Peace and development Training for Youth in Vietnam “Peace and development for all” conducted by APSAN Vietnam team

A training on ‘Peace and development for all’ was organised by APSAN- Vietnam team on 27, 28 June 2020. The training was held from June 27, 2020, 8:00 am to June 28, 2020, 17:00 pm at the National Village for Ethnic Culture, Hanoi. It was facilitated by APSAN-Vietnam members Binh Tran, Nghia Le, Huyen Hoang, Phat Nguyen, Nhung Nguyen, and supported by other APSAN-Vietnam members. 31 participants were selected from 50 applications and the training was attended by 27 university students, and 4 lectures.

Alumna coached scholars to prepare for APS life and new challenges.

Covid-19 forced a sudden and unexpected change in the study and living environment of current APS students (APS 13 & 14). Since March all classes at APS have been conducted online, with students participating from their respective homes. In addition, students have had their social interactions severely limited. This has compounded the challenges for students, right in the middle of their transformative APS journey.

In June 2020, Aya Terasawa (APS 6) facilitated online life coaching sessions with APS Batch 13 and 14 scholars. Aya provided the individual and group coaching sessions to APS13 and a prepared the APS 14 for new challenges ahead. Key activities included goal-setting, stress management and active listening. Based on the feedback, the majority of the participants found the session meaningful and useful in their APS journey. They likewise appreciated the opportunity to connect and interact with their batchmates.

The APS Alumni Network thanks Aya for her effective support in the activity’s design and implementation. Aya joined the APS Batch 6 and obtained her M.A. in International Law and Human Rights in UPEACE. After graduation, she joined Bridge Asia Japan and, later, led the IT start-up company TEAMFLOW.

“Designing Your Life: Innovating from the Inside Out” training conducted for APSAN members

In December 2019, the UPEACE Executive Education Center, in partnership with the Asian

Peacebuilders Scholarship Alumni Network (APSAN), successfully concluded its online training course entitled “Designing Your Life: Innovating from the Inside Out”. With the generous support of the Nippon Foundation, 26 APS alumni were able to participate in the course.

This 4-week online course provided the space, structure, support and motivation to answer some very fundamental questions regarding passions, strengths, goals, limiting beliefs, priorities, comfort zone, and key relationships. Founded in the field of positive psychology, this course helped APSAN members to work toward a stronger sense of well-being and purpose.

By the end of this course, the participants had:

o   Read the research on the benefits of cultivating a positive mindset

o   Practiced strategies to cultivate appreciation and positivity

o   Created a ranked list of character strengths Formulated a plan to increase the time spend on activities that draw on strengths 

o   Identified key people in life, how they support, and how to engage them further

o   Identified the major sources of work-life balance conflict

o   Developed and completed a Personal Work-Life Balance Plan

A training on ‘Peace and development for all’ was organised by APSAN- Vietnam team on 27, 28 June 2020. The training was held from June 27, 2020, 8:00 am to June 28, 2020, 17:00 pm at the National Village for Ethnic Culture, Hanoi. It was facilitated by APSAN-Vietnam members Binh Tran, Nghia Le, Huyen Hoang, Phat Nguyen, Nhung Nguyen, and supported by other APSAN-Vietnam members. 31 participants were selected from 50 applications and the training was attended by 27 university students, and 4 lectures.

The APSAN-AIA Grants Programme for 2020 is launched

The AIA Grants Programme is an initiative by the APS Alumni Secretariat, in partnership with The Nippon Foundation, University for Peace (UPEACE), and Ateneo de Manila University (AdMU), that seeks to provide opportunity to APS/ALP/DIPS alumni to collaborate and implement their project ideas.

For the 2020 intake, APS/ALP/DIPS alumni can get up to USD 5,000.00 project funds. Project proposals will be reviewed by the APS Alumni Secretariat, with the assistance of representatives from UPEACE, AdMU, and The Nippon Foundation, based on the following eligibility requirements and application guidelines:

Eligibility and Guidelines:

●      Fill-out application form

●      Grants available only to APS/ALP/DIPS alumni

●      Minimum of two APS/ALP/DIPS alumni working together

●      AIA contribution up to a maximum of USD 5,000.00

●      Project implementation period should not exceed 6 months

Interested applicants should submit their project proposals by 30 October 2019. For more details, please write to ggamage@upeace.org. 

