The Year of COVID

2020 was a difficult year for everyone. What seemed like a local health scare in Wuhan, China, in January, soon became a global pandemic in the early spring. Many border controls were instituted through 2020 that made travel difficult or impossible between countries, and lockdowns and social distancing measures were imposed domestically. The coronavirus had an enormous impact on the lives and livelihoods of people across the world.

Asia at the Crossroads: Solidarity through Scholarship: IAFOR Partners with the Association for Asian Studies for “AAS-in-Asia 2020”

In the context of political unrest and mass protests in Hong Kong at the end of 2019, the Association for Asian Studies (AAS) decided, in consultation with partners at the Chinese University of Hong Kong (CUHK), to move its annual Asia conference from Hong Kong to Kobe, Japan after entering into an agreement with IAFOR, which led a partnership with three national universities in the Kansai area, Kobe, Osaka, and Kyoto Universities.

The theme of the conference selected by the previous organising committee was “Asia at the Crossroads,” in large part in reference to Hong Kong as sitting at the crossroads of Asia, with its unique historical, cultural, and geopolitical place in the world. The new organising committee, following discussions with CUHK, decided to keep this theme because it underlines the extraordinary circumstances that led to the moving of the conference on the one hand, while emphasising the unique nature of this new partnership with Japanese institutions on the other. Both reflected the reality that Asia is, indeed, at a crossroads.

The current social and political landscape in Asia only goes to demonstrate how timely the theme was. Individuals as well as political entities in Asia were grappling with existential questions of modernity, such as identity, diversity, and freedoms. The direction of Asia’s present and future has never appeared less certain, as rising authoritarianism, nationalism, and ethnic divisions increasingly threaten open society that allows universities and academic institutions to flourish. The global pandemic and different government responses only served to heighten the feelings of uncertainty.

IAFOR Expands its Conferences to Singapore

Held in February and in partnership with Singapore Management University (SMU), The Southeast Asian Conference on Education (SEACE2020) set out to identify the challenges and highlight the strength in the way ASEAN countries address and tackle the region’s educational needs, at both the national level and at the region-wide level, such as internationalisation, multiculturalism, connectivity, mobility and accessibility. Speakers unpicked the challenges of reforming national-level primary and secondary education systems conducive to enhancing trans-national education within ASEAN and towards forging ASEAN identity. The event showed that the future of education around the world surely cannot ignore what is happening in Southeast Asia.

Keynote Addresses were given by Professor Steven Miller, SMU Vice Provost for Research, who spoke on "The Impact of AI on the Future of Work: Implications for University Education in ASEAN", as did Dr Lim Lai Cheng, Executive Director of the SMU Academy on "Skills and Higher Education: A Case Study of Singapore and Implications for Southeast Asia".

Leading IR scholars Professor Victor Teo of The University of Hong Kong, Professor Haruko Satoh of Osaka University, and Professor Farish Noor of Nanyang Technological University, Singapore spoke on as part of a wide ranging plenary panel on “Education in Southeast Asia: Crossroads of Geopolitics, Economic Development and Democracy”.

The event was the last regular conference event hosted by IAFOR, just as the seriousness of the COVID-19 pandemic was starting to become apparent. By day two of the conference temperature monitoring had appeared in the conference centre, part of the public health architecture that would become very common.

ASEAN Career Fair and IAFOR: Nurturing Future Talent in Southeast Asia

The ASEAN Career Fair with Japan 2020 Symposium was co-organised by OSIPP, Osaka University’s IAFOR Research Centre and the Singapore Management University (SMU) in association with the SEACE2020. With the Career Fair in its 8th year since Osaka University jointly founded the event in 2013 as part of the Japanese Ministry of Education’s “Reinventing Japan” project, this year was a chance to revisit on of the fundamental themes of the fair: How can Japanese institutions and businesses play a meaningful role in nurturing future talents in Southeast Asia?

Dr Joseph Haldane, Chairman and CEO of IAFOR moderated the event, which included speeches by His Excellency Mr Jun Yamazaki, Japanese Ambassador to Singapore; Yoshiya (Josh) Hara, Head of Human Capital Development at The Dai-ichi Life Insurance Company; Professor Haruko Satoh of Osaka University; Professor Izumi Walker of the National University of Singapore; Mr Yoshi Mitsui, CEO of CLO Labs, Singapore, and Mr Taro Ozaki, President and CEO of Energize Inc., the main organiser of the ASEAN Career Fair with Japan.

Present, Publish, Participate: The Move Online

As the extent of the global pandemic became clear, and borders began to close throughout much of the world in the beginning of March 2020, IAFOR was compelled to move its conference events online.

Although clearly an existential threat to an organisation heavily reliant on conference fees for income, IAFOR already had many of the structures in place to hold conferences in online form. However, it needed to draw together its experience in offsite conferences, and existing systems to quickly put into place the necessary operations and technologies to guarantee a continuation of service for our membership and delegates, under the policy of “Present, Publish and Participate”.

This whole emergency response took just two weeks, as IAFOR serviced some 600 delegates in three conferences at the end of March and beginning of April.

Making Sense of COVID

IAFOR organised a large number of special events and plenary sessions in response to the ongoing coronavirus pandemic, and collaborated with a number of different bodies and organisations.

Some highlights included a Korea Foundation Sponsored COVID-19 Discussion Panel which looked at the situation as not only a global health crisis but also a cultural war in global politics, which has shaken the foundation of the healthy functioning of the global economy, thrown into sharp relief the fragility of the UN system when the US leadership is absent, and plunged societies all over the world into anxiety about an uncertain future. The IAFOR Research Centre at OSIPP (Osaka School of International Public Policy) convened a special panel, as part of its “Korea and Japan in the Evolving China-US Relations” project sponsored by the Korea Foundation, to discuss the following two issues that are relevant to globally relevant Asian middle powers, Japan and Korea: (a) the impact of China-US relations on the system of global governance; (b) the claim that Asians' "authoritarian tendency” is an asset to tackling the outbreak.

