With security concerns rising on the Korean peninsula, the John D. and Catherine T. MacArthur Foundation announced today it is committing $68-million during the next seven years to promote peace and international cooperation among Asian nations.
The grant-making program, which has been in the works for at least two years and is not a response to recent events in North Korea, will focus on strengthening security alliances and work with multigovernmental organizations, reducing the possibility of conflict in northeast Asia, and helping countries deal with national problems, such as disasters and the loss of natural resources.
MacArthur, which has it headquarters in Chicago but operates in 60 nations, has worked in Asia for many years, but has focused its grant making in the region on reproductive health, human rights, and conservation.
“MacArthur has chosen Asia as a new pillar of our international peace and security work because we know that the world we seek — a world that is more just, humane, and peaceful — can only be achieved through the active cooperation of all Asia-Pacific societies,” Jonathan F. Fanton said in Singapore during a meeting of the think tanks and other groups participating in the effort.
MacArthur had previously focused its security grants on supporting weapons treaties between America and Russia and the development of nuclear-nonproliferation policies.
While weapons of mass destruction remain a major threat to the world, Mr. Fanton said the foundation shifted its focus because “in the 21st century — some say, the Asian century — policy debates about the rise and fall of great powers are held in the same high councils as discussions of resource scarcity and climate change. Ministers not only count warheads, they also measure carbon emissions.”
For its Asia Security Initiative, the grant maker has chosen three organizations to oversee it. They are the Peking University Center for International and Strategic Studies, in China; the East Asia Institute, in Korea; and S. Rajaratnam School of International Studies, in Singapore. In 2010, the foundation will start year-long academic fellowships for scholars, government officials, nonprofit leaders, and business people to examine the threats to peace in the region.
The foundation has also started a blog to promote discussion about Asian security and diplomacy.
The announcement comes as MacArthur is making a transition to a new president. In March, the foundation’s Board of Directors appointed Robert L. Gallucci, a former American diplomat and weapons inspector, to replace Mr. Fanton, who has served two five-year terms and under the organization’s policy is required to step down.