APS calls for application- 2019

Asian Peacebuilders Scholarship (APS) officials and alumni boosted promotions across Asia.

Maya Mizuno, APS Programme Coordinator at the University for Peace (UPEACE), visited Indonesia, Thailand, Laos, Vietnam, Cambodia, and Japan to conduct a series of information seminars and promotional meetings about APS from May 9 to 28, 2019. A total of one hundred twenty (120) people, including representatives from Education Ministries, United Nations agencies, local and international non-governmental organizations, and local universities, attended the activities.

These promotional events will not be possible without the APS alumni from Southeast Asia who willingly shared their experiences and gave assistance on logistics and public relations. “APS extends its sincere thanks to APS alumni – Istie, Sorang, Ricardo, Nova, Mon, Cheytoath Lim, Sreysros, Nhung, Thao Ly, Pham Thi Hong Khuyen, Binh, Rujinin “Dream” Palahan, and Opor Srisuwan for their invaluable support,” Ms. Mizuno gratefully said.

In Tokyo, Dr. Juan Carlos Sainz-Borgo, Dean of UPEACE, and Clarissa Cecilia R. Mijares-Ramos, APS Program Coordinator at Ateneo de Manila University (AdMU), introduced the APS academic programme to potential candidates in an information seminar held at the Nippon Foundation Building. Four Japanese alumni – Momoko Higa (APS 9), Rika Mitsuhashi (APS 10), Miki Nagaharu (APS 11) and Hideki Osugi (APS 11) – also shared their personal stories and gave practical advice about the application process and APS life.

In June, Mrs. Mijares-Ramos continued the promotional series at an Education Fair in Yangon, Myanmar. APS alumni, Phat Nguyen (APS 10) and Tri Le (APS 10), also initiated information seminars about the APS programme in three (3) different cities of Southern Vietnam from June to July of this year.

APS offers a dual Master of Arts degree programme to be completed in two prestigious universities, AdMu and UPEACE. Beginning March 2020, the AdMU academic curriculum will be changed from M.A. Political Science (Global Politics) to M.S. Sociology and Anthropology (Social and International Development). The new curriculum offers multidisciplinary courses covering various themes such as peace, human rights, and sustainable development. 

APS Batch 14 students will be the first Cohort under the new AdMU curriculum. The selection process will begin in September 2019 and final candidates will be determined by the end of October 2019. For more information about the programme offerings, please click here. (The APS Batch 14 application is already closed.

Alumna coached scholars to prepare for APS life and new challenges.

The Nippon Foundation has rolled out its’ “Revitalization and Enhancement of The Nippon Foundation APS Alumni Network,” a program that aims to stimulate collaboration within the APS Alumni Network and to provide support for career development of APS alumni.

On June 8, 2019, Mr. Takejyu Ogata, President of The Nippon Foundation, announced that an endowment fund of USD1,000,000.00 will be allocated to support the APS Alumni Network’s revitalization and enhancement program. Mr. Ogata took inspiration from a previous meeting with APS students at UPEACE, in which he and the students discussed various global issues and ideas for possible solutions. He also shared that the Nippon Foundation’s vision is to transform societies.

Chisato Igano

To pass on the life-changing “APS experience” to the next generation,

“Participating in APS changed my values and my life after that” says, Chisato Igano, fourth batch graduate. She also says that APS had a significant impact on her career after transitioning from JICA to a university Lecturer.

Sobbing in peace education class

The rumor is that the peace education class that Chisato majored in, was very unique.

When it comes to peace studies, people tend to think that they learn about war, international issues, and issues in foreign countries, but in peace education classes, we were often told to “face ourselves on a deep level.” The first assignment of the peace education class was to write a report based on my own experience – not knowledge and information, on about 30 different issues that contribute to conflict, such as discrimination, inequality, bullying, and ethnic minorities. I was talking with my classmates that it was difficult because I didn’t experience everything, but when I began writing, I noticed a series of relationships between those 30 issues and myself.

