Eye on South Asia: Challenges to Development and Democracy in Afghanistan, Bangladesh, India, Pakistan, Sri Lanka, and Nepal

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  Wednesday, March 22, 2017
  5 - 7 p.m.
  Faculty Club

Home to 1.7 billion people, South Asia was the world’s fastest growing economic region in 2016, and is expected to hold this spot in 2017. However, South Asian countries continue to face daunting challenges of persistent poverty, widening inequality, and growing instability. Over the long term, prospects for inclusive growth will depend heavily on the region’s ability to address fundamental governance issues: managing conflict, reducing corruption, increasing transparency, expanding access to justice, and increasing citizens’ voice and participation.

Join experts from The Asia Foundation’s country offices in Afghanistan, Bangladesh, India, Pakistan, Sri Lanka, and Nepal for a dynamic panel discussion on the prospects for democracy, stability, and sustainable development in South Asia.

About the Panelists:

Abdullah Ahmadzai is The Asia Foundation’s County Representative in Afghanistan. He oversees the Foundation’s wide range of programs in the areas of Governance and Elections, Islam and Development, Women’s Empowerment and Education, as well as the annual Survey of the Afghan People. Ahmadzai served as the Deputy Country Representative from 2012 to 2014. A seasoned development professional with expertise in national election administration, Ahmadzai was formerly Chief Electoral Officer for the Independent Election Commission (IEC) of Afghanistan. As head of the IEC Secretariat, he oversaw the 2010 elections for the Lower House of the Afghan Parliament; the first fully “Afghanized” national election involving limited technical support from the international community. Prior to his position with the IEC, from June 2006 to October 2009, Abdullah Ahmadzai worked with the Foundation, serving under the Support to Center of Government project in Afghanistan, first as a Senior National Capacity Building Advisor and later as Deputy Chief of Party and Chief of Party. In each of these roles with the Foundation, Ahmadzai served with distinction. Between 2004 and 2006, he held positions with the UN under the Joint Electoral Management Body Secretariat (JEMBS), first as an Area Manager and then as Chief of Operations.

Hasan Mazumdar joined the Asia Foundation as Bangladesh Country Representative in December 2009. The Foundation’s Bangladesh office supports programs on political and economic governance, rule of law, human rights, women’s empowerment, economic growth, climate change/environment, and regional programs. Prior to joining the Foundation, he held the position of Country Director of CARE Pakistan where he was responsible for ensuring proper utilization of an annual portfolio of around US $20 million on various development interventions such as economic growth, education, good governance, SME/ enterprise development, promoting Corporate Social Responsibility (CSR), workforce development, and facilitating private and public partnerships with a special focus on women’s empowerment. Prior to his assignment in Pakistan, Hasan was CARE’s deputy country director in Bangladesh, where he assisted in leading and administering a $40 million 25 project program with 800 employees and was responsible for the management of program portfolio finance, administration, and human resources.

Sagar Prasai is The Asia Foundation’s country representative in India. He was formerly the deputy country representative in Nepal. His current work involves regional cooperation in South Asia with a particular focus on water, trade, and migration; transnational political economy; urban governance and women’s security. Prasai has worked with governmental as well as multilateral organizations on urban management, local governance, conflict, and political processes. He previously served as a programming advisor to the National Planning Commission of Nepal, and as a district development advisor to the United Nations Development Program in Nepal. He has led several political economy analysis studies for The Asia Foundation including Drivers of Legitimacy in Nepal (2007), Political Economy of Local Governance in Nepal (2012), and Political Economy Analysis and Stakeholder Mapping of the Teesta Basin (2012). His articles have appeared in South Asian and global journals, portals and blogs. He is the author of the book Revisiting Transnational Migration-Development Nexus: Using Capability Approach in Migration Research.

Sofia Shakil is the Asia Foundation Country Representative in Pakistan. Educated as a policy economist, Sofia brings over 20 years of experience in the human development sector, with a focus on education, public sector policy, and governance reform. She has held several full-time and consulting positions with the World Bank, Asian Development Bank, international NGOs, multi-lateral organizations and donors. From 2013-2016, Sofia served as Senior Education Specialist at the Asian Development Bank, where she led project operations and policy research and advisory work in human development in the People’s Republic of China and Mongolia. Prior to that, she served three years as an Education Sector Focal Point for Sri Lanka and the Maldives. Among her many achievements at the ADB, Sofia successfully designed and obtained approval for the first Results Based Lending Program loan ($200 million) for ADB in Sri Lanka, prepared the education assessment and roadmap for the country partnership strategies for Sri Lanka, Mongolia, and the PRC, developed the human resource development strategy as part of the Tourism Master Plan for the Maldives, and led projects and policy work in the areas of vocational education reform, elder care services, and graduate employment initiatives.

Dinesha de Silva is currently The Asia Foundation’s country representative in Sri Lanka. Previously, she served as team leader for The Foundation’s Sri Lanka Local Economic Governance program (2010-2012), as assistant director in the Foundation’s Washington D.C. office, (2008 – 2010), and was formerly assistant representative in the Foundation’s Sri Lanka office. She has two decades of experience in the field of international development, with special interest and experience in economic governance, rule of law, access to justice, and conflict resolution. From 1995 to 1997, Dinesha de Silva was director of the Foundation’s USAID-funded Citizen Participation (CIPART) Project in Colombo. She also previously served with the Foundation as a program officer for Sri Lanka and the Maldives from 1991 to 1992, focusing on English-language education, women’s empowerment, media development, and economic liberalization. In between positions with the Foundation, she served as a project management specialist for USAID in Colombo in the private sector development office. She also previously served as an economist for the Environmental Foundation Ltd. and for six years as an economist for the Central Bank of Sri Lanka.

George Varughese has been The Asia Foundation’s country representative in Nepal since May 2009, where he oversees a broad range of programs that support an effective political transition, including constitutional development and assistance to the Constituent Assembly; facilitate conflict transformation, peacebuilding, and alternate dispute resolution; safeguard women’s security and combat the trafficking of persons; support public policy analysis and engagement; and enable local economic governance and opportunity. During the 2015-16 academic year George Varughese served as Visiting Professor and Senior Scholar in the University of Wyoming’s Global and Area Studies program. Prior to this position in Kathmandu, Varughese was The Asia Foundation’s country representative in Afghanistan, where his responsibilities included overseeing capacity-building initiatives in the center of Afghan government; supporting electoral management capacity building; women’s advancement; and public education and discourse on democratic political processes. His achievements include spearheading the internationally-respected annual Survey of the Afghan People and its companion studies on state building and developmental challenges in Afghanistan; and advocating and helping lead investment in Afghan sub-national governance.

About The Asia Foundation: The Asia Foundation is a nonprofit international development organization committed to improving lives across a dynamic and developing Asia. Informed by six decades of experience and deep local expertise, our work across the region addresses five overarching goals—strengthen governance, empower women, expand economic opportunity, increase environmental resilience, and promote international cooperation. Headquartered in San Francisco, The Asia Foundation works in 18 country office across Asia and Washington, DC. Working with public and private partners, the Foundation receives funding from a diverse group of bilateral and multilateral development agencies, foundations, corporations, and individuals. In 2015, we provided more than $95 million in direct program support and distributed textbooks and other educational materials valued at over $10 million.

Event made possible with the support of the Sarah Kailath Chair of India Studies

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