“I must study politics and war that my sons may have liberty to study mathematics and philosophy, geography, natural history, naval architecture, navigation, commerce, and agriculture, in order to give their children a right to study painting, poetry, music, architecture, statuary, tapestry, and porcelain”
The challenge of today’s global era requires more than rationale discourses in political economy, international relations and governance. The Occupy Wall Street Movement, the Arab Spring, the rise of Islamic Fundamentalism, Transnational Migration, Climate Change, Globalization, Post-modernism, Multi- culturalism and the tensions at the Spratly’s are manifestations of a rapidly deviating world. The digital space, the virtual world, post and transmodern cultures, the arts and the sciences, and the resurgence of civilizational discourses are transforming our meaning of self-perception and experiences in the lifeworld. Our worldview continue to inform us in our search for alternative political paradigms. Asia, of course, is seen as the next most exciting continent of international politics and will, in a lot of way, affect, or perhaps by necessity, the way we interpret and conceive politics in the future. These among other issues were central to the SHIFT 2011 International Conference on the Future of International Politics.
Convened by the University of Asia and the Pacific in conjunction with the United Nations Alliance of Civilizations, the 1st SHIFT (Shaping Insights and Forecasting Trends in Politics) Conference brought together “brilliant young minds, graduate students, young scholars, professors and industry practitioners around the world to discuss the most pressing issues of the 21st century.” (Shift, 2011)
Asia in the World of Tomorrow
Dr. Klaus Zeller, a retired German ambassador to the Philippines, spoke on Asia in the world of tomorrow. In his lecture, Zeller highlighted the increasing and expanding role of the continent and the diminishing influence of the United States in global politics. He asked the participant to explore and feel their way through these questions: Is the future messy? How do we deal with the issues of democracy, food, population, energy, resources? Is 10 billion people sustainable in the world? Do we see a less individualist, less unipolar, bipolar, multipolar future? Will we see new types of political organizations, emerging types of leadership? Etc.
To Dr. Zeller, Asia today is in full transition. He asked the question what does Asia have to offer? And he responded, pragmatically, that Asia can offer the world with consumer goods, gadgets, new spirituality and leadership. Asia, too, can provide intelligent help to resolve conflicts, creativity, new technology, and new models of political organizations. In a nutshell, Zeller said that Asia will offer a new form of civilization. Dr. Zeller is expecting a cultural shift, a diversified world, a contact of civilization, a global governance and the disappearance of empires in the 21st century.
Reflections on the Future of OFWs
The lecture on the future of OFWs was given by Dr. Bernardo Villegas, Director, Center for Research and Communication at the University of Asia and the Pacific. Villegas asked the participants especially the Filipino participants to explore and to uncover matter-of-fact solutions to the most pressing issues on Filipino migration. He asked these questions: How can we mitigate the social problems experienced by OFW workers at home? How can we reduce the number of mothers going out in the country? Is poverty or wage differential the real cause of Filipino migration? What is the role of the OFWs in the political maturity of the community? Do we need social policies, social welfare policies to address the problems of OFWs? While there are no clear-cut, one size fits all solution to address these problems, Dr. Villegas challenged the participants to further examine, inquire more on Filipino migration.
Moreover, Dr. Villegas in his lecture accentuated the Filipino cultural advantage to overseas employment. Comparing the employability of Filipinos abroad over other overseas migrant workers, Villegas noted certain cultural traits that make Filipinos the most preferred by employers abroad. The habit of bathing three times a day, good personal hygiene, the hospitable and beaming Filipino smiles, English proficiency, the ability to adapt easily, patience and perseverance proved to be significant to OFW employability. In here, Dr. Villegas tried to portray the importance of civilizational, cultural traits as essential to migration and OFW discourse.
During the morning breakout sessions I opted to attend the sessions on Religion and Post-Colonial Perspectives and sessions on Regional Powers and the Changing Dynamics of International Relations I.
“Islamic Fundamentalism in the World Ahead”
Ebrahim Anoosheh of the Islamic Azad University Iran presented his paper on Islamic Fundamentalism in the World Ahead. He said that Islamic fundamentalism is one of the active movements in the Middle East. Also referred as Political Islam, this form of fundamentalism was conceived to counter the impact of modernity and secularism in the 1920s. It evolved in the Arab-Israeli conflict and was used as a political tool to combat the spread of communism in the Middleast. Today, it grew to challenge capitalism and the transnational Islamic fundamentalism emerged. The essence of transnational Islamic fundamentalism will continue to challenge the post-western capitalism system. Islamic fundamentalism, its role and influence in international relations and the global political economy will be felt in the years ahead.
This is a very interesting paper on Islamic fundamentalism and its impact to post-western capitalist era.