For example, with the topic of “discrimination,” I wrote about the victims of a hidden caste system that dates back to Japan’s feudal era called Burakumin. Burakumin is typically recognized as descendants of the outcaste population, who have historically suffered severe discrimination and social ostracism. There were some communities where so-called Burakumin lived, in the city where I lived – in the western part of Japan. I used to go there to teach English to junior high and high school students. Some students confided their discrimination and anguish in their daily lives – “The parents of the person I’m dating asked me where I live. When I answered, they suddenly became against us going out.” I remember writing in my report, the unreasonable discrimination created by the society persisted in Japan and that I felt outrage at the fact that it was hurting people, and how that left me with such unease.

If we build a wallfor these social problems, saying that it has nothing to do with me, there will be no change. This class made me realize that finding connections with me and empathizing with these parties is the first step in peacebuilding. It was a great experience for me to remind myself of the relationship between me and the societal issues.

(Cap) Chisato and her classmates from peace education (right)

In the peace education class, I had the opportunity to exchange experiences and thoughts with my classmates from about ten different countries: North America, Central America, South America, Asia, Europe, and Africa.  At times I was confronted with a dark place that crept deep in my heart, which triggered tears during class. For example, we were asked to “Share conflicts from your own country or conflicts you have personally faced.” One student from the class who is originally from a conflict-ridden country, tried to talk about the massacre in her country, but eventually gave up saying even remembering it is too painful. She is usually a very jolly and upbeat person, but that day even she had tears in her eyes. Other students also knew about the massacre that took place in her country, but when they saw her in tears and couldn’t talk, they knew once again how cruel the situation was. In addition, others talked about how he/she and their families were discriminated against, and the experience of feeling lonely and sad because of being a minority was talked about one after another, and everyone who spoke and listened cried altogether. Many of my classmates who joked around a lot, had been through such painful situations and that made me realize that everyone understood the value of peace and aspired to be a supporter of creating a peaceful society especially because of their sufferings. 

Finally, the professor said, “Sharing the sorrows and sufferings we have experienced is also the process of regaining peace in one’s heart. I want you to aspire to make sure that your heart is always peaceful. If you do that, you will be able to stay close to and empathize with the pain of others as well.” It has been a long time since I graduated, but I still remember those words and remember to keep asking myself, “is my heart peaceful?” My time at APS were these days when I learned that a peaceful society begins with our own peace. I still keep in touch with the Professors and classmates from those times. 

Support for disaster-affected areas from Costa Rica

In the internship program, the rule was to choose an NGO overseas, but you chose a Japanese NGO instead. Was there any reason (Note: In the fourth batch, internships at overseas peacebuilding organizations was one of the graduation requirements)?

The Great Eastern Japan Earthquake occurred in March 2011, when we were studying in Costa Rica. I had some batch mates that were from the Tohoku area, and they were still unable to reach their families. At the time, I was learning “mental care after a disaster through education,” so I desperately wanted to go to the disaster struck area right away. I, along with other UPEACE students, volunteered for about six months to translate the Japanese information on a Japanese NGO website into English, hoping to do something while being far away.

When I approached the staff of the Japan Foundation, about the possibility of supporting the disaster-stricken areas in Tohoku for the internship, I given the green light as an exception to work at AMDA, an NGO that was implementing reconstruction support projects in Japan. At the time, I was involved in medical support in Minamisanriku-cho, Miyagi Prefecture, and mental care for children through sports.

Pass on my experiences with the APS program to young people.

After graduation, you worked in the education sector at JICA, before you transitioned as a University faculty member.

