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Faculty member wins major grant to study environmental activism in Asia

Tuesday, January 22, 2008 – Ann Claycombe

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Kim Reimann, assistant professor of political science at Georgia State, has won a $73,000 grant from the Social Sciences Research Council to study the role of non-governmental organizations in the regional politics of east Asia.

“It’s been a part of the world where NGOs have not had a lot of influence historically,” she said. But the number of non-governmental organizations in Asia has grown tremendously since the 1980’s. And since the 1990’s, those groups have increasingly worked together across national borders.

The Abe Fellowship, which is designed in part to encourage research into industrial and industrializing society, is a perfect fit for Reimann’s work, which focuses on issues of sustainable development and environmental protection. The tremendous growth of industry in Asia is putting pressure on the environment, and also on some groups of people that depend on natural resources for their livelihood, she said.

As a result, NGOs are forming networks to address a variety of environmental issues. These networks stretch across national borders and connect groups of different sizes and resources – from enormous international nonprofits like the World Wildlife Fund on one hand all the way down to community activists. These networks work together to protest, advocate for their interests and even set up collaborations with national governments and regional institutions like the Asian Development Bank.

Reimann’s grant will be funding a year’s worth of overseas research, which will include several Asian countries: Japan, the Phillippines, Indonesia, Malaysia and Thailand, with possible side trips to Laos and Vietnam. Her plan is to do four case studies: the Asian Development Bank, and two on international conservation efforts, one in the Mekong Delta and one in the Sulu and Sulawesi seas.

In addition to her own, specific research, Reimann hopes to gather some basic data on NGOs in the region to share with other scholars. There’s no good listing of local NGO’s in east Asia, for example – just knowing who is doing what and where would be a huge advantage to researchers.

“Part of the reason to go is just the opportunity to learn things that aren’t online,” she said.

Reimann began preparing for this project with a month-long trip to Thailand and the Phillippines last summer, which was funded by a Georgia State University Research Initiation Grant. That initial research gave her the data to apply successfully for the Abe Fellowship.