Tuesday, August 3, 2010

Education in UK: Sure Path to Success

Interview with Dr. Ridwan Zachrie (Delegate/Indonesia, Tokyo Summit 2008) by CampusAsia magazine for their June-August 2010 issue.

Take Kim to Court

by Jared Genser (Delegate/USA, KL Summit 2009)

Sinking the Cheonan was a war crime. There would be several advantages to prosecuting it as such.

This article appeared in The Wall Street Journal on June 3, 2010.

It was a quiet night aboard the South Korean naval warship Cheonan on March 26 as it patrolled the Yellow Sea south of the Northern Limit Line, the de facto boundary dividing North and South Korea. Suddenly a strong underwater explosion, later determined to have been the detonation of a North Korean homing torpedo, split the ship in two. Within five minutes, the ship had sunk, killing 46 of its crew and sparking a new threat of war on the Korean peninsula.

Since then, the international community has been scrambling to defuse tensions, coordinate a response, and understand why North Korean leader Kim Jong Il would launch this unprovoked attack. What has been missing in the assessment of options so far, however, is the prospect that Kim may have exposed himself for the first time to international justice. There is, I believe, a prima facie case for referring the sinking of the Cheonan to the International Criminal Court for investigation and prosecution of those who carried out and ordered the attack.

The crux of the crime itself is straightforward. One of the war crimes that can be prosecuted in the ICC is the crime of "killing . . . treacherously individuals belonging to the hostile nation or army." Merely conducting a sneak attack itself is not considered treachery under the laws of war, as surprise is often used in wartime. What was actually "treacherous" is that North Korea signed the 1953 armistice and committed unequivocally to "order and enforce a complete cessation of hostilities."

In this case, North Korea invited the confidence of South Korea that the armistice was in force—despite the occasional minor skirmish here and there over the years—which led the South Korean navy to not be patrolling on high alert. That confidence was intentionally betrayed to sink the vessel and kill its crew. The laws of war make very clear that while an armistice merely suspends active fighting and can indeed be broken, notice must be provided to the other side first.

With regard to jurisdiction, the incident took place in South Korean territorial waters and against a South Korean ship. Either of these facts alone–given that North Korea would dispute the first point—gives the court jurisdiction to hear a complaint because South Korea is a party to the Rome Statute establishing the Court.

All that is required at this point to trigger an investigation would be for a party to the Rome Statute to refer the situation to the prosecutor for investigation. Beyond South Korea, that could include any of more than 100 countries around the world. Alternatively, the Court's creative and relentless prosecutor, Argentine lawyer Luis Moreno Ocampo, could decide to take up the situation on his own.

That said, this would not necessarily be an easy course to follow. Even if the situation is taken up by the prosecutor, to indict anyone responsible for the sinking of the Cheonan would require substantial evidence. While the report on the sinking says the evidence for North Korean culpability is conclusive, the court only prosecutes individuals and not countries. Thus, further intelligence to determine who is actually responsible and following those orders up the chain of command would be required.

Then there's the time factor. All the court's investigations up to now have taken years to complete. And even if one could ultimately procure the evidence to issue an arrest warrant for Kim, it would be highly unlikely that he could be easily apprehended, given his limited travel outside North Korea.

Yet despite all the obstacles, this remains a desirable course to pursue for several reasons. Beginning such an investigation could mark a critical rhetorical turning point in labeling Kim as an international criminal, rather than merely as a dictator. Such a label is past due. While global focus on North Korea in recent years has been primarily on its nuclear weapons program, the daily reality for the people of the country is appalling. Starvation is widespread and the Kim regime maintains a vast gulag system holding some 200,000 political prisoners.

Beyond the sinking of the Cheonan, there is little doubt that Kim is also guilty of committing crimes against humanity against his own people. Any measure that focuses attention on this aspect of his character would be a needed reality check on the tendency to treat him merely as a strong-willed, if unpredictable and cunning, dictator to be negotiated with by the international community.

