Ambassador Hachigian’s Keynote Remarks and Officially Open the 2016/17 ASEAN-U.S. Science and Technology Fellowship Program

ASEAN - U.S. S&T Fellows 2016-2017

Good Morning.

Mr. Tran Dong Phuong, Director for Sectoral Development, ASEAN Economic Community Department, Ms. Nada Marsudi, Representatives from the ASEAN Committee on Science and Technology, Representatives from the ASEAN Center for Energy, the ASEAN Foundation, the Economic Research Institute for ASEAN and East Asia (ERIA), and the ASEAN Secretariat, ASEAN-U.S. Science & Technology Fellows from 2015 and our 15 new Fellows for 2016, AAAS Representatives and supervisors, Ladies and gentlemen.

I would like to welcome all of you this morning and say how happy I am to be here with you.  I am truly excited about the way the ASEAN-U.S. Science and Technology Fellowship is developing and expanding.

The United States is very pleased to partner with the ASEAN Committee on Science and Technology and the ASEAN Secretariat to increase links between science, technology and policy within ASEAN.  I am personally happy because I have a great regard for scientists; my undergraduate degree from Yale is in biology, not political science.  And I come from a long line of scientists on my mother’s side.  My grandmother and great aunt were both chemists, for example.

I am also delighted to learn that since January 1, 2016, the ASEAN Committee on Science and Technology now falls under ASEAN’s Economic Community.  This is a very wise move, of course, as science and technology and innovation are such important drivers of economic growth.  Innovation and entrepreneurship will be key areas of focus under the new US-ASEAN Connect initiative launched by President Obama in February at Sunnylands.  As partners, we can foster the type of innovation-focused ecosystems that have developed in the United States here in ASEAN.  With the right policies, insights, and opportunities, ASEAN’s incredibly dynamic young people will become the region’s future innovators, entrepreneurs, business leaders and scientists.

The ASEAN-U.S. Science and Technology Fellows Program provides opportunities for early career scientists who are ready to explore how to apply science for policy-making.  I don’t think I need to tell this audience how important science and technology are for solving policy problems, whether in domestic policy, foreign policy or development.  As President Obama once said we can “harness the power of science to achieve our goals – to preserve our environment and protect our national security; to create the jobs of the future, and live longer, healthier lives.”

I am a diplomat, so I think about how integral science is to solving the biggest foreign policy challenges we face.  The deal we were able to forge with Iran over its nuclear program depended in part on a very technical set of questions about the enrichment of uranium which our Secretary of Energy, a nuclear physicist, knew well.  Whether we can address the challenges of ocean degradation hinges in part on our ability to invent solutions, for example, ways to regrow damaged coral.  And, of course, climate change is perhaps the broadest and biggest challenge of all.  Measuring it and addressing it comes down in large part to science and technology.

This is why we have made supporting science-based policy a key component of our Plan of Action to Implement the ASEAN-U.S. Partnership (2016-2010).  Through a program we call PROGRESS we support people-to-people connections within ASEAN and between ASEAN and the United States.  These connections are important as platforms to share experiences and establish networks.

Earlier this month, one of the 2015 Fellows — Dr. Nofri Dahlan of Malaysia — traveled to Washington, D.C. to serve as the Fellowship’s first “ambassador”.  While in D.C., she presented her work under the Fellowship to representatives from USAID, the U.S. State Department, and the U.S. Department of Energy.  She also presented her work on solar energy at the Science Diplomacy 2016 Symposium, which was hosted by the American Association for the Advancement of Science – “or triple A – S” as we often call it — whose S&T policy fellowship served as the model for the ASEAN-U.S. S&T Fellowship.  At this and other events throughout the one-week visit, Dr. Dahlan was able to connect and exchange experiences with current and former AAAS fellows.

I can’t think of a better idea than a growing network of scientists across the region, linked to the United States, for sharing knowledge and experiences.

