Southeast Asia


Sliding down the Slippery Slopes of Unsustainability: Rampant Hill Development in Penang


The island of Penang, on the northwestern coast of Peninsular Malaysia has a very hilly topography. Almost 50% of land is hilly, and 39% is classified as Class III and above, having slopes more than 25⁰ in gradient. Underlain mainly by weathered granitic bedrock, this rugged topography has been a bane for development, as it presents a myriad of engineering and environmental challenges. What is fueling this rampant hill slope development and how is it impacting people's lives in Penang Island? This article seeks to explore these questions and look at what's the best way forward.

By Rexy Prakash Chacko

Jokowi’s Triumph in the 2019 Presidential Election and the Future of Binary Politics


On 17 April 2019, Indonesia held the world’s largest, and arguably most complicated, one-day election. With 193 million voters, almost 6 million recruited election workers, and more than 810,000 polling stations spread across the archipelago, from cities, villages to hundreds of tiny islets, this enormous undertaking involved presidential, legislative (national and local), and senate elections – done simultaneously. Voters’ attention, however, was largely on the presidential election, which led to a turnout of 81%, the highest in Indonesia’s electoral history in the post-reform era.

By Deasy Simandjuntak

Wanted: More Outliers in the Climate Crisis


The future has, in many ways, been fast-forwarded to become the present. Climate change is no longer a far-off topic for scientists or government officials in air-conditioned halls, or just a protest campaign for noisy activists. The changes it has brought to human existence and the challenges to our ways of living, and to the natural world we wreck at our own risk, have arrived at our doorstep.

By Johanna Son

Safeguarding People and the Environment in Chinese Investments (Second Edition): A Reference Guide for Advocates


This publication provides a practical guide to the policies, standards and guidelines for Chinese outbound investment. The updated guide builds on our 2017 edition, adding new details on the Belt and Road Initiative, China’s new vision for enhancing global connectivity, along with updates to administrative guidance from China’s central state agencies on outbound investment.  It also covers new guidelines on rubber, agriculture, infrastructure projects and more. The guide explains the key actors involved in Chinese overseas investment and describes the environmental and social standards and guidelines that apply. It provides practical tips on how these standards can be used in advocacy with relevant Chinese actors and institutions.

Vietnam’s Most Vulnerable Region Copes with Climate Change


The Mekong Delta where the turbid water flow of the Mekong River passing through before joining the sea, is the largest area of rice, fruits and fishery production in Vietnam. It is also the place which seriously affected by climate change, drought, saline intrusion, sea level rise and landslide. In the last few years, unpredictable weather pattern has made crops in the Mekong Delta unstable, leading to a harder life for the people and as a consequence, the influx of people from rural areas to big cities has spread through the whole region.

By Le Dinh Tuyen

Tackling Deforestation in the Palm Oil Industry: Quo Vadis Private and Public Sectors Commitments?


The concerns around deforestation, fires, animal extinction, social conflicts and other problems with the palm oil industry, especially in Indonesia, has increased significantly in the past two decades. There have been commitments made by governments and the companies to tackle deforestation in Indonesia since then. What are the main commitments from government and companies, what are the progress and the major challenges to deliver them, and what are the recommendations, will be the main focus of this article.

By Annisa Rahmawati

On Freedom of Expression and Civil Liberties in Singapore


Jolovan Wham is getting very familiar with the inside of police stations and courtrooms. The Singaporean activist currently has multiple cases pending against him, ranging from investigations up to convictions and sentencing. His offences, alleged or otherwise, include organising illegal assemblies, vandalism, refusing to sign statements to the police, and scandalising the judiciary. He is, according the Singapore Police Force, to be described as “recalcitrant”.

By Kirsten Han

The Asian Infrastructure Investment Bank (AIIB): A Multilateral Bank Where China Sets the Rules


In recent years, a number of countries have chosen to join the Asia Infrastructure Investment Bank (AIIB), which has become a major player in the global financial architecture in record time. The AIIB promises to be "lean, clean and green". In truth, it seems to be an instrument to promote Chinese interests. The analysis of Korinna Horta after three years of AIIB is very sobering. What can you do now? Is it time to acknowledge a total failure and leave the bank? What influence do shareholders still have and what should they push for?

Vulnerable Country Approaches to Urgent Climate Policy Development


Vulnerable countries should use the current period to more rapidly bake-in implications of the climate crisis in economy-wide development metrics and plans. They must do so in ways that reflect national priorities and which enable country development strategies even as they sustain and intensify demands for developed countries to deliver climate finance obligations based on the speed and scale of vulnerable country needs rather than random rich country yardsticks.

By Renato Redentor Constantino