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THE RURAL CHALLENGES
This issue marks the beginning of the second year in which our TRENDNOVATION SOUTHEAST newsletter has been published. The newsletter is being circulated to audiences throughout the academic and practitioner international communities who share an interest in the future of Southeast Asian poverty reduction and development. We hope that the small contribution of these insights on the weak signal for change in our region will be another seed for thought for your research and activities.
This year, apart from our focal areas of interest on social and technology changes, and urbanization and development, we include “geopolitics and security” as a new dimension for our horizon scanning. It brings us a different set of multi-disciplinary tools and techniques for insight into the driving forces beyond that of the general public’s perceptions. It gives us a big picture on how politics at the local and global level impact all of humankind’s evolving affairs. It also plays a crucial role in poverty eradication in contemporary globalization, particularly on issues of health politics for the poor, green politics on resources and resilience, governance and urbanization, the social contract and justice, and regional non-traditional security, and so on. New info-graphic section highlights some regional foresight results.
A general perception on the “middle class” in this region has been evolving through arguments about “rich vs. poor”, “urbanization vs. migration”, and “westernization vs. nationalization”. UNESCAP indicates that the region has had great success in poverty eradication in the rural area since the start of the new millennium. In this issue, we raise questions on what will be a future of rural peoples in Southeast Asia, and how Southeast Asian villages will continue to be changed.
We begin our journey with an observation on the conventional socio-economic paradigm that categorizes villagers as technological laggards and poor. To the contrary, decades of techno-globalization have put this group of people on the front line on technological applications of the green revolution (agricultural biotechnology), as well as information and communication technology (ICT). In fact, they are rational practitioners and prime movers on the expansion of the technological life-cycle and extension for various general purpose technologies (GPT). With this combination, a new rural middle class has evolved as the new identity for cosmopolitan villager.
A scanning exercise in the second article brings us into the future of migration in Southeast Asia. More rural-urban migrants, more female migrants, and more temporary migrants will be the trend for the next decade. This rural middle class population will continue to expose themselves to a global village lifestyle, with an increasing level of rural-urban mobility.
Our geopolitics section focuses on the future of rural governance by illustrating that some groups of peasants have already mobilized their networks to be more proactive in community activities, claiming their rights through actions under decentralization of governance and democratization. They are potential local political entrepreneurs and social change agents. Beneficiaries of social reform and export-oriented policies are not only the urban middle class, but also the rural people. Some of them have shifted their destiny from the green fields into the concrete jungle, with lessons learned from city life and work, while decentralization has already created ‘new rural challenges’, both in positive and negative ways.