CDA Shields Keynote Remarks at the Official Close of ASEAN-U.S. Science and Technology Fellowship

CDA Shields with US-ASEAN S&T Fellow of 2016-2017

Charge d’affaires Shields
Keynote Remarks at the Official Close of the 2016/17
ASEAN-U.S. Science and Technology Fellowship Program
ASEAN Foundation, Jakarta
Wednesday, May 31, 2016

Good Morning.
Mr. Tran Dong Phuong, Director for Sectoral Development, ASEAN Economic Community Department,
Ms. Elaine Tan, Executive Director, ASEAN Foundation,
Mr. Andika Fajar, Head of Research and Data, Ministry of Research, Technology and Education, Republic of Indonesia
Representatives from the ASEAN Committee on Science and Technology,
Representatives from the ASEAN Center for Energy, the Economic Research Institute for ASEAN and East Asia, and the ASEAN Secretariat,
And last, but certainly not least, ASEAN-U.S. Science & Technology Fellows from 2015/2016 and our 15 Fellows for 2016/2017, and their 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.  This is actually my first public event since arriving at the U.S. Mission to ASEAN just last week.  What a great way to start – to celebrate the way the ASEAN-U.S. Science and Technology Fellowship has evolved and will continue to expand into the future.

The United States has been pleased to partner with the ASEAN Committee on Science and Technology to support the ASEAN-U.S. S&T Fellows over the course of the past three years.  Supporting science-based policy making is a key component of our ASEAN-U.S. Strategic Partnership. The Fellowship program has been a powerful example of the impact of people-to-people connections, building a platform for sharing experiences, and contributing to sound policy making decisions on some of the most pressing regional issues. We have supported these opportunities for early career scientists through a program called ASEAN-U.S. PROGRESS.

The ASEAN-U.S. S&T Fellowship was launched in 2014, initially supporting seven Fellows from five ASEAN countries. Since then, the S&T Fellowship has grown and over the course of three classes, we have supported Fellows working on issues ranging from sustainable energy, to biodiversity, to science, technology, and innovation policy. To date, the Fellowship has embedded 35 scientists in ministries of agriculture, energy, environment, and science and technology across 8 ASEAN countries. We thank the ASEAN Committee on Science and Technology first and foremost for its partnership and collaboration.

We are here today to recognize the latest class of Fellows, who have just finished their assignments.  They have contributed to policy decisions related to climate adaptability; sustainable energy; and science, technology, and innovation policy. We believe, as ASEAN does, that investment in evidence based decision making and smart policies are important drivers of economic growth.

You are all part of a broader community of young ASEAN leaders who inspire all ASEAN citizens to think critically about important issues common across the region. We are confident that all of your efforts 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 would like to highlight just a few of so many achievements of the Fellows.

Some of you have worked collaboratively.  For example, I understand that S&T Fellows from Indonesia and Vietnam recently collaborated to author a conference paper comparing policies in science, technology and innovation between the countries. There has also been significant collaboration among S&T Fellows to prepare for the “ASEAN Science Diplomats Assembly,” hosted by an S&T Fellow from the Philippines earlier this year. S&T Fellows from Vietnam, Lao PDR, and Myanmar recently conducted a joint review of current national policies to garner support for a sustainable hydro power development along the Mekong River.

The Fellows from Cambodia, Indonesia, Lao PDR, Malaysia, Myanmar, and Thailand provided recommendations, fostered information sharing, and even helped to develop new policies for science, technology and innovation during their time with the program. Fellows from the Philippines, Thailand, and Indonesia contributed to improved collaboration among universities, industry, and government to talk about conservation efforts, climate change, and disaster risk reduction.

This collaboration does not end at the end of the Fellowship term. Fellowship alumni, some of whom are here with us today, have continued to work together following the conclusion of the Fellowship, demonstrating the strong bond developed in the program. A team of alumni focusing on energy from Malaysia and Vietnam were recently awarded a $45,000 grant from the International Foundation of Sciences based in Sweden.  The grant will allow them to continue research they initiated under in their Fellowship terms to conduct joint research on a green energy smart farm.  Congratulations!  What great evidence of how Fellows are continuing their great work as they go forward in their careers.

Individual accomplishments from S&T Fellowship alumni are numerous, but a few bear mentioning here. Indonesia’s 2015-16 Fellows provided a roadmap toward a more sustainable and productive palm oil industry, recommending actions for combating land degradation and advancing sustainable land management for palm oil plantations. A Fellow from Malaysia produced a policy brief and plan of action for solar thermal policy in her country, and one of the policy recommendations from a S&T Fellow from Myanmar ended up contributing to the designation of two islands as natural protected areas for endangered turtles.

I want to congratulate the 2016 Fellows and all previous Fellows who have made this program successful.  You have worked hard to make science support policy-making in your area of expertise.

I especially want to thank the ASEAN COST for its continued partnership and the ASEAN Secretariat—particularly Mr. Tran Dong Phuong and Ms. Alice Cheong and her team in the Science & Technology Division—for working so closely with us to plan the details for this incredible program. And perhaps most important, we greatly appreciate the ministry partners from across the region who, through the S&T supervisors, worked with and contributed to the growth of these special scientists.

To the S&T Fellows, you will continue to be ambassadors for ASEAN and the Fellowship moving forward. Congratulations on your efforts and achievements!  Let’s give them all a round of applause!

I would also like to 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. The demand to continue the S&T Fellowship has been received loud and clear based upon the recognized impact of the program and drawing upon a three-year track record of success.

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 important role.  The U.S. Government has a strong intention to continue to support the successful transition of the S&T Fellowship, and will work hand-in-hand with Ms. Elaine Tan and her staff to ensure a smooth transition into the future.

With thanks to all in this room who have made this important work possible, I would like to officially close the 2016 – 2017 ASEAN-U.S. Science & Technology Fellowship.

Thank you.