“Vilification of the Other in US Politics: The Case of Arabs and Muslims in the 2004 Presidential Election”
The implications of loaded imageries and denigration of the “Other” in US elections was the context of Wil McCarthy of Zayed Univeristy, United Arab Emirates paper. He argued that American political parties regularly exploit the fear of Americans have for Arab and Muslim for political advantage. By associating American politicians to Arab sand Muslims, about 527 group ads and documentary filmmakers was explored to study how the “Other”are used in US political advertising and in box office documentaries. It noted the case of Fahrenheit 911 that painted the former US President Bush as a cohort of the Saudi royal family.
If you want to know more about the politics and dynamics of videography and how they are used for political maneuvering this paper can provide you significant insights.
Regional Powers and the Changing Dynamics of International Relations I
Domination of Oceans as the key to Understand International Relations: Why and How the Anglo-American Power Still Endures?
The third presenter was Chitha Unni of Chamanide University of Honululu Hawaii, USA. Mr. Unni’s paper outlined the influence of three political forces – United States, the United Kingdom and the European Union – in global politics and the struggle of these forces in commanding the major sea routes of global trade. Unni argued that the political forces that dominate maritime power also dictate world politics. This trend began when Britain in the 16th century controlled crucial sea routes and dominated the world through her command of the seas. The United States inherited this power and that the struggle in the global politics will be about challenging the United States domination of the Oceans.
The implication of this are seen in the way how the US and other nation-states contain China’s expansion in the seas. The control of the South China Sea and the Indian Ocean is crucial and may give us as a hint as to who will dictate the tenor of world politics in the future. The paper suggest maritime trade and power as an essential variable to understanding the dynamics of international relations.
Iranian-Saudi Relations: From Economic Security to Cooperation
Using the theory of neo-functionalism, Reza Ekhtiari Amiri of Universiti Putra Malaysia, examined the factors that shaped Iranian-Saudi economic and security relations from 1991 to 2001. He noted that both countries renewed their diplomatic relations in 1991 and cooperated regarding oil price in 1999 within the Oil Petroleum Exporting Countries that lead to the signing of a security agreement in 2001. The informants to the research were ten diplomats and senior officials of the Iranian embassy. The study found out that domestic economic factors and decline in world oil price were the main reasons for the economic cooperation of the two countries and the political elites played a significant role in improving political relations in the process. The common threat of Al-Qaeda and the Taliban in the region also played a crucial role in the signing of the Iranian-Saudi novel security agreement. The absence of war between Iran and its neighbors and the reduction of Iran’s revolutionary activities were also noted as factors that led to security and cooperation between the two countries.
In the afternoon, I attended the sessions on Reforming Governance through State-Citizen Collaboration. Three papers were presented here namely “Local Governance: On Disaster Risk Reduction and Management: Shift Towards Decentralized and Participatory Democracy”, “A Model of Private-Public Partnership in the Philippines”, “The State-Civil Society Relations in Malaysia”.
Local Governance: On Disaster Risk Reduction and Management
This paper emphasized the dynamics of political participation, accountability and accessible governance. It looked into the problems and prospects of participatory approach to governance and used the Province of Albay Initiative as a model for DRRM localization. The participation of the community was seen as essential to disaster risk reduction and management. An active provincial leadership, however, is crucial to the mobilization and actualization of DRRM initiatives. The presenters were Elaine Razaile Besa of the International Coalition Against Enforced Disappearances, Maria Carmina Cruz, Philippine National Oil Company – Development and Management Corporation and Marco Angelo Eugenio of the University of the East, Philippines.
The State-Civil Society Relations in Malaysia
The paper by Mohd Azizuddin Mohd Sani of Universiti Utara, Malaysia explained the current status of civil society and state relations in Malaysia. Using the theory of deliberative democracy, in a micro and macro perspective, he described the current procedural and political conditions of civil society in Malaysia. He argued that civil society tend to contest the policies of the administration and resort to joining the opposition because of the hostile relationship between the civil society and the state.
“A Model of Private-Public Partnership in the Philippines”
Mervin Gascon of the University of Mindanao, Philippines discussed the severity of corruption and offered possible mechanism to minimize corruption incidence. The paper explored Public-Private Partnership mechanism and used the experience of PAAC as a case study to address corruption in the government specifically in the Bureau of Customs in Davao City. The experience of PAAC, public-private social partnership can produce significant effects in reducing corruption in national government agencies.
