Group Activities

Women Economic Empowerment in the Asia-Pacific, October 29, 2018


Urban Resilience Asia Pacific (URAP) conference

Academics from the Gender, Development and Human Securities Group as part of Social Sciences Research group will participate in the URAP (Urban Resilience Asia Pacific) conference at UNSW Sydney.  This website contains the framing paper for further discussions along with an overview of our panel.

URAP Panel  

Title: Climate Security and Community Resilience: Debating Institutional Innovation from the Grassroots (Structured Discussion)

Organisers: Dr M Sakai, Dr P. Yeophantong, Dr R. Nurdin (HASS, UNSW Canberra)

People and organisations involved:
  1. Dr Minako Sakai (HASS)
  2. Dr Pichamon Yeophantong (HASS)
  3. Dr Riza Nurdin (HASS)
  4. Juel Rana Kutub (HASS)
  5. Bhirawa Anoraga (PhD student, HASS)
  6. Prof. Heather Worth (UNSW Sydney)
  7. Prof Anthony Zwi (UNSW Sydney)
  8. Dr Kim Spurway (UNSW Sydney)
  9. A/Prof Krishna Shrestha (UNSW Sydney)
NGOs involved:
  • NGOs active in disaster recovery


Which theme(s) you are addressing: innovation and/or institutions

The Asia-Pacific region is one of the most prone to natural disasters in the world. This vulnerability is expected to increase, compounded by the effects of climate change. This panel-cum-structured discussion will explore how climate insecurity impacts community resilience, as well as the capacity of both formal and informal institutions to respond in innovative ways to this exigent challenge. Bringing together an expert group of academics and practitioners, the discussion will focus particularly on the question of how institutional innovations can emerge from the grassroots. 

Panel organization and time-keeping:

A Framing Brief will be made available via the UNSW Canberra HASS website, and a related set of questions circulated prior to the event, in order to structure the discussion. A chair will be appointed to moderate and keep time, so as to ensure that the discussion is focused, encompasses a range of voices and viewpoints, and proceeds in a timely manner.

The event will feature participants possessing diverse experiences working with NGOs, international organizations and government agencies. The discussion’s organization will also reflect this: to maximize dialogue and knowledge transfer opportunities, smaller groups will be created and tasked with exploring a subset of questions pertaining to climate security and community resilience, before coming back together as a bigger group to analyze discussion findings and outcomes. 

Framing Brief (by Minako Sakai and Pichamon Yeophantong)

Climate Security and Community Resilience: Debating Institutional Innovation from the Grassroots

The Asia-Pacific region is one of the most disaster-prone in the world. This vulnerability is only expected to increase in the coming years, compounded by the effects of human-induced climate change. This URAP structured discussion will explore how climate insecurity impacts community resilience, as well as the capacity of both formal and informal institutions to respond in innovative ways to this exigent challenge. In light of the international policy community’s focus on promoting and enhancing local resilience and adaptation to climate change and other forms of environmental insecurity, this has prompted heated debates on what resilience and adaptation means in actual practice, and how effective governance at the community level can take place alongside traditional governing structures. Especially in developing parts of the Asia-Pacific region—where the role of the state remains paramount in the delivery of public services and, yet, non-state actors are often enlisted to address a range of governance challenges—this raises the spectre of policy dissonance and institutional conflict between (informal) grassroots mechanisms and established (formal) institutions.

Bringing together an expert group of academics and practitioners, this World Café Discussion will focus on distilling lessons and cases from the Asia-Pacific region, and more specifically, on addressing the question of how institutional innovation can emerge from the grassroots. To maximize dialogue and knowledge transfer opportunities, participants will be divided into smaller groups, tasked with exploring a subset of questions pertaining to the overarching theme. The groups will then come back together to reflect on discussion findings and outcomes. 

The guiding questions for the small group discussions are listed below.

This panel will take a World Cafe Format for discussions.

