KASYP Grand Alumni Meeting 2019

von Rey Padit, Derek Hum

Celebrating A Decade of Shaping Democratic Leaders in Asia

The first KASYP Grand Alumni Meeting was a celebration of the 10th year of KASYP as a training programme for young Asian politicians with the aim of building their capacities to strengthen responsiveness and accountability of political parties in the region. As a milestone for the programme, the event was a mixture of celebrating friendship, revitalizing shared values, revisiting its vision and mission, and re- and learning new ideas about democracy. The event was comprised of different activities starting with the launch of the alumni exhibit, followed by a series of panel discussions, then a workshop on revisiting the KASYP alumni raison d’etre, after which a teambuilding followed, and finally a gala dinner to cap the entire event.

Day one of the KASYP Grand Alumni Meeting kicked off with a palpable sense of warmth and family as people caught up with each other while perusing an exhibit of the 10th Year Anniversary Celebration and the KASYP award nominees. Dr. Hofmeister, founder of KASYP, unveiled the KASYP alumni magazine to great fanfare. He and Mr. Christian Echle, current director of KAS PDA, were the first to ink their signatures on the canvas.

The first day of our KASYP Grand Alumni Meeting also saw a main panel discussion followed by three parallel breakout sessions.

The first session on "The Future of Democracy in Asia in an Asian Century" was moderated by Mr. Christian Echle, Director of KAS PDA, while the keynote address was given by Dr. Wilhelm Hofmeister, founder of KASYP and Director of KAS (Spain and Portugal). They were joined by an esteemed panel of discussants including Dr. Maiko Ichihara, Associate Professor from the Hitotsubashi University, Dr. Dinesh Bhattarai, Former Foreign Affairs Adviser to the Prime Minister of Nepal, and Mr. Ravi Vellor, Associate Editor of The Straits Times. They discussed regional challenges to democracy such as the rise of China, populism, and digitalisation of politics, as well as the possibility of democracy with "Asian characteristics".

One of the breakout sessions continued on this theme, and was entitled "Democratic Leadership in Undemocratic Times". The discussion was moderated by Dr. Frederick Kliem, Visiting Fellow at RSIS and joined by Prof. Dr. Mario Voigt, MdL, Member of the Thuringen State Parliament, Germany, Dr. Bridget Welsh, Associate Professor of Political Science at the John Cabot University, and Ms. Nupur Sharma, Spokesperson for Bharatiya Janata Party, India as panel discussants. Their discussions focused on global threats to democracy and the rise of undemocratic forces like extreme right-wing ideologies, as well as what leaders can do to counter these issues and restore confidence in democracy.

Another breakout session looked at "Youth and Women Participation in Politics". Former KASYP Programme Manager, Ms. Dilpreet Kaur and now the Director of the GoalWeaver Private Ltd moderated the entire panel. She was joined by Ms. Braema Mathi, Former Nominated Member of Parliament of Singapore, Mr. Jehan Perera, Executive Director of the National Peace Council, Democratic Socialist Republic of Sri Lanka, and Hon. Elvina Sousa Carvalho, Elected Member of Parliament, Democratic Republic of Timor Leste as the panel discussants. The discussants spoke on the potential of greater involvement of youth and women in politics, the hurdles involved, and how such involvement can be facilitated through formal and informal mechanisms.

The last breakout session was "Inequality: The Greatest Threat to Democracy". This third panel was moderated by Dr. La Toya Waha, Senior Programme Manager of the Regional Programme Political Dialogue Asia at the Konrad Adenauer Stiftung. She was joined by Dr. Segundo Romero, Professorial Lecturer at the Ateneo de Manila University, Philippines, Dr. Sandeep Shastri, Pro Vice Chancellor of the Jain University, and Ms. Jargalan Batbayar, Vice-Chairwoman of the Democratic Women’s Wing of the Democratic Party in Mongolia as panel discussants. The session explored the possibility of rising inequality undermining democracies, and how democratic agents can address this if so.

On Day 2 of the KASYP Grand Alumni Meeting, participants engaged in a 'World Cafe' workshop to brainstorm about how democracy can be strengthened in their countries and how KASYP can play a bigger role in this. This workshop was also intended to revisit the raison d’etre of the KASYP alumni network. With different tables having different questions, participants of different batches and countries rotated among the tables in groups and wrote down their responses and discussions. Thereafter, these were presented to everyone. It was a time of lively discussion that yielded many useful ideas!

After the intense but productive workshop in the morning of Day 2, the participants were surprised with an amazing race around Penang, where they got to see local sights, taste local food, and experience local culture. It was an opportunity for the KASYP alumni, the KAS Team, and the special guests to celebrate friendship and shared values on democracy building. Even our director Mr. Christian Echle, our programme managers, and our guests took part alongside the alumni. It was tiring but fun!

The highlight of the second day and for the entire event was a gala dinner to celebrate a decade of shaping democratic leaders in Asia. The alumni were fortunate to meet and listen to YB Mr. Sim Tze Tzin, Deputy Minister for Agriculture and Agro-based Industry of Malaysia who delivered the keynote address on the ‘challenges and opportunities for young Asian political leaders in ensuring democratic progress in the region’. There were also country performances from Mongolia, Myanmar, and India to showcase the alumni diversity. During this dinner, the interim KASYP alumni steering committee was presented to the network. These interim officers will be responsible in initiating the formalization of the KASYP alumni network. They also surprised the KAS directors and staffs with a plaque of appreciation for all the efforts they have exerted in making KASYP and this jubilee celebration successful.

Finally, three KASYP awards were launched during the gala dinner. First award was the “The Most Popular KASYP Alumnus” which is a popular vote among the alumni and this was won by Mr. Astik Sinha from India. Second award was named as “The Most Impactful KASYP Project” which is an evaluation of the political projects implemented during the KASYP programme. This award was won by Atty. Lesley Jeanne Cordero from the Philippines. The third award was titled as “The Most Outstanding KASYP Alumnus” which recognizes the alumnus who is successful in his or her political career and this was won by YB Lee Chean Chung from Malaysia.

The first KASYP Grand Alumni Meeting was indeed a success. It was an event that showed how strong the relationship built among the alumni despite the differences in their political beliefs. More than the celebratory nature of the gathering, the event has facilitated in reinvigorating the values of tolerance and commitment to democratic values and principles among the alumni. The future of democracy in Asia rests on the hands of some of the alumni and it is an encouraging future for all of us.    


Rey Padit

Rey Padit bild

Programm-Manager Politische Kooperation +65 6603 6161