For our success since 2014, we thank the ASEAN Committee on Science and Technology first and foremost for its partnership and collaboration.  We also thank, of course, the ASEAN Secretariat, particularly Dr. Alex Lim and his team in the Science & Technology Division, for working with us to plan the details of the program.  Today marks an additional expansion of this network with 15 new Fellows, which brings the total number of Fellows in the network up to 36.

I want to also take a moment to discuss the importance of the sustainability of this program.  As ASEAN Dialogue Partners, we are often able to provide an initial push to get a program started.  But the efforts and resources it takes to start something like this would be wasted if we did not work with ASEAN to ensure ways that programs could continue long term under ASEAN oversight and management.  I am pleased that the COST committee took on this responsibility for sustainability and agreed to identify a partner to continue the program.  We thank the ASEAN Foundation for its interest and willingness to take on this role.  We look forward to working with the ASEAN Foundation over the coming years to transition the program smoothly.

We have been excited about this moment to bring together the Fellows from the second year with those who are just starting out this week and encourage you to meet, connect, and build relationships.

I am certain that your work will help to illuminate how science and technology can be used to create better, evidence-based policies.  And most importantly, you and the Ministries in which you work will contribute to policies that improve the lives of ASEAN citizens.

You will be ambassadors for ASEAN as well, and join a broader community of ASEAN leaders who inspire all ASEAN citizens to think critically about important issues common across the region.  One scientist can make a huge difference.  You can make a big difference.

I’d like to share the example of Dr. Ko Myint, a 2015 fellow from Myanmar, who was placed within the Ministry of Environmental Conservation and Forestry (MOECAF) of Myanmar where he developed a new Biodiversity Conservation and Management course for higher education students and wrote the accompanying textbook.  The new course, which closely aligns with the awareness raising aims under the National Biodiversity Strategy and Action Plan (NBSAP) 2015-2020, was adopted in all 66 national universities in the country.  He travelled outside of the country to events in Indonesia, Laos and Thailand where he was able to share his initiatives with and learn from other scientists, students and policymakers throughout ASEAN and beyond.  The fellowship provided Ko Myint the opportunity to make a lasting impact for future generations of biodiversity conservation champions in Myanmar.

We are confident that all of your efforts will contribute to building stronger institutions and systems necessary to implement ASEAN’s ideal of “One Vision, One Identity, One Community” – an ideal which the United States strongly supports.

I want to share my heartfelt appreciation to all of the enthusiastic and talented Fellows gathered here today.  I congratulate the 2015 Fellows who have made this program successful.  You have worked hard to make science support policy-making in your area of expertise.

I thank the Supervisors for guiding the Fellows in their work during the past year.  We thank you for integrating these scientists into your offices, and guiding them as they moved from the lab to the policy context.  Your support has been critical in helping the Fellows work effectively, and to achieving and learning all that they have this past year.

I want to enthusiastically and warmly welcome the 2016 class of S&T Fellows, who are 15 early career scientists from Cambodia, Indonesia, Lao PDR, Malaysia, Myanmar, the Philippines, Thailand and Vietnam.  I would also like to welcome the Supervisors of the 2016 Fellows who are here today, as well as thank the Mentors from the respective Ministries of Science and Technology of the Member States.

Based on the Krabi Initiative priorities, adopted by the ASEAN S&T Ministers, and as key areas of U.S. interest, the thematic focus areas for the 2016-2017 Fellowship year are: biodiversity, energy security, and science and technology and innovation policy.  These areas of your work are critical issues to promote protection of the environment and natural resources in the region and ensure that the economic benefits that come from them are sustainable.

We wish the 2016 Fellows well as you begin your fellowship year.  I am counting on you to continue the success story of the ASEAN-U.S. Science and Technology Fellows Program and know that you will.

With that, and with thanks to all in this room who have made this important work possible, I would like to officially close the 2015 ASEAN – U.S. S&T Fellows program and launch the 2016 ASEAN-U.S. S&T Fellows program.

Thank you.


Visit this page for the full list of the fellows.