strategic disputes, relations across the Taiwan Strait, and the North Korea nuclear weapons crisis are welcome.

  • China’s Capitalist Transition

Although in terms of speed and scale the developments unfolding in China are without parallel in the past, the China’s Capitalist Transition project conceives of the country's stunning ascent as driven by the same historical dynamic that catapulted Great Britain, the United States, Germany, and Japan to international prominence–the emergence of a capitalist political economy. China’s international emergence therefore is interpreted from a comparatively and historically conscious viewpoint. Proposals that analyze specific features of China’s capitalist transition, especially those which put China’s transition in a broad theoretical, comparative and historical context are welcome. One important area of emphasis is the international repercussions of China’s capitalist transition, i.e., how is “China’s rise” affecting the country’s foreign policy stance, international integration, and regional relations? And, domestically, how is China’s transition affecting the growing influence of capital-owning strata on the Chinese political economy? What is the role of institution-building in shaping the Chinese political realm? How are legal institutional constraints developing? What are the continued obstacles to an autonomous sphere of law? Other phenomena (e.g., income inequalities; new social forces) that express how China’s capitalist transition is fundamentally affecting China’s polity and economy are of interest as well.

Scholars with an interdisciplinary background and interest in or prior research regarding China's economy, politics, society, and international relations are particularly encouraged to apply. Ability to read and/or speak Mandarin is also a plus.

  • Deepening Democracy in South Asia: Issues and Trends

Over the past few years, major political, economic and social transformations have been taking place in the South Asian Countries. As a stable democracy, India is playing an expanding role in the global economy. The rate of economic growth in India and Pakistan has been one of the highest in the world. With the lessening of tensions between the two traditional rivals, the opportunities for regional trade and cooperation have increased. Democratic institutions and processes in Pakistan and Nepal have been restored. Despite these and other gains, the South Asian countries continue to lag behind other countries in Asia and the Pacific on the United Nations' Human Development Index (HDI). Internal conflicts, terrorism, inadequate basic social services and violence are negatively affecting human security.

Making governance both democratic and effective is one of the key challenges of the South Asian Countries in order to promote political legitimacy and take full advantage of the opportunities provided by rapid globalization. Enhanced democratic governance capacities in South Asia are essential to promote growth with equity, environmental protection, and participation of citizens. While many countries have the structures of democracy, the quality of the democratic process is low leading to a lack of trust in government. Of particular importance are checks and balances between the executive and the legislative branches, civil society engagement, protection of human rights especially minorities and other disadvantaged groups, independence of the judiciary, freedom of media, and transparency in government.

Proposals that address the impact of democratic governance capacity on economic growth, the civil society engagement in democratic change, combating corruption, state capacity and new skills required for the global economy, the role of media in setting the democratic governance agenda, and related topics are welcome.

  • Rapidly Falling Fertility in Asia

Fertility has been falling rapidly in most countries of Asia, sometimes to very low levels. Currently most East Asian countries have an average fertility of below 1.5 children per woman, and in some of these countries governments are trying to raise fertility. By contrast, in some parts of South and Southeast Asia, fertility, though falling, is still fairly high. The causes of falling fertility are incompletely understood, especially the fall to well-below-replacement fertility and the impact of government efforts to raise fertility. There is a growing consensus that country-level institutional factors play a large role in explaining very low fertility. Relevant institutional factors may include, for example, the education system, family type, the housing market, the labor market, and religious institutions.

Proposals are invited that examine the causes of falling fertility and/or the causes of very low fertility. In this context, the causes of fertility are broadly viewed, covering social, economic, technological, political, environmental, legal, and other factors, as well as the diffusion of new values and ideas. Proposals may also focus on the development or application of methodological innovations for analyzing the causes of fertility decline and the impacts of policies and programs.

  • Population Aging and the Generational Economy

Countries in Asia will experience rapid population aging over the coming decades with implications for economic growth, generational equity, and the fiscal health of their economies.  The economic support systems for the elderly are complex and evolving.  The elderly depend to varying degrees on continued employment, public programs (particularly pension and health care programs), financial wealth, and their families. 

Proposals are invited that address how and why these support systems are evolving in Asia, the economic implications of population aging and the institutional system for supporting the elderly, and the likely impact on the elderly and generational equity of the economic crisis.