IRC works on Vietnam revisited
IRC stands for Information and Resource Center in Singapore was my first job as an interpreter in English and Vietnamese in my younger career. At the age of 30, I was still a newcomer to the ‘free’ world, full of opportunities but also challenges. My first job was full of excitement, especially for the honor of working with a good boss and a good organization such as IRC and living in a good country such as Singapore.
35 years later, at the threshold of my new retired life, many opportunities have brought me back to where I left at the height of my career as an interpreter, but this time, in a new role, as a teacher, serving the community of Vietnamese teachers worldwide through VNTU International.
As I believe that things never happen for no reason in life, I believe that the works of IRC on the Indochina region have been a stepping stone in my understanding of global issues that have affected and still do now to this region of the world. My contribution will be to share the achievements of IRC in the process of building a better Asia for the sustainability of the region.
The Information & Resource Center Pte Ltd (IRC) was initially set up as a Research, Advisory, and Consulting organization, designed to be a comprehensive and one-stop service to clients in the ASEAN community.
The target group was to serve companies who are looking at investing in the ASEAN region.
IRC Services include:
- Strategic & Risk Consulting:
- Public Affairs:
- Regulatory Affairs:
- Trade Policy & Compliance:
- Trade Association Management & Leadership:
- Corporate Social Responsibility:
- Human Security Impact Assessment Services:
- ASEAN Services
Among the many accomplished results, we can retain the most important ones:
The IRC has developed good relations with private and public sector companies, trade associations, academic institutions, policy experts, civil society, organizations, and the government throughout over three decades of existence. IRC portfolio includes many foundations and grant-giving institutions, such as:
- The Canadian International Development Agency
- The Smith Richardson Foundation of the US
- The Hanns Seidel Stiftung of Germany
- The Sasakawa Peace Foundation of Japan
- The Nippon Foundation of Japan
- UNESCO, amongst others
The IRC had an active publishing program of monographs and periodicals which focused on strategic and prospective issues in the Asia-Pacific region and which captured academic attention.
Training & Human Resource Development
IRC has carried out various training programs for the development of human resources in several countries in the region. These programs dealt with practical issues of skills development and professional upgrading as well as problems related to the environment, health protection, urbanization, and community development.
The training programs ranged from management seminars in Thailand for the parliamentary media corp and students of Thai universities to seminars on entrepreneurship in Vietnam.
The courses offered were varied and reflected the needs of the times.
IRC and Vietnam Program*
Since its founding, the IRC had always devoted a great deal of effort to Vietnam and undertaking research work on Indochina in general which had contributed to IRC’s credibility among academic and decision-making circles in the region.
The IRC also launched 2 subscription-based publications for its clients
- The Indochina Report which filled an important gap in the understanding of political, military, and economic issues in Cambodia, Laos, and Vietnam. This quarterly report was highly regarded in the international community as one of the most reliable field reports of trends and developments in the Indochinese countries.
- The Vietnam Commentary, a bi-monthly, provided valuable insights on contemporary political and economic developments in Vietnam.
From the middle and late 1990s onwards IRC expended a great deal of time and effort in the non-ASEAN states of Vietnam, Cambodia, Laos, and Myanmar.
In 1990 the IRC initiated a path-breaking concept in the continuing evolution of Southeast Asian regionalism – the Interaction for Progress: ASEAN-Vietnam Project. This project constituted a series of multiple activities including meetings, exchanges, and strategic dialogues. As a private entity, IRC had facilitated the very first engagement between ASEAN citizens and Vietnamese officials and opened the path to dialogue between two adversaries.
The first conference was held in August 1991 in Hanoi with the participation of decision-makers from Vietnam and ASEAN, which produced a decisive impact on the new thinking of the Vietnamese Communist Party leadership. At the request of the Vietnamese leadership, the symposium series was institutionalized as an annual event over the next 4 years. Three further large meetings were held in Kuala Lumpur, Bangkok, and Manila. An ASEAN-Vietnam Study Group was organized as part of the series.
The Vietnamese leadership had recognized that this ASEAN-Vietnam engagement did contribute to the subsequent formulation of Vietnam’s policy towards ASEAN and which culminated in Vietnam’s membership in ASEAN.
The results of this series are now available in English and Vietnamese under the title “One Southeast Asia: Shared Destiny, Shared Future”.
