Johns Hopkins Magazine -- February 2000
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Filling the gap in South Asia studies
Words to care by
Networks that offer new clout
Tackling school reform, comprehensively

Filling the gap in South Asia studies

All in the past few years: India and Pakistan have jousted over nuclear proliferation, while battling over the border region of Kashmir. India entered the world economy with an edge in computer technology and an expertise in Y2K, and Pakistan underwent a military coup that became Q & A fodder in the U.S. presidential race.

As U.S. foreign and economic policy increasingly focus on the region, Hopkins's Nitze School of Advanced International Studies (SAIS) is developing a South Asia Program--a focal point for teaching, scholarship, and outreach--to deal with an area of the world often ignored by policy-makers and international schools.

"There is a big gap out there, and we felt we needed to do something," says Stephen Szabo, SAIS associate dean for academic affairs. "The region is not only important in terms of nuclear and military issues. India [for example] has a huge population, second only to China. And there is so much dynamism and growth in the Indian economy. Now it is emerging as a world power, and that always gets attention."

The program will focus on similar economic growth and political issues in Pakistan, Sri Lanka, Nepal, Bangladesh, Afghanistan, and other nations. SAIS already offers courses in comparative politics and international relations in the region, both taught by adjunct professor Walter Andersen, chief of the State Department's South Asia Division.

Andersen and Shirin Tahir-Kheli, a newly hired research professor at SAIS's Foreign Policy Institute, are leading the effort to launch the new program. It will fall under the umbrella of the graduate school's Asian Studies Program, which currently covers Japan, Korea, China, and Southeast Asia.

"One way we are looking at this is not just the traditional way. India would loom large in any South Asia program, but we want to look across national boundaries," says Tahir-Kheli, a former U.S. ambassador to the UN for special political affairs. She says SAIS hopes within the year to offer six courses on issues affecting the region: "Part of the fun is cross-pollination."

Among other offerings, the program hopes to feature seminars and conferences on such issues as the role of women in South Asia; to foster research projects on security or environmental dilemmas in the region; and to put together an online newsletter, student internships, and courses in Hindi and other regional languages. One high-profile research project is already under way, Tahir-Kheli says. Mahmud Durrani, a retired Pakistani general, was at SAIS this winter heading up a study on the cost of conflict and the benefit of peace between India and Pakistan, a rare joint-study between the nations.

Yet there are hurdles to navigate. To bring the program up to speed, SAIS is seeking funding, a sometimes difficult prospect in such a conflict-ridden area."If money is coming from India, [the program] could be considered pro-India," Szabo points out, "or if from Pakistan, proPakistan. But we have a two-headed approach, [Tahir-Kheli] is Pakistani-American and Andersen is an India expert."

New faculty and students trained in South Asian issues also could serve the growing need for regional experts in Washington's diplomatic and political community, just as SAIS's Central Asia Institute has done over the past few years. Says Szabo, "Now that area has gotten hot with the Caspian oil deals." --Joanne Cavanaugh Simpson

Words to care by

What if I didn't care about people? A doctor needs humanism. What if someone calls at 2 a.m. and it's an emergency. You have to get up. You can't say, 'Hey, I don't care. Go die.'"
--Benjamin Carson, director of pediatric neurosurgery, in an inspirational speech to schoolchildren at Hopkins's Turner Auditorium.

"I could be just as good as he is. I can do some of the things he could do. I want to be a doctor, a surgeon doctor. A brain surgeon. I plan to go to college. I'm setting my mind on that goal."
--Shonshana Bull, 11, talking to media after hearing Carson speak.

Networks that offer new clout

In 1997, the International Campaign to Ban Landmines scored a remarkable success: 122 countries signed the Ottawa Convention, banning the use and manufacture of deadly anti-personnel mines. Much of the work that brought about the convention was done by what Margaret Keck calls a "transnational advocacy network"--of governmental agencies, non-governmental organizations (NGOs), activists, politicians, and ordinary citizens--that shared information, strategized, and applied coordinated pressure to world governments.

Keck, a Hopkins professor of political science, studies transnational networks. Her recent book about them, Activists Beyond Borders (Cornell University Press, 1998), won the 2000 University of Louisville Grawemeyer Award for ideas that improve world order. She shared the $200,000 prize with her co-author, Kathryn Sikkink of the University of Minnesota.

Transnational networks have "multiplied exponentially," says Keck.
Photo by Jay Van Rensselaer
Explains Keck, "A transnational advocacy network is a set of connections among a group of actors in more than one country who share certain values and goals, and who coordinate strategically to accomplish them." In the example of the landmine campaign (not one of the examples in Keck and Sikkink's book), an extraordinary roster came together. At one time or another (according to the Canadian Department of Foreign Affairs), it included the Vietnam Veterans of America Foundation, Handicap International, UNICEF, Physicians for Human Rights, and Human Rights Watch; NGOs in Germany, Sweden, Ireland, and Australia; the European Parliament, and sympathetic members of government in Canada, Afghanistan, Mozambique, Holland, and other countries.

These networks have existed for a long time, Keck says, but have "multiplied exponentially in the wake of the Internet and fax-machine revolution." Information technology, plus the precipitous decline in air fares, now allows an unprecedented sharing of ideas, knowledge, and energy. Activists around the globe can craft strategies that effectively pressure governments and large international organizations like the World Bank to address the concerns of people who previously had little or no political clout.

The anti-landmine crusade is a striking example of transnational advocacy. Others, says Keck, include the effort to discourage use of tropical hardwoods, and the anti-apartheid campaign against South Africa.

Keck describes a "boomerang pattern" common to many successful campaigns. Country A, for example, is pursuing a land development policy that is destroying the livelihood of indigenous people who have no means of effectively pressuring the government by themselves. An environmental group learns of their plight and creates or taps into a network of NGOs, international agencies, and sympathetic individuals in other governments. That network convinces the government of Country B to apply pressure to Country A, which now must pay attention to the victims of its policies because it does not want to lose prestige, or valuable trade concessions, or some form of aid. Keck says this pattern is evident in efforts to curb deforestation in Brazil.

Transnational advocacy networks don't always prove effective, Keck says. "Human rights campaigns were totally ineffective in Haiti because the Haitian dictator didn't care. He was perfectly willing to let the country go down the tubes." She's also found that successful campaigns can't be too abstract: "They need to be relatively clear who is responsible for what, and why.

"A lot of the most successful campaigns were to protest bodily harm to vulnerable individuals, like the landmine thing, or the campaign against female genital mutilation. That has a human face." --Dale Keiger

Tackling school reform, comprehensively

In October, the U.S. Department of Education awarded $84.6 million to school reform models nationwide, and programs developed by Johns Hopkins came away with the biggest piece of the funding pie: some $27 million over five years. The funding supports three reform programs developed by the university's Center for Social Organization of Schools. All three programs are "comprehensive" school reform models aimed at turning around low-performing, high-poverty schools by changing the way they do almost everything.

"This is important news for education reform," said CSOS director James McPartland. "These grants show that the federal government is committed to adopting education reform strategies that are grounded in tested research and to making these reforms available to as many schools that want them. It also indicates an emphatic shift toward comprehensive school reform, and away from a piecemeal, fragmented approach."

Success for All, an elementary school program now in 1,500 schools nationwide, was awarded $14.3 million, much of which will be used to expand its curriculum to middle school. Last year Success for All became an independent non-profit foundation, though it retains close research ties with the university.

Two newer programs, the Talent Development Middle and High School models, were awarded an expected five-year total of $12.7 million.