Questions for Discussions

On governance:

  1. What does ‘bottom-up governance’ look like? How effective is it in enhancing community resilience to natural disasters and other forms of climate-related insecurity?
  2. How effectively are government institutions responding to calls for community resilience? What are some examples of success or failure?
  3. To what extent do grassroots strategies or innovation conflict with the policies of formal institutions?
  4. To what extent do governments accommodate and encourage bottom-up innovation? What more could and/or should be done? 

On community resilience:

  1. How should we understand/define ‘community resilience’?
  2. What role is there for indigenous knowledge in building community resilience?
  3. How do we ensure that the most vulnerable are protected and included in post-disaster recovery and reconstruction?
  4. What are some examples of successful and/or failed initiatives at building community resilience? Why did they succeed or fail?

On NGOs and mediatory institutions:

  1. What role should NGOs and other non-state actors such as the private sector play in enhancing community resilience as well as in policymaking?
  2. How can NGOs mediate between grassroots and official strategies?
  3. What other mediatory institutions are playing—or can play—a key role in building climate resilience and adaptation at the community level?



Aldrich, D.P. (et al) 2014. Resilience and Recovery in Asian Disasters: Community Ties, Market Mechanisms, and Governance. Springer.

Giles, D.W. (et al) 2016. Natural Disaster Management in the Asia-Pacific. Springer.

James, H. and Paton, D. 2015. The Consequences of Disasters: Demographic, Planning, and Policy Implications. Charles C Thomas Publisher.

Nurdin, M.R. 2018. Religion and Social Capital: Civil Society Organisations in Disaster Recovery in Indonesia. PhD Thesis, School of Humanities and Social Sciences, The University of New South Wales, Australia. Available:

Sakai, M, Jurriens, E. Zhang J. and Thornton, A, 2014. Disaster Relief in the Asia Pacific, Routledge.


HASS Successfully Hosted a Workshop on Women’s Empowerment in Patriarchal Societies


A workshop aiming to support women’s empowerment in patriarchal societies was held at UNSW Canberra on the 20th June 2018. This workshop was the first of the coming Social Sciences Research Group workshops at HASS. It  was organised by Dr Minako Sakai (Director of Social Sciences Research Group)  School of Humanities and Social Sciences (HASS), UNSW Canberra,  in partnership with Associate Professor Jan Breckenridge, Chair of the Gendered Violence Research Network) and the Faculty of Arts and Social Sciences (FASS), UNSW Sydney.  UNSW experts including Professor Anthony Burke (HASS), Dr Felix Tan (Business), Professor Louise Edwards (FASS), and Professor Anthony Zwi (FASS) attended as speakers and discussants, alongside practitioners in gender issue, represented by Australian Council for International Development (ACFID) and Care Australia.  Three research students from Southeast Asian Social Inquiry at HASS also participated in the workshops.

The workshop involved a series of insightful presentations delivered by the practitioners and scholars on the topic of women’s empowerment and its implications on gender relations and gendered violence. For instance, from practitioners’ side, Care Australia provided a report on their work in supporting rural women’s participation in coffee business in Papua New Guinea. From academic side, Dr Sakai delivered her study on how Muslim women can be successful in business amidst the patriarchal society of Indonesia. According to Dr Sakai, the exchange of knowledge between scholars and practitioners is intended to facilitate knowledge exchange on the issue of gender equality and women’s empowerment, one of the pressing issues highlighted by the UN’s Sustainable Development Goals.  This cross-faculty research workshop aimed at fostering research excellence and building long-term broader collaborations titled Gender, Human Security, Social and Technological Development @UNSW among UNSW academics, practitioners and policy makers in bringing more gender equality in patriarchal societies.


DrSakai and A. Prof Breckenridge Opened the Workshop on Women's Empowerment at HASS, UNSW Canberra


Presentations and Discussions by Scholars and Practitioners


Prof Anthony Burke, Associate Head of Research, HASS UNSW Canberra, gave a token of Appreciation to Care Australia