IAFOR also collaborated with the Konrad Adenauer Foundation, Japan (KAS) Social Economic Governance Programme Asia (SOPAS) to co-organised a Plenary Panel Discussion titled “Design and Democracy” at The 10th Asian Conference on Asian Studies (ACAS2020) and The 10th Asian Conference on Cultural Studies (ACCS2020). Panellists included Professor Bruce Brown of the Royal College of Art, UK, and Editor of the MIT Design Issues Research Journal; Dr Saito Nagayuki, professor at the International Professional University of Technology, Japan; and Dr Ryuji Yamazaki-Skov of Osaka University, a technology ethicist working with the world-famous Hiroshi Ishiguro Laboratory of Osaka University, Japan. Moderated by Dr Joseph Haldane of IAFOR, Japan, the panel explored the intersections of design with democracy, including questions around the Attention Economy and Responsible Design, both areas brought into particularly sharp relief by the coronavirus pandemic and the shift to lives led online.

Ambassador Toshiya Hoshino lead a Special Panel Presentation on Post-COVID World and Human Security at The Osaka Conference on Education (OCE) looking at how the pandemic revealed how the UN system is vulnerable to great power rivalry and state-centric notion of security that can impede international cooperation and coordination, especially in the face of borderless, non-traditional, human security challenges such as this pandemic but also climate change. This panel revisited the notion of human security – formerly recognised in the 1994 UNDP Human Development Report – to discuss its relevance in meeting today’s crisis in global governance.

Japanese Ministry of Foreign Affairs Public Research Project: Emergency Response to Infectious Disease Outbreak on Cruise Ships

IAFOR entered into a contract with the Ministry of Foreign Affairs of Japan (MOFA) as of October 22, 2020, to conduct a comprehensive international study on the issues and challenges related to the outbreak of infectious diseases on cruise ships, as a supplementary budget public project for FY2020. Drawing from the experiences of Japan and other countries that handled cruise ships infected by COVID-19, the objective of this project is to conduct research and prepare ground for substantive discussions and debates on the subject among Japanese and international experts and relevant parties at an international conference planned for early 2021. The research for the project will be coordinated through the IAFOR Research Centre at the Osaka School of International Public Policy (OSIPP) at Osaka University, with the Japanese experts committee and in collaboration with several overseas think tanks. Click here to read more about the project.

Virginia Tech and IAFOR Co-Publish Adaptive Lifelong Learning for an Inclusive Knowledge Economy Report

The Calhoun Center for Higher Education Innovation at Virginia Tech, in partnership with Virginia Tech Publishing, IAFOR and the Future Talent Council, announced the publishing of the collaborative report on Adaptive Lifelong Learning for an Inclusive Knowledge Economy. The report was edited by Calhoun Center Director, Professor Thanassis Rikakis, who worked with 60 co-authors from 32 different organisations spanning industry, academia, government, nonprofits and K-12, including Dr Joseph Haldane, IAFOR Chairman and CEO.

AAS in Asia: Coming Together Around A Campfire of Values

The IAFOR/Association of Asian Studies “AAS-in-Asia 2020” meeting was delivered as a fully online event, and was a resounding success. It was supported by Kobe, Kyoto and Osaka Universities among others.

The President of the Association of Asian Studies, Professor Christine Yano thanked “Joe Haldane and the IAFOR staff for stepping in and making the meeting possible with their can-do attitude and energy. Over 900 attendees I am sure agree that it was an adventure peering into and experiencing the future.”

“My overall take-away was excitement over the possibilities of this future-in-the-present virtual meeting. Make no doubt about it, this is not the same as meeting face-to-face, and we all rue the loss of being able to socialise and reconnect that is such a R valuable part of conferences. But there are valuable take-aways that we should focus upon, such as putting together panels without regard for physical distance, and doing so with minimal environmental impact.”

President Yano also spoke to a global academy coming together in what she called our “campfire of values”, which she said blazed “ever more brightly as we live challenged by the political conditions in our midst. These political conditions go well beyond national boundaries to constitute global threats. The censorship suffered by one scholar threatens the academic freedom of us all. Listening to the repressive conditions faced by some of our Asian brothers and sisters populating academic regimes elsewhere serves as a cautionary to hold these values close and actionable. In short, this is a campfire whose embers need constant and active stoking in the name of responsible engagement.” She continued, “The campfire challenges us as it burns. It emblazons the message of AAS-in-Asia 2020, ‘Asia at the Crossroads: Solidarity through Scholarship.’ ”

IAFOR Journal of Literature & Librarianship joins Education Journal in Scopus

The IAFOR Journal of Literature & Librarianship is the second IAFOR journal to be listed in Elsevier’s Scopus database, the world’s leading curated abstract and citation database of peer-reviewed literature, covering over 23,000 journals.

The IAFOR Research Archive: 10 Years of Virtual Presentations

Since 2010, IAFOR has offered virtual presentation opportunities, and since 2012 we have funded what is now called the IAFOR Research Archive, a permanent, open access and fully searchable research archive open to all where there is an internet connection. From this portal, anyone can browse and download papers presented at IAFOR conferences, use, cite and share the work. Virtual presentations, and videos of past plenaries can also be accessed here. For the past ten years, IAFOR has invested in making sure that work presented at our conferences and in our journals has been treated with care and attention in online form, so in many ways we have never been more ready to respond to this situation.

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