Asian Public Intellectuals Workshop
I am delighted to have this opportunity to meet the second group of API Fellows, and join the workshop. I would like to express my heartfelt appreciation to His Excellency Emil Salim; Dr. Umar Anggara Jenie, President of LIPl; Dr. Taufik Abdullah, former president of LIPl; His Excellency Dewa Beratha, governor of Bali, and other esteemed guests, for taking time out of their busy schedules to attend the opening ceremony for the second API workshop.
It has now been three years since the API fellowship program was started. I would like to express my sincere gratitude to the members of partner institutions who have administered the program from the beginning with such earnest effort and dedication. I am also grateful to the members of the domestic and international selection committees. These people, with their outstanding insight, have selected remarkable fellows. With their support, the program has become a remarkable success. For this Workshop, we have been blessed with the wonderful support and cooperation of two organizations in particular: LIPI and IKMAS UKM.
Finally, I would like to thank each and every one of the people involved for their wonderful work.
In the late 1990s, we at The Nippon Foundation had been searching for ways in which Japan, as a member of Asian society, could participate in collaborative efforts for the development of Asia. Through discussions with eminent Asian intellectuals at the time, it became clear that the people of Asia had little knowledge about their Asian neighbors. We discovered that our understanding of our neighbors was limited to what we saw through the eyes of Western scholars. This was a source of great concern to us. Further promotion of mutual knowledge and understanding, through direct exchange and dialogue, was urged.
One conclusion that we reached was that there was a strong need for a new framework that would provide Asian people with as many opportunities as possible to engage in mutual exchange and cooperation. At the same time, it became clear that Asian countries were facing an increasing number of problems that transcended national boundaries, for which Asia had to find its own solutions. This was complexly intertwined with the wave of globalization that had swept the world. As a result, it was becoming increasingly difficult for a nation to solve problems by herself alone.
Following the end of the cold war, it was thought that the world would finally tread a path of peaceful development. Instead, we have witnessed the rise of a range of complex issues that threaten human life, livelihood, and dignity, such as terrorism, ethnic and religious conflicts, the gap between the rich and the poor and environmental destruction.
We tried to identify the root-causes that lead to this situation, and ways in which we could tackle these various issues. We asked ourselves who could identify and articulate these issues and bring together people’s knowledge and efforts to resolve them. We reached the conclusion that Asia needed more publicly committed intellectual leaders, or “public intellectuals,” with the ability to tackle these issues. And to that end, we would identify these public intellectuals and provide them with opportunities for transnational exchange and learning.
They would be given opportunities to engage in collaborative activities, so that they could bring together their wisdom and knowledge, and articulate measures for resolving these problems. They would then need to be organized to implement the proposed solutions.
The API Fellowship program, for which we are gathered here today, was established in response to such needs.
The API Community comprises a total of approximately 120 fellows including the 4th group of fellows that were selected yesterday by the International Selection Committee. If we further add the people that support this API Fellowship Program in participating countries-
the members of committees and partner institutions-the API community expands to a group of about 200 people.
This regional community, consisting of individuals, who have significant social influence and are committed to the betterment of society, has strong potential to bring about changes.
However, in order to bring about changes, this potential must be realized and fully harnessed. API Fellows are expected to make use of their research findings and work, not only for the good of their own country and society, but to transcend national borders and fields of expertise. They are expected to work with each other toward the resolution of common issues.
In that sense, this workshop is a wonderful opportunity to elevate the potentials of individuals to a greater collective potential, and identify “what we can achieve as a community.”
Intellectuals are often criticized for only generating new ideas, and not putting them into action. What distinguishes the public intellectuals of the API community is that they not only generate new ideas, but also devise ways of putting them to use.
I hope that the participants of the workshop will share with each other their research results and their extensive knowledge and experience, generating new and feasible ideas that will lead Asia to a better future.
l sincerely hope that this workshop will be remembered as a success and I look forward to the future activities of the API fellows.