After graduation, I wanted to be involved in the education in Japan, so I got involved in JICA’s education for international understanding and project supporting the development education. Although the focus was on promoting education for international understanding in cooperation with local governments and educational institutions, I was also involved in a project in which the National Institute Educational Policy Research of the Ministry of Education, Culture, Sports, Science and Technology and JICA Global Plaza jointly conducted a nation-specific survey of international education in six countries. With the aim of getting suggestions on Japan’s future of international education and JICA’s education for international understanding support project, I was in charge of coordinating the entire project and conducting field surveys in the United States. While I felt that it was worthwhile to work for a large framework of education, on the other hand, I had an urge to share the valuable experience of APS with young people, so I chose to work as a teacher at the major of International Cooperation at J.F. Oberlin University after working at JICA. Currently, I am in charge of courses in which students study about developing countries through lectures and fieldwork, my  network at the United Nations University for Peace has been very useful. 

(Cap) Chisato explaining to students about theGawad Kalinga Filipino, an NGO that provides housing support for people in poor living environment due to poverty, and their projects to the students (back left)

I visit the Philippines every year for international cooperation fieldwork of J.F. Oberlin University, and I have been invited to participate in a social contribution program held for students in cooperation with the Ateneo de Manila University. We also had a four-day program with the help of a friend from APS, including a homestay in the Payatas area (apredominantly urban poor area in the Metro Manila metropolitan area).

The students seem to be impressed by their homestay in Payatas, and despite the fact that they could not communicate, take baths and could not sleep because of cockroaches, everyone comes back with a very focused. Until then, the students were eager to do something for the poor and marginalized people, but their views changed into “I don’t have any power, so I want to acquire useful skills and be a person who can work to change this situation together with the people in the community instead of doing something for them.” I realize that seeing and thinking with your own eyes is a shortcut to promote understanding and peacebuilding.

In 2019, Chisato gave a lectureon the possibility of peacebuilding using sports at theSchool of Sports Science, Semarang State Universityin Indonesia. (The third from the right in the front row is Chisato)

Looking back, it was my experience at APS that greatly changed my values. I think that it is because I was able to see eye-to-eye with students from various countries with conflict and social issues, such as the Philippines and Costa Rica, and learn the importance of peace education. I am now working to pass this onto young people in Japan. Lastly, I would like to express my sincere gratitude to APS for giving me a life-changing experience.


Chisato Igano

Endro Kristanto

Endro has been a research and evaluation professional in development sector in Indonesia for nearly 10 years. He also worked as Monitoring and Evaluation Manager in Women’s World Banking and Australia Indonesia Partnership for Strengthening Agricultural Finance. He joined the Dual Campus International Peace Studies in 2008 after completing his service in Oxfam for the post-tsunami recovery program in Aceh province, Indonesia. Now he is working as a research associate of Migunani, a leading research institution in his hometown, Yogyakarta. He is also starting a micro business at home, namely a micro coffee roastery.

No pude imaginar” is the sentence that I always use when I am asked about how it felt like to study in Upeace. The expression does not merely reflect that studying in Costa Rica is a rare opportunity for me; it also reflects a feeling of grateful that I was given an opportunity to study in Upeace and experienced a lot of love and patient from those in Upeace who have contributed in shaping my academic skills which later had a lot of positive impact on my professional life. The feeling was a big motivation for me to always try as much as possible to help the promotion of Asian Peacebuilders Program in Indonesia whenever those involved in its promotion – Laurel Gaylor, Maya Mizuno, and Balazs Kovacs – asked if I could support the promotional events.

Here is the short story of how Upeace has brought an impact on my life.

Writing has always been my passion. In my early career, some friends and former colleagues told me that I had some potential to be a good writer. However, the opportunity to develop my writing skills did not arrive until I studied in Upeace, which in the end brought these skills to a different level. The initial improvement of my writing skills came during the English Course in Ateneo de Manila. The writing exercises and substantial feedback from our instructors truly improved the quality of my writing pieces. Later in Costa Rica, continuous improvement on my writing skills occurred since word limit requirement in all academic paper allowed me to write focused academic papers. I also benefitted from the consultation with course instructors during the drafting of the papers as well as their feedback on the completed papers.

