In the past few decades, societies in Asia have experienced rapid and dramatic economic, cultural, and political shifts, a phenomenon that has incited not only significant social change, but also rampant inequality. Besides factors such as income inequality, humanitarian crises, and natural disasters, cybersecurity risks have become an influential factor in global power dynamics. Within the same geopolitical boundaries, progress and harmony are challenged by gender-based discrimination, lack of mental healthcare, and clashes between modern and traditional culture.
In the midst of these inequalities, societies face strong challenges created by human injustice and improper implementation of social policies, and will require brave and judicious solutions to mitigate humanitarian crises. By capitalizing on the increasing digitization within societies, transcending ethnic and cultural barriers, and engaging the brightest young minds across the world, we may be able to enact positive change. Through delving deeper into political, social, and economic issues of our society, delegates will gain a more well-rounded understanding of many controversial and pressing issues facing the Asia-Pacific region today.
In this track, delegates will examine the ideal of justice on a global scale and be challenged to construct solutions to these complex issues.
Modern Slavery in Asia
Huge income gap inequality still persists in the Asia-Pacific, despite the fact that in recent years the economy of the region has been flourishing. Being one of the most overpopulated regions, Southeast Asia created an environment with the highest demand for cheap labor. There is a supply of human resources, however, an overwhelming majority of the population fall victims of of modern slavery. According to ILO statistics, over 40 million people in the world are suffering from human trafficking, two third of which constitute from East Asian and the Pacific region population.
There are many factors that contribute to the escalation of the issue. Natural disasters as well as the state conflicts make the victims automatically fall under the category of vulnerable people in the eyes of human traffickers. Refugees and survivors of the catastrophes get trapped in the nets of slavery while seeking for shelter and financial support. Recent armed conflicts in the Philippines and Myanmar spurred the refugee crisis problem, which also led to the increased crime level, thus of forced labor, sex exploitation and coerced marriage.
In this panel session, the delegates will discuss various topics and recent events related to modern slavery in the Asia-Pacific region, analyze the causes of this issue and get acknowledged with social policies implemented to minimize negative consequences.
Scars of Traditions: Convention vs. Modernity
Ancient traditions represent cultural values and image of different ethnic and religious communities. From the childhood, members of those communities are taught to respect and preserve traditional values, obey and follow certain rules. Hence, it creates social and cultural expectations which automatically assign certain roles to individuals based on their gender and origin of families. As history has shown, it tends to result in numerous social issues like discrimination, limited access to education, health issues, violation of human rights and the list can go on.
Traditionalist conservatism has long been prevailing in Central Asia which resulted in higher level of gender discrimination and inequality. This issue is mostly common in rural areas of the region as the older generation wants the local youth to preserve the old traditions that often might not be humane. Taking the case of Kyrgyzstan, there is a tradition called “kyz ala kachu” which means marrying a woman by abducting her with or without her consent. Despite having ancient roots, this tradition is still practiced in many parts of the country. Contrary to the state officials statistics that only 5% of female population are the victims, the reports of Human Rights Watch of UNDP states that every third woman in Kyrgyzstan is married due to “kyz ala kachu” tradition. This kind of forced marriages boosted the level women suicides in past 10 years. The government has not handled the problem, and the punishments for the parties involved in the crimes of abduction, forced marriage or rape are not severe. Reason behind such indifference is that social stigmatization often forces the females to obey the traditions which restrict their personal and economical freedom. The families of the victims are also pressured by the local community to put up with the idea of forced marriage in fear of getting cursed in superstitious society.
Although it seems that we have surpassed the era of conservatism and entered the era of digitization, we still lack the data information on the real number of people suffering from negative consequences of old traditions. Therefore, in this seminar session with the focus on Central Asia, the delegates will get to know about the socioeconomic problems of the region, make a comparative analysis, and collaborate to come up with solutions that would minimize the risks.
Reclaiming Our Cyber Security in the Digital Age
In this digital age, headlines about cyber attacks and cyber security have become increasingly commonplace, and the need to arm people with the skills required to protect digital assets from malicious activity only becomes greater. According to the Hon Dan Tehan, the Australian Minister assisting the Prime Minister for Cyber Security, cyber attacks and threats are among the greatest challenges that the Asia-Pacific region is currently facing, as “eight out of the world’s ten countries most threatened by malicious cyber activity are in Asia.” The Asia-Pacific is especially vulnerable to cyber attacks due to its high digital connectivity, contrasted with low cyber security awareness; growing cross-border data transfers; and weak regulations that result in a lack of transparency.
A spate of highly public cyberattacks have shaken the region the last few years. For example, one of 2018’s biggest security incidents was the public disclosure of a set of Central Processing Unit (CPU) vulnerabilities within Intel, ARM and AMD computer chips. Once exploited, attackers could access data that would be off limits under ordinary circumstances, thus posing a serious threat to data integrity worldwide.
In this seminar, delegates will have the opportunity to discuss the issue of cyber security and collaborate to formulate new ways of raising the degree of cyber transparency and mitigate cyber risks in the Asia-Pacific region.
Breaking the Taboo: Mental Health in the Asia-Pacific
Perspectives towards mental illnesses vary greatly across the Asia-Pacific. At one extreme, countries like Australia and New Zealand have invested considerable resources to build frameworks for mental healthcare. On the other end of the spectrum, countries like India, the Philippines, Vietnam, Indonesia, and Pakistan face many challenges such as the lack of available medical treatment, dilapidated facilities, and critically low numbers of mental health professionals. In between, although countries like China and Thailand have made significant progress in tackling mental health in the last decade, many problems still remain. In China, with 20,000 psychiatrists for a population of 1.4 billion, around 92% of an estimated 173 million people in China suffering from mental disorders go without care. Studies by the World Health Organization (WHO) and the Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development identified depression, anxiety, post-traumatic stress disorder, suicidal behavior and substance-abuse disorder to be the five leading mental health problems in the region.
The widespread tendency to stigmatize and discriminate against people with a mental illness leaves talking about mental health taboo. In recent years, there have been concerted efforts in Asia-Pacific countries to raise awareness and to establish legal and policy frameworks around mental health issues. In contrast with more Westernized models of mental health, which prioritize the individual, the more family-oriented cultures in Asia-Pacific countries demand a different approach.
In this panel, we will discuss the issue of mental healthcare and its associated stigma in the Asia-Pacific as well as analyze the progress that has been made, in recent years, by the combined efforts in Asia-Pacific countries to raise awareness and to establish legal and policy frameworks around these health issues.