The Contested Corners of Asia: Subnational Conflict and International Development Assistance: A Report of The Asia Foundation

Thursday, February 27, 2014
12:00 PM - 1:30 PM
Richard and Rhoda Goldman Conference Room
  • Ben Oppenheim,
  • Nils Gilman,
  • Bruce Jones




Subnational conflict is the most widespread, enduring, and deadly form of conflict in Asia. Over the past 20 years (1992-2012), there have been 26 subnational conflicts in South and Southeast Asia, affecting half of the countries in this region. Concerned about foreign interference, national governments limit external access to conflict areas by journalists, diplomats, and personnel from international development agencies and non-governmental organizations. As a result, many subnational conflict areas are poorly understood by outsiders and easily overshadowed by larger geopolitical issues, bilateral relations, and national development challenges. The interactions between conflict, politics, and aid in subnational conflict areas are a critical blind spot for aid programs. This study was conducted to help improve how development agencies address subnational conflicts.


Speaker Bios:

Ben Oppenheim is a Fellow (non-resident) at the Center on International Cooperation at New York University. His research spans a diverse set of topics, including fragile states, transnational threats (including pandemic disease risks and terrorism), and the strategic coherence and effectiveness of international assistance in fragile and conflict-affected areas.

Oppenheim has consulted for organizations including the World Bank, the United Nations, the Asia Foundation, the Institute for the Future, and the Fritz Institute, on issues including organizational learning, strategy, program design, foresight, and facilitation. In 2009, he served as Advisor to the first global congress on disarmament, demobilization, and reintegration, supported by the World Bank and the UN.

In 2013, Oppenheim was a visiting fellow at the Uppsala University Forum on Democracy, Peace, and Justice. His research has been supported by a Simpson Fellowship, and a fellowship with the Institute on Global Conflict and Cooperation. He was also a research fellow with UC Berkeley's Institute of International Studies, affiliated with the New Era Foreign Policy Project.


Nils Gilman is the Executive Director of Social Science Matrix. He holds a B.A., M.A. and Ph.D. in History from the University of California, Berkeley. Gilman’s first scholarly interest was in American and European intellectual history, with a particular focus on the institutional development of the social sciences, the lateral transfer and translation of ideas across disciplinary boundaries, and the impact of social scientific ideas on politics and policy.

Gilman is the author of Mandarins of the Future: Modernization Theory in Cold War America (Johns Hopkins University Press, 2004), the co-editor of Staging Growth: Modernization, Development, and the Global Cold War (University of Massachusetts Press, 2003) and Deviant Globalization: Black Market Economy in the 21st Century (Continuum Press, 2011), as well as the founding Co-editor of Humanity: An International Journal of Human Rights, Humanitarianism, and Development. He also blogs and tweets.

Prior to joining Social Science Matrix in September 2013, Gilman was research director at Monitor 360, a San Francisco consultancy that addresses complex, cross-disciplinary global strategic challenges for governments, multinational businesses, and NGOs. He has also worked at a variety of enterprise software companies, including, BEA Systems, and Plumtree Software. Gilman has taught and lectured at a wide variety of venues, from the Harvard University, Columbia University, and National Defense University, to PopTech, the European Futurists Conference, and the Long Now Foundation.


Bruce Jones is a senior fellow and the director of the Project on International Order and Strategy in the Foreign Policy program at the Brookings Institution. He is also the director of the Center on International Cooperation at New York University.

Jones served as the senior external advisor for the World Bank’s 2011 World Development Report, Conflict, Security and Development, and in March 2010 was appointed by the United Nations secretary-general as a member of the senior advisory group to guide the Review of International Civilian Capacities. He is also consulting professor at the Center for International Security and Cooperation at Stanford University and professor (by courtesy) at New York University’s department of politics.

Jones holds a Ph.D. from the London School of Economics, and was Hamburg fellow in conflict prevention at Stanford University.

He is co-author with Carlos Pascual and Stephen Stedman of Power and Responsibility: Building International Order in an Era of Transnational Threats (Brookings Press, 2009); co-editor with Shepard Forman and Richard Gowan of Cooperating for Peace and Security (Cambridge University Press, 2009); and author of Peacemaking in Rwanda: The Dynamics of Failures(Lynne Reinner, 2001).

Jones served as senior advisor in the office of the secretary-general during the U.N. reform effort leading up to the World Summit 2005, and in the same period was acting secretary of the Secretary-General’s Policy Committee. In 2004-2005, he was deputy research director of the High-level Panel on Threats, Challenges and Change. From 2000-2002 he was special assistant to and acting chief of staff at the office of the U.N. special coordinator for the Middle East peace process.