The impact of the writing training in Upeace transformed my career in research and evaluation. Shortly after Upeace graduation, I received an assignment as an evaluator of a post-disaster early recovery project and since then several research and evaluation projects followed. All research or project evaluation for international NGOs and UN agencies required me to write rigorous reports for English speaking audiences. I felt completely equipped in fulfilling the demand and tried to use all of the writing skills I acquired from Upeace. Of course, in addition to the writing skills, I also applied the perspective on development that I learned from Upeace on the concept, reasoning, and analysis I put on my writing.

Studying in Upeace has broadened my professional network too and recently it brought me an opportunity to work in a project overseas. During the Upeace years, it was always my aspiration to collaborate with fellow Upeacers one day. In the past few years, I explored the possibility to work with several Upeacers and today I am working with Kyi Kyi Seinn, a classmate from Myanmar. It started with lightweight discussions on the potential to collaborate when we visited each other back in 2009 and 2015. The next two visits I made to Myanmar, I helped the NGO she established, Moving Forward Together (MFT), by delivering a training in monitoring and evaluation. Now, I am hired by MFT to provide an M&E consultation on a youth empowerment in agriculture project, a field of work which coincidently has been a major focus in career in the past three years.

At personal level, the opportunity to study in Costa Rica brought a serendipity. The coffee culture in Costa Rica implanted ‘the seed of enthusiasm on coffee’ within me as I consumed coffee more than I usually did in the country. The enthusiasm grew faster a year after Upeace years, when I was visiting the Costa Rican pavilion in the 2010 World Expo in Shanghai, China. I listened to a Ticos who told the story of Costa Rican coffee and was impressed by the flavor of the coffee I brought home from the Expo. Since then I became more enthusiastic toward coffee and thought about starting a coffee business. It is only recently that I started a micro roastery at home. Interestingly, one of my major green bean suppliers is Diyus Hanafi, another Upeacer! (this also shows that Upeace network can be amazing for our life).

Now I look forward to creating many more collaborations with other Upeacers. I will not be surprised by what may come ahead.

Harshadeva Amaratunge

“APS created a path to expose to a diverse world, it is the best place in the world to accept and learn about diversity”

Harsha Amarathunga, cohort 08

Harsha has witnessed the damage a war can bring to a community during his childhood having born and grown up in a village so far from the capital of Sri Lanka, called Giriulla in 1984 which is the kick off time of the riots between Tamils and Sinhalese. His childhood memories of wounded soldiers coming to his village from the battlefield had left him with two choices to contribute to prevent what was going on in his country. Harsha has thereby chosen his path to become a peace builder leaving the other choice of becoming a soldier.  The peak of Harsha’s teenage also was the peak of the 30 years prolonged civil war in Sri Lanka, the time from 1992 to 1997 where Harsha has experienced one brutal side of the war seeing wounded soldiers of the Sri Lankan army of the government, struggles of Sinhalese war widows and sufferings and fear of civilians across the country.  

Impetus for being a bridge builder has been the thought that has been spinning in his head where he has felt that as a responsible citizen of this country, he has a duty to serve his community to become a messenger of peace. This instinct has led Harsha to pursue his Bachelor’s degree in Peace and Conflict Resolution in the University of Kelaniya. He was an undergraduate of the first ever academic degree progamme on Peace and Conflict studies in Sri Lankan history. He had also played a role as a student leader during his university time in many student groups and clubs which were established to promote unity and social cohesion. Stepping into the career Harsh has started his journey in Center for PeaceBuilding and Reconciliation in 2007 which is one of the pioneering peace building organizations in Sri Lanka. Harsha is a member of a relatively small community of young peacebuilders in Sri Lanka who aimed to gain international exposure in academic and practical spheres of the peace building sector. 

Subsequently, he has joined to obtain a Master’s degree in International Law and Human Rights from the Sant’ Anna School of Advanced Studies in Italy. He has also undergone an internship in a local organization in Asylum seekers Island in Australia, researching on violations of convention of torture – article 14.  Returning to Sri Lanka afterwards, he has worked as a lecturer in Peace and Conflict Resolution in the same university where he obtained his Bachelor’s degree.