Kim is ailing and may well die of natural causes in the next few years before facing any sort of justice. But given the profound suffering of the North Korean people and his recent actions against South Korea, triggering an investigation before the International Criminal Court could drive a wedge between Kim and any elements of his government that care about the damage his conduct has caused the country and its people. If this hastens his demise even a little, that can only benefit the North Korean people and the world.

Mr. Genser is an international lawyer in Washington, D.C. who has previously taught at the University of Michigan and University of Pennsylvania law schools.

Michael Jackson and science

by Aditya Mittal (Delegate/India, Seoul Summit 2006)

In an impassioned obituary, biological scientist Aditya Mittal tells us how the phenomenal singer's music moulded his science and scientific temperament.

I grew up in the city of New Delhi in India in the environs of the North campus of Delhi University. The music of Michael Jackson was a core part of my childhood and an inseparable part of my teenage. So much so, that while earning a diploma in Indian classical music during my teenage years, I could not allow myself to miss owning the latest song or even video release of Michael Jackson. Even with a financially humble background, the value of Michael Jackson's music in solving problems in my mathematics course was recognized by my mother, herself a senior teacher of mathematics. I was the proud owner of every single video cassette of MJ that came to the Indian market.

His music provided the rhythm to my problem solving and played a key role in my merit certificates in the National Mathematics Olympiads. Then MJ came to India in 1996. I was a proud owner of a concert ticket, seated in very close proximity to the stage, to the right of my music God. I still remember losing my voice for four days after the concert because of all the "singing" that I tried to do with him. His one handed hanging act on a ramp that extended right over my head during the performance of the Earth Song still holds the true meaning in my life for 'looking up'. I still have my head band from that concert and the concert ticket laminated with me.

After completing my high school and college, still with MJ as a core part of my life, I went to the US of A for my graduate studies. There I made American friends; my age group, some a little older to me too, but all from a generation for whom MJ had the same value in their life. I remember discussing membrane biophysics, ecology, turtles, mating rituals of bees over rounds of beers and whiskey with these friends while playing pool in different pool halls of Philadelphia.

I also remember several overnight discussions in one of the Irish pubs in the neighborhood on multi-parameter fitting of kinetic data on membrane fusion. I remember MJ's music being an important common ingredient in all those discussions. Here I was with people who had become very close to me, who had grown up in a totally different part of the world than I had, but who shared MJ in their roots as much as I.

Then I went to the NIH for my post-doc. It was in a 'Russian' group. Within a couple of months our group became well known in the 11th floor of building number 10 for having one of the most fun atmospheres in the lab. We used to play MJ on high decibel levels while working on our viruses and fibroblasts. Even HeLa, Jurkat and NIH3T3 fibroblasts seem to respond to the music of MJ. Our annual laboratory retreats, weekend getaways to discuss our science in form of posters on glass windows dropping straight down into a river valley, were heavily fueled by the music of MJ and our attempts with the white glove and the moon walk on the carpeted floors. Again, these were my friends who had grown up in yet another part of the world with MJ in the roots of their upbringing.

Science has a very close relation with music. Music has indeed been an integral part of, at least, my thought process during my science. And for my generation of scientists, the music of MJ has been one of the foundation pillars. Even today the passion invoked by 'Dirty Diana', or the accompanying of failed experiments with 'Stranger in Moscow', or the tears that can be brought out by the 'Earth Song' or just the jamming with 'Beat it', 'Jam', 'Keep it in the closet' – the list can go on, form the core of my identity as a scientist. The music in a way reflects my own relationship with science.

Today, I woke up to hear that MJ's gone. I immediately called my American friends from grad school. They had also been thinking about me while feeling the loss of MJ and, of words. It has been hours since I heard the news; there is an emptiness. However, MJ's music is still with us. He was a phenomenon of nature. And we do not even need to worry about his music mutating for any number of years like we have to worry about HeLa cells. His music will live with us. And it will keep pushing our science.

