People for Peat Regional Symposium 2021: Series 1

I am pleased to have been invited to speak in the first PFP Regional Symposium on “Peatlands: Why are they important?”. My talk was titled “Peat & Haze: Why haen’t we solved this?” and I spoke on the link between peatland governance and transboundary haze. The other speakers were extremely renowned peat scientists, Dr Salmah Zakaria (Akademi Sains Malaysia), Prof Sue Page (Leicester), and Prof Hans Joosten (Greifswald Mire Centre). You can view a recording of the event here.

Lectures in University of Puget Sound & University of Willamette

I was invited to deliver the keynote speech at the 2019 Southeast Asia Symposium at the University of Puget Sound in Tacoma, Washington state, sponsored by the Luce Initiative on Asian Studies and the Environment. The symposium also featured student reports from field schools in Thailand, as well as a batik workshop and staff lectures. Held during homecoming weekend, the event was well attended by not just students but also by parents and alumni. My kind hosts were Prof Sunil Kukreja and Prof Gareth Barkin from the Department of Sociology and Anthropology.

During the same trip, I also had the opportunity to visit and speak at the University Willamette in Salem, Oregon. Here, Prof Greg Felker from the Department of International Studies kindly organised a slot for my public lecture on “The Political Future of Fires and Haze in Southeast Asia”.

Both lectures were an excellent opportunity for me to share about the air pollution problem in this region with those from North America. During the Q&A and side conversations, I found interesting parallels with the Pacific Northwest’s regional forest fires as well that could influence future research directions.

 

Opening Speaker: Women’s Empowerment Summit

Women’s Empowerment Summit 2019 National English Camp is organised by Fullbright Teaching Assistants to provide a space for 100 female students from around Malaysia to connect and learn about women’s empowerment.

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I was honoured to be able to deliver the opening speech for the camp on 26 September 2019 at the Brickfields Asia Campus. I spoke about my own experiences navigating gender issues in both the home and workplace, and finding a good work-life balance.

Keynote Speech at NACOSS IV, USIM

I was among two scholars invited to deliver Keynote Speeches at the National Conference on Humanities and Social Sciences IV held on 17 April 2019 at Universiti Sains Islam Malaysia, Nilai, Negeri Sembilan. My speech was an update on a continuing area of my research, on the concept of transboundary haze as a crime against humanity.

Associate Professor Dr Moniza Waheed also delivered a keynote on political communication and diplomacy.

UNMC Mindset Public Talk & Astro AWANI Let’s Talk with Sharaad Kuttan

The University of Nottingham Malaysia Campus kindly invited me to moderate a MINDSET public talk on the topic of “Haze-Free ASEAN 2020?: National and Local Strategies and Challenges in Managing Fires and Haze in Indonesia”. The panelists were two of my friends and colleagues, Dr Rini Astuti, a research fellow at the Asia Research Institute, National University of Singapore, and Mr. Alfajri, lecturer at the Department of International Relations, Universitas Abdurrab, Riau.

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The event was also picked up by the Astro AWANI sattelite TV channel, who invited us to continue to discussion on their late night English talk show, “Let’s Talk with Sharaad Kuttan”. The episode, entitled “Haze: More Than The Air We Breathe” was aired at 10pm pm 1 February 2019. The entire clip can be viewed here.

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Keynote Speech @ ATBC 2018, Kuching

I was recently invited to give one of the keynote speeches for the 55th Annual Meeting of the Association for Tropical Biology and Conservation (ATBC) held in Pullman Hotel, Kuching, Sarawak. My speech was entitled “The Political Future of Haze and Peatlands in Southeast Asia”. The abstract is reproduced below:

The Southeast Asian nations, especially Indonesia, Malaysia and Singapore, have been suffering from almost annual episodes of haze pollution for decades now. Smoke from peat and forest fires, mostly in Indonesia, travel across boundaries, resulting in transboundary haze. Haze is not only a physical problem linked to fire, but also a complex political one. Many fires have been traced to land clearance activities of agribusiness concessionaries in Indonesia, who are not only local but often also Malaysian and Singaporean. Demand for land have encouraged the opening up of ecologically-important and fire-prone peatlands, which are largely protected by law but often licensed out to politically well-connected businesses. Efforts by the Association of Southeast Asian Nations (ASEAN) to encourage cooperation to mitigate haze have been unsuccessful due to national interests and weak institutions. Is the future of Southeast Asia destined to be hazy? This talk will focus on recent developments to consider if the combined physical and political complexities of this transboundary problem can ever be reconciled.

 

Visit from University of Puget Sound, Washington State

On 11 January 2018, the Department of International and Strategic Studies received a visit from about 30 students and accompanying lecturers from the University of Puget Sound in Washington State, USA.  The group was visiting Malaysia as part of their 9-month field-trip around Asia.

As part of their field trip, the group was seeking to understand major social issues facing the societies where they visited, through engagement with local academics and also the community. For the Malaysian leg of the visit, topics of interest included Muslim feminism and the use of the headscarf in Malaysian and Malay society. As a Malaysian Muslim woman, I was invited to share with the group my personal views on both of these topics.

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UNESCO Forum of ASEAN National Bioethics Committees on Haze, 6-7 December 2017

I was recently invited to participate in a UNESCO Forum searching for transboundary haze solutions from a bioethical and sustainability science perspectives. This forum was a continuation from the National Bioethics Committee meetings held in respective countries beforehand (see here). The forum was held at Le Meridien Jakarta and had an impressive mix of participants, not only from academia, NGO and government sectors, but also many from community leaders and farmers directly involved and affected by practices on the ground.

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Public Lecture in conjunction with Study Visit from Universitas Abdurrab, Riau, 29 November 2017

The Faculty of Arts and Social Sciences, University of Malaya received a delegation of 8 academic staff and 28 students from Universitas Abdurrab, a private university in Riau, Indonesia, on 29 December 2017. The delegation was headed by Dr. M. Saeri, Deputy Rector for Academic and Alumni Affairs. The students were from the Faculty of Social and Political Sciences, majoring in international relations, communications and government.

 

As part of the study visit, a Public Lecture on the theme of Trasboundary Haze Governance was organized. I gave a presentation based on my book, “The Haze Problem in Southeast Asia: Palm Oil and Patronage” and Pak Alfajri, MIA, the Dean of the Faculty of Social and Political Sciences, Universitas Abdurrab, who is also interested in this topic, gave his own views on the subject with a presentation on “Riau Government Policies to Realize the ASEAN Agreement on Transboundary Haze Pollution Goals (2015-2016)”. Students in attendance engaged in an interesting discussion with the speakers after the presentation, before concluding their visit with a campus tour.

Environment Panel, US-ASEAN Conference on Legal Issues of Regional Importance 2017

The 2017 US-ASEAN Conference on Legal Issues of Regional Importance was held at Marina Mandarin, Singapore on 8-9 May. It was organised by the US Embassy in Singapore, The Asia Foundation and the S. Rajaratnam School of International Studies. I was invited to participate in the conference and speak on the Environment Panel about the Transboundary Haze as a case study of a regionally important legal issue.

The panel was led by Professor Koh Kheng Lian, Honorary Director of the Asia-Pacific Centre for Environmental Law, Singapore. Prof Koh gave an extensive overview of the legal structure for environmental governance in ASEAN. The other panelist was Dr Jay Batongbacal, Director of the Institute for Maritime Affairs and the Law of the Sea, the Philippines. He spoke on the governance of maritime environmental issues, particularly focusing on illegal fishing and maritime sustainability in the region. It was an honour speaking on such an esteemed panel and being able to take part in an important academic discussion on the future of our region.