Moving on to a vast scope of academic knowledge on peace building, Harsha joined Asian Peacebuilding Scholarship (APS) as a peace building practitioner and an academic from Sri Lanka. He obtained the M.A. degree in Political Science-Global Politics at the Ateneo de Manila University (ADMU) and the M.A in International Peace Studies from University for Peace (UPEACE). 

Harsha’s 13-year journey with experience in and outside of Sri Lanka as a peace builder, researcher and a humanitarian worker, has become more outstanding with the experience he gained joining APS. He values the unique and priceless space that was created within APS academic environment to share best practices and lessons learnt of peace building contexts in the region of South East Asia with likeminded fellows across the region. Harsha also sees both UPEACE and ADMU experiences as places where he could expose to a vast level of diversity which disclosed cultural values and norms of approximately around 90 nationalities. He says being a member of APS is the best place to learn cultural diversity, to discuss and produce knowledge on numerous issues related to peace building and to gain a vast subject knowledge on peace building. Harsha remembers APS journey as one of the most significant and unprecedented memories of his life.

Harsha joined the United Nations Mission in South Sudan as a civil affairs officer after the APS avenue.  He is now engaged in supporting conflicting communities by providing solutions through community driven approaches such as mediation, negotiation and dialogue to promote social cohesion. Amid the massive level of health, economic and social issues in South Sudan, Harsha continues his mission to serve waring communities not only in Sri Lanka but also internationally. Joining APS had been a major milestone in Harsha’s journey where he became an academically sound professional to work in the international peace building arena.

Background of the APSAN

The potentiality of the talented pool of scholars who have participated in the programme was identified and APS alumni was formed to revitalize, unite and empower a strong and interactive network. Consequently, APS Alumni Secretariat was established, and the work carried out laid foundation for multiple results such as initiatives with social impact and events conducted by alumni, established country and cohort representation, implementing scholarly and development projects for building sustainable peace and addressing policy challenges in Asia.

Overall function and Structure of APS Alumni Network

Secretariat and workgroups:

The core role of the APS Alumni secretariat is ‘to mobilize the APS alumni body’ and ‘to facilitate and guide activities targeted at creating opportunities for, and connection between its members’.  The Secretariat will be governed by an Executive Council, who will work closely with a Board of Directors, and will have the following key functions:

  1. Manage Communication & Media Outreach
  2. Facilitate Alumni-led Initiatives & Career Development
  3. Management of Alumni Database & Events

The Executive Council of the Secretariat will consist of a Chair (Ms. Gayathri Gamage, APS Alumni Relations officer of the APS programme) and 3 Executive Council Members, who are alumni of the APS programme priority countries (Cambodia, Indonesia, Japan, Laos, Myanmar, Philippines, Sri Lanka, Thailand, and Vietnam) and an alumnus who represents all non-priority countries. The Executive Council’s role is to implement all activities of the APS Alumni Secretariat. Despite different kinds and levels of responsibilities of the Executive Council Members, there is no hierarchy between the Chair and other Members, which makes the Executive Council and the alumni network a more open, inclusive and creative body. Tenure of all EC members to serve in the Secretariat is two years, and nominations will be taken thereafter for renewal and new memberships. The secretariat members are self-nominated and the Board of Directors appoint the best-fitted representatives based on the nominees’ CV and motivation letter. Meet the secretariat members

Under the executive council, working groups are formed to carry out identified, specific activities. Each of above three sections include two alumnus (or more depending on the nature of the activity) who work on identified tasks. These working groups are not a part of secretariat but will work closely with the relevant executive council members in order to produce specific outputs. Depending on the nature of the activity, country representatives and cohort representatives sign-up for the working groups. The calls for sign-up is posted via alumni website, Facebook page, emails, where any alumni member sign up for task-based engagement. Tenure of work group members are aligned to the duration of the task, allowing the alumnus to engage with the network depending on their time of choice and interest of subjects.

The role of the Board of Directors is ‘to guide the Executive Council in its activities, providing systematic academic, legal, financial insight, based on their experience and the goals of the APS programme’.  The Board of Directors consist of representatives of the three partner organizations working on the APS programme (The Nippon Foundation, UPEACE and AdMU).