The author is an associate professor in the School of Biological Sciences at Indian Institute of Technology, Delhi.

PROJECT SIGNET: Morality marching with capacity

by Jeremy Lim (Delegate/Singapore, Seoul Summit 2006; Singapore Summit 2007)

SIGNET is to the best of my knowledge the first of its kind, a philanthropically funded healthcare leadership and management program to nurture and support healthcare leaders in North India wanting to make a difference. I have been privileged to be involved since its inception and after 4 visits to India and countless meetings and tele-conferences, perhaps it is time to take stock and reflect on some observations.

SIGNET started after a serendipitous meeting between Prof Lazaer Mathew and Dr Joseph Mathew and I in Montreal in June 2008. A spirited discussion on what ails healthcare in developing countries led us to the conclusion that while resources were scarce in developing countries, an equally pressing concern was the often poor utilization of these resources. Decision-making by healthcare leaders and hospital managers was identified as a key weakness that could be ameliorated, and with the generous funding of the Temasek Foundation, SIGNET was born.

SIGNET aims to provide clinicians and managers making healthcare resource decisions with the skills to move from ‘ego to evidence’ as Prof Raj Bahadur, the Director Principal of Government Medical College Hospital Sector 32 and advisor to SIGNET, succinctly puts it. Healthcare resource decisions are often based on superficial understanding of the medical literature, personal biases, professional pride and commercial influences, but they should be based instead on the paradigm of population needs and best practices derived from the scientific literature and contextualized to local circumstances. Our framework is based on asking three simple and yet profound questions: ‘Does it work?’, ‘Does it work here?’ and ‘Is it worth it?’. ‘It’ being any healthcare intervention, be it vaccination, a new drug, a clinic workflow or a community outreach program.

We started with the notion of a typical ‘training of trainers’ format but quickly learnt that this would be insufficient. Our program now starts with a half-day workshop with senior hospital leaders to create awareness of the science of decision-making and evidence-informed management. After garnering support from the leadership, we then begin in-depth learning with middle managers and clinicians about the tools which include health technology assessment, health economics, process improvement and managing innovation. Another lesson we learnt along the way was the need to anchor the learning in specific innovation projects. The rationale was two-fold: firstly to provide a vehicle to put the classroom theory into practice and secondly and more importantly, to enable visibility of the fruits of such innovation to the larger hospital community. I say more importantly because our efforts are not to train a cadre of skilled managers, but to seed changes in mindset and practices of the hospital. In an environment so steeped in conservatism and filled with highly skilled, highly intelligent and opinionated professionals as healthcare is, early successes are vital to encourage the innovators and to win the support of peers.

The workshops include a training stint in Singapore also, and whilst costly, are absolutely integral to the program. Much of the expertise relevant to our innovators is found in Singapore hospitals and the exposure to a totally different environment with different cultural norms and practices has been invaluable in igniting the sparks of creativity.

A third differentiator has been the strong support of our partners Duke-NUS Graduate Medical School (GMS). GMS has played a pivotal role in developing pedagogical expertise and by sharing so freely their expertise and insights in medical education, they have equipped our participants with the necessary wherewithal to impart effectively their new-found skills.

What have I learnt? Firstly, there is a certain ‘universality’ to healthcare and many challenges faced by our brethren in Chandigarh and Delhi are the same ones we struggle with. Secondly, to teach is truly to learn twice and whilst the program is purportedly a capacity building one to benefit India, we Singaporeans have also been much enriched by our experiences in India and we bring these lessons into our stewardship of the Singapore system. Thirdly, “Morality must march with capacity” was James Grant’s rallying call as he led UNICEF through its ambitious vaccination and diarrheal disease programs in the 1980s and for us in Singapore, who have been privileged with probably one of the best healthcare systems in the world, the opportunity to play our part and contribute internationally should be seized.