Absence Made Present: The Paradox of Transnational Families
After the breakout sessions, a special session on Migration by Dr. Nanette Dungo, University of Asia and the Pacific and Miriam College, entitled Absence Made Present: The Paradox of Transnational Families, was convened at the PLDT Hall. A former Chair of the Department of Sociology at the University of the Philippines, Dr. Dungo explored the social costs of migration in Filipino families and children. Using the interpretivism and poststructuralism as an approach, She asked how do children cope with this kind of environment (migration, absence made present)? What are the primary and secondary costs of migration (to children behavior, mental attitude towards life, character, meanings, worldviews, etc.). She said that meanings must be interpreted and not counted.
To reduce the trauma of migration, she recommended that schools should include the topic of migration in school curriculum, the establishment of migrant centers, bilateral agreements for social protection of migrants, support services for children; family reunification program, government insurance for migrant returnees, etc.
The India-Pakistan Dyad: A Challenge to the Rest or Themselves?
Another interesting paper that discussed security matters, threats and policies in international relations, Raviprasad Narayan of the Institute of International Relations of National Chengchi University, Taipei, Taiwan argued that India-Pakistan dyad, having undergone three wars and a half-war, threatens to undermine security in South Asia and the existence of the two countries as modern states. The relations between the two countries are blanketed by suspicion, hostility, hatred and otherness. Narayan coined the concept of no-war as an alternative policy that should govern the security policies between India and Pakistan.
Turkey in a State of Transformation: The New Face of Turkish Politics and Foreign Affairs
Javad Heydarian of the University of the Philippines, Diliman highlighted Turkey as a model for secular politics and modernity in the Middle East. He argued that Turkish local politics, influenced by EU, is an emerging model for liberal democracy and Islamization. Its influence and economic dynamism is extending to create new patterns in regional politics. He noted, however, the limits of Turkish policies of revisionism. In a nutshell, Turkey along with Iran is an emerging political powerhouse in the Mediterranean. Turkey’s recent transformation, however, may serve as a fit model for Islamic democratic politics.
In the afternoon, I presented my paper on the futures of Liberal Arts. Manuel Kristoffer Giron of UP Diliman discussed his paper on “The Higantes Festival and the Creative Industries in Angono, Rizal and last but not the least, Nam Jin Woo of South Korea presented his paper on “The Future of Kopinos in the Future of South Korea”
“The Higantes Festival and the Creative Industries in Angono, Rizal”
Giron’s paper argued that artistic goods and cultural development takes the back seat of state-policy planning and funding. With the introduction of the creative industries paradigm, however, creative products and services may expand the context of political economy and socio-economic development. The economic benefit of tourism for wealth generation and cultural practices such as the Higantes Festival of Rizal can be a viable source for local livelihood. There are dangers, however, that is, festivals can be exploited, used as a medium to politically manipulate the locals, to sustain political patronage.
“Peering into the Futures of Liberal Arts”
My paper explored the futures of liberal arts in a world of changing global trends and technology. Taken in the context of future studies, the paper looked into the various contexts of liberal arts – Greek, Indian, Chinese and Islamic. It weaved a number of perspectives and issues on how the West and the Non-West differ in liberal arts perspectives and approaches. The recognition of cultural diversity and worldviews are essential to the discourse and the creation of transformative and more inclusive liberal arts is becoming more imperative. My paper assumed that liberal arts will move way forward into the future and will be more significant than any other time of human history. The word “liberal” is now a culture bound term. The futures of liberal arts will be less political but more civilizational, cultural and virtual oriented.
“The Future of Kopinos in the Future of South Korea”
Nam Jin Woo’s paper described how Kopinos are discriminated in the homogenous society of South Korea. The paper predicted the political-economic and social roles of Kopinos in the future of Korea particularly in the areas of falling Korean birth rate, distribution of human resources and the nature of Korean society itself. The Korean government may likely revise its definition of Korean nationality and may give equal opportunities to Kopinos in Korea in the future. A multi-cultural society is seen in view of the increasing trend of the international marriage in Korea.
The Shift Conference succeeded in highlighting culture and civilization as the “X factor” of twenty first century international politics. I intuit that if there is one thing (or many things, if I may) that Asia can contribute to the world that would be spirituality, identity, collectivism and global citizenship. The list would be exhaustive if I would include all the endless possibilities that Asia can give to the world.
I had a brief talk with the Executive Director of the Institute of Political Economy Ms. Abigail De Leon and we initially agreed to hold a Round Table Discussion (RTD) on Futures Studies at the University of Asia and the Pacific. We also discussed the prospect of requesting the Philippine Political Science Association (PPSA) to include Futures Studies as a panel in the next PPSA Annual Conference.
My sincerest thanks to the organizers of Shift 2011! It deepened and broadened my view of international politics.
Link to Shift 2011 Conference official site: https://sites.google.com/a/uap.asia/shift-2011/
Link to United Nations Alliance of Civilizations: http://www.unaoc.org/