Harvard Kennedy School's Ash Center and USAID to Cooperate in Promoting Policy Innovation in the Mekong Region

Contact: Kate Hoagland
Phone: (617) 495-4347
Date: July 13, 2012

Today the Ash Center for Democratic Governance and Innovation at the John F. Kennedy School of Government, Harvard University, and the United States Agency for International Development (USAID) announced they will cooperate to support innovative policy research on the development challenges confronting the countries of the Lower Mekong Region and promote institutional innovation in higher education.

In a memorandum of understanding signed on July 6, 2012, the Ash Center and USAID agreed to work together to strengthen public policy analysis capacity in the countries of the Lower Mekong Region—including Cambodia, Laos, Thailand, and Vietnam—by planning new policy research projects focused on some the most vexing dilemmas in the region, including promoting knowledge-intensive economic activity, stewarding natural resources, and forging more effective regional cooperation mechanisms. A special emphasis will be placed on protecting the region’s shared water resources, including the Mekong River watershed.

One of the world’s largest and most important river systems, the Mekong River and Delta today face a raft of threats, brought about by the development of hydroelectric power plants, water diversion schemes, ground water depletion, and climate change. The Ash Center-USAID agreement comes at a time when the US government is keen to enhance its engagement on regional issues. It follows the launching of the Lower Mekong Initiative(LMI), announced by US Secretary of State Hillary Rodham Clinton in 2009.

The Ash Center’s participation in this endeavor will be spearheaded by its Vietnam Program. Since 1995, the Vietnam Program has operated the Fulbright Economics Teaching Program(the Fulbright School), a center of public policy research and training located within the University of Economics-Ho Chi Minh City, Vietnam. Core funding for the Fulbright School is provided by the Bureau of Educational and Cultural Affairs of the United States Department of State. The faculty of the Fulbright School will play a leading role in designing and executing the research agenda. It is expected that policy experts from Cambodia, Laos, Thailand, Myanmar/Burma, and China will participate in research projects that will be pursued in the context of the Ash Center-USAID initiative.

“Harvard University is dedicated to engaging with societies around the globe,” said Harvard University President Drew Faust. “This collaboration will make it possible for scholars and scientists from Harvard and the countries of the Mekong Region to work together to promote sustainable economic development, environmental stewardship, and intraregional cooperation. Harvard is proud of its association with the Fulbright School in Ho Chi Minh City and looks forward to continuing its support for institutional innovation in Vietnamese higher education through the Ash Center’s collaboration with USAID.”

School for Advanced Study in Vietnam
Support for the continued evolution of the Fulbright School is an important component of the cooperative framework developed by the Ash Center and USAID. The Vietnam Program has developed a road map for the transition of the Fulbright School to independence from the Kennedy School and the University of Economics-Ho Chi Minh City. According to this process, the Fulbright School would become the founding nucleus of the new, nonprofit Vietnamese university, the School for Advanced Study in Vietnam (SASV). SASV would offer programming in a range of fields in the social sciences, humanities, and the natural and applied sciences, and would aspire to attract the best students from around Southeast Asia. The collaboration with USAID will help the Fulbright School and its successor, SASV, cultivate strong ties throughout the Mekong Region.

“I am delighted that Ash and USAID have agreed to cooperate,” said Anthony Saich, director of the Ash Center. “The Ash Center is dedicated to promoting innovative solutions to public problems. Through our collaboration with USAID, we look forward to working with partners in the Mekong Region to bring the insights of public policy analysis to bear on the issues that will impact the human and economic development of the region. This initiative will strengthen the Ash Center’s deep commitment to Southeast Asia. There are exciting synergies between our forthcoming work in the Mekong Region and the Ash Center’s ongoing activities in Vietnam, Indonesia, Myanmar/Burma, and Singapore.”

“The Fulbright School has built a reputation for excellence in teaching, research, and policy dialogue facilitation,” said Ben Wilkinson, the resident Kennedy School representative in Ho Chi Minh City. “Our stakeholders in Vietnam and the US have encouraged us to expand our focus to include regional policy concerns. Through our collaboration with USAID, we look forward to creating a region-wide knowledge network, centered at the Fulbright School, that can help set the policymaking agenda.”

About the Ash Center for Democratic Governance and Innovation

The Roy and Lila Ash Center for Democratic Governance and Innovation advances excellence and innovation in governance and public policy through research, education, and public discussion. Three major programs support our mission: the Program on Democratic Governance; the Innovations in Government Program; and the Rajawali Foundation Institute for Asia. For more information, visit www.ash.harvard.edu.

About the Fulbright Economics Teaching Program

A collaborative initiative of the Vietnam Program and the University of Economics-Ho Chi Minh City, the Fulbright Economics Teaching Program studies the economic development of Vietnam. Its flagship teaching program is a two-year Masters of Public Policy program, the public policy degree to be offered in Vietnam by the University of Economics-Ho Chi Minh City. The Fulbright School’s faculty works with colleagues at Harvard Kennedy School to pursue a diverse research agenda, the results of which inform the MPP program curriculum and enable the Fulbright School to engage in a policy dialogue with public and private sector stakeholders. For more information, visit www.fetp.edu.vn/en

About the School for Advanced Study in Vietnam

The School for Advanced Study in Vietnam (SASV) will be an independent, nonprofit Vietnamese higher education institution that will be located in Ho Chi Minh City. The SASV initiative enjoys the support of a broad network of stakeholders in Vietnam and the United States. SASV will inherit the human and intellectual capital of the Fulbright School and will be supported by a consortium of international academic partners including Harvard University. SASV will recruit students and faculty from around Asia and beyond, and will operate according to the highest standards of governance and academic excellence. SASV is expected to commence operations in 2015.

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