SIGNET is an acronym for Singapore India Group Network for Empowerment Training and focuses on building healthcare leadership in North Indian hospitals including Post Graduate Institute for Medical Education and Research (PGI), Government Medical College Hospital Sector 32, Chandigarh and Catholic Health Association of India (CHAI) hospitals such as Holy Family, Delhi. It comprises the following components:

1. Awareness creation workshop for hospital leaders
2. Healthcare Managers’ Leadership Program (In India and Singapore)
3. 1 year long facilitated innovation project
4. Training of peers in evidence-informed healthcare decision-making

Jeremy Lim, Project Director (Singapore) for SIGNET, is Senior Consultant in the Ministry of Health, Singapore while on secondment from Singapore Health Services.

Friday, April 30, 2010

FXB Center Initiative: South – South Conference on Children in Post-earthquake Haiti

Satchit Balsari (Fellow/India, Class of 2010) writes to request members of the network for input on a project he's currently working on with Harvard's FXB Center for Health and Human Rights and UNICEF.

The earthquake in Haiti has left the country in a dire situation from which it will undoubtedly require years to recover and rebuild. Reports estimate 250,000 people dead, 300,000 injured and 1,000,000 homeless. In relation to Haiti’s children, tens of thousands have experienced heightened levels of insecurity including separation and loss, abuse and exploitation, interruptions in education, food insecurity, and profound levels of psychosocial distress. Moreover, the damage the earthquake left behind to both buildings and infrastructure presents the Haitian Government with a formidable challenge to address.

Haiti’s leaders are of the view that the post-earthquake experiences of other countries would be helpful in informing the planning and strategy of Haiti’s rebuilding and reconstruction. Linked by commonalities in the challenges they face, countries from the “global south” can share their learned experience to help build upon previous successes and avoid previous mistakes. Policymakers and stakeholders from other earthquake affected areas have important stories to share and lessons to convey, so that the “building back better” of Haiti could be undertaken in the context of what has worked best elsewhere.

To support the re-building efforts of the Haitian authorities and to promote the potential of shared knowledge from other countries, the FXB Center plans to facilitate a three day, South-South Conference that could enable translation of the best practices in post-disaster recovery from the “Global South,” with a specific focus on responses to the needs of children. The Conference will address those issues that Haitians identify as the most central and problematic in their reconstruction. The participants will be from countries that have experienced a significant earthquake in the last 10 years, including possible representation from Pakistan, Algeria, China, Iran, Turkey, Afghanistan, Indonesia, as well as Chile. Invitees will be selected by a conference steering committee of Haitian officials, UNICEF and FXB leadership. International organizations, such as WHO and PAHO, will also be invited. The conference would take place in June or July of 2010 at a location still to be determined.

The conference will aim to have immediate and practical application. Its focus on best practices will highlight the efforts that have been working in Haiti, as well as identify additional strategies that might help meet complex ongoing challenges. The conference will serve as the launch of a longer-term action undertaken by the Haitian authorities in collaboration with the UN and non governmental stakeholders to create an agenda for mapping need and measuring the interventions that are taking place.

In terms of addressing the needs of children post-disaster, conference participants will explore the vital components in protecting children, which necessarily include human security issues facing their families and communities. The conference will discuss different approaches and models to be used in ensuring protection, shelter, and care for orphans and vulnerable children. Participants will also investigate how livelihood protection and sustainability, women’s access to personal and financial security and access to land have fitted in with child protection programs in other earthquake settings. The conference will also examine best practices in dealing with child rights, legal identity, registration and tracing.

Among Pilgrims

by Stefan Kratz (Delegate/USA, Tokyo Summit 2008)

The Greening of the Food Service Industry

Pat Gallardo (Fellow/Philippines, Class of 2008) was featured in the Inspiration Profile section of F&B World's March-April 2010 issue.