IRC and Myanmar Program*
Following this breakthrough with Vietnam IRC thereupon engaged Myanmar, Cambodia, and Laos to expand ASEAN membership.
The critical issue confronting these countries in the second half of the 1990s was how to develop, modernize and liberalize their economic and political system and to make them relevant and responsive without producing the kind of upheaval that was witnessed in the transition of the former socialist regimes of Eastern and Central Europe or neighboring countries. IRC’s primary objective then was to contribute to Myanmar’s reintegration into its natural global environment.
In 2003 the IRC, as part of its sustained dialogue process and going beyond ASEAN’s “constructive engagement”, convened a study group to make recommendations to the contending factions in Myanmar to transcend their differences to produce a Myanmar solution that was based on national reconciliation and concord.
The report, Quality of Partnership: Myanmar, ASEAN, and the World, with a Burmese translation was submitted to the Myanmar leaders, both government and non-government, and the ASEAN officials.
In cooperation with the government the IRC had also implemented several training workshops on skills and leadership development, and to enhance their understanding of ASEAN processes. Several large conferences in Myanmar were also organized.
A major project was “Training the Trainers of the Myanmar Civil Service”.
In 2006 the IRC implemented a three-year “Capacity Building of the Myanmar Civil Service” program with the Civil Service Selection and Training Board (CSSTB) of Myanmar.
The Board is the ministerial body in charge of the civil servants and is responsible for their training and deployment. The principal objective of the training project was to empower and upgrade the skills and knowledge of the trainers of civil service training institutions and to enhance the capacity of the training institutions of the CSSTB.
The program involved the 3 major training civil service institutions – the University for the Development of National Races of the Union, the Central Institute of Civil Service (Upper Myanmar), and the Central Institute of Civil Service (Phaunggyi). Each training program involved 30 trainers and lasted for a month.
The program instituted 4 components of institution and capacity building: to upgrade the skills and knowledge of the trainees, exposing the administrators of the training institutions to new ideas of training, building a team of persons who can prepare policy papers for the CSSTB and national leaders, preparing librarians of the civil service training institutions in the modern management of information systems.
The IRC also organized a one-week training workshop on research and report writing for civil servants was also carried out by experts in ASEAN in February 2006.
Leadership Development: BABA Retreats Program*
In 2006 the IRC was engaged by the Nippon Foundation of Japan to develop a leadership training program that would bring together a select group of young Asians from different cultural heritages to develop their leadership skills, exchange views, and encouraging the formation of new networks amongst them.
The program was called “Building a Better Asia: Young Leaders Retreat”, better known by its acronym BABA Retreat.
IRC’s partners included: Peking University in Beijing, China; The Nippon Foundation; Sasakawa Peace Foundation of Japan; the Tokyo Foundation; and The Ocean Policy Research Foundation of Japan.
An academic committee comprising scholars and experts from various Asian countries was formed to supervise this program. The ADS implemented the program.
Between September 2006 when the first retreat was hosted in Peking University and 2011, a total of 9 retreats were held in four different cultural environments –China (Peking), India (Goa and Orissa), Japan (Nara), and ASEAN (Thailand).
The participants from various Asian countries (between the ages of 28-40) spent a week interacting with one another and were given opportunities to meet well-known scholars, political, cultural, and business leaders. There were also out-of-classroom activities. The discussions were aimed at deepening the participants’ knowledge of a set of emerging issues in Asia and fostering the art of leadership in problem-solving.
A key objective was to deepen their knowledge and understanding of their Asian neighbors. In addition, group work to enhance long-lasting relationships among the participants was encouraged.
Action plan for ADS as a follow-up of IRC Initiatives
As of September 2021, IRC/ADS and VNTU have joined hands to form a new consortium for research, publications, and conferences to reach out to the global audience.
The role of Coordinator is now transferred to Dr. Anh Tho Andres, Gen. Sec. of VNTU and VP Operations of Vietnam Hoc Institute to carry on the works initiated by IRC.
A roundtable discussion on the Royal Initiative on Myanmar will be the first starting point of this internationalization process, supported by Prof. Dr. Stückelberger, UN Advisor on public affairs and global applied ethics, as well as many distinguished academia and policymakers from the ASEAN region and larger Asian Community who are part of the ADS Fellowship across many parts of Asia.
Updated by Dr. Anh Tho Andres, Coordinator of ADS/VNTU Global Forum (September 2021).