By Rashid Askari
The 7th ICSDAP (International Consortium for Social Development Asia-Pacific) Biennial Conference was held at Islamic University on 14-15 September 2019. First ever in Bangladesh, the conference was jointly organized by International Consortium for Social Development (ICSD) and the Department of Social Welfare, Islamic University, Kushtia, Bangladesh and was aided by Singapore University of Social Sciences and Thammasat University of Thailand. The inauguration ceremony at the Bir Srestha Hamidur Rahman Auditorium was graced with the presence, among others, of the President of the International Consortium for Social Development and professor of Social Work at Charles Stuart University, Australia, Thailand’s Thammasat University Development Studies Department assistant professor Jitti Mongkolnchaiarunya, the chairperson of ICSDAP and principal of Institute of Rural Reconstruction Visva-Bharati Sriniketan, Birbhum West Bengal, India, Asok Kumar Sarkar, the distinguished Bangladeshi social scientist and vice chancellor of Royal University of Dhaka Professor Dr. Profulla C. Sarker, Islamic University Social Work department chairperson and pro-vice chancellor of Islamic University Professor Dr. M. Shahinoor Rahman, Treasure of Islamic University Professor Dr. Md. Selim Toha, Conference Coordinator and Professor of English, Islamic University Professor Dr. Md. Mamunur Rahman and assistant professor of Islamic University Folklore department Dr. Mithun Mostafiz.
The main theme of the conference was ‘Social Unrest, Peace and Development’, three major areas of contemporary global attention. The sub themes include civil wars, refugees and social unrest; economic disparity and its implications for peace and development; population growth and social unrest; globalization, migration and challenges towards peace and development; gender inequality, violence, peace and development; disaster management and the ecology of peace and development; peace, education, social enterprise and sustainable development; social unrest, peace and political process; NGOs in conflict resolution, peace and development; the role of youth in unrest, peace building and local and national development; ethno-religiosity, social unrest, peace and development; ICT in conflict resolution, peace and development; the role of CSR in realizing SGDs and many other issues that cause social unrest and pose threat to peace and development. A very impressive line-up of speakers and think tanks from different countries of Asia, Europe and Australia addressed these cutting-edge issues, which are, at this moment in time, high on the agenda both regionally and globally. What it all boils down to after the 2-day conference is a new urgency to teamwork and partnership to overcome the problems of social unrest and to create an environment for peace and development. It has been proved imperative to devise a comprehensive strategic planning that may stem from this type of conference of considerable stature whereby firsthand research experience and theoretical knowledge regarding the issues from different regions of the world will have the opportunity to contribute to the building of a peaceful society. And, it’s only a peaceful society which can make great strides in quest of social progress and meaningful development in the truest sense of the term.
The birth of ICSDAP dates back to 2003-2004 in the 13th ICSD Symposium held in Mumbai, India, under the presidency of Prof. Shanti Khinduka and the branch development leadership of Prof. David Hollister in the wake of the establishment of ICSD’s European branch. The first ICSDAP conference was held in 2006 in the Faculty of Social Administration at Thammasat University, Thailand, and the main theme was ‘Globalization, Development and Human Security in the Asia Pacific Region’. The second conference was held in Kathmandu, Nepal, in 2008 with the main theme, ‘Social Development and Transition: Paths for Local and Global Partnership’. The third conference took place in Seoul National University in 2010 centering on the theme of ‘Vision for Social Development in the Globalized Asia: Commonality and Diversity’. The fourth ICSDAP conference was held in Indonesia in 2012 and the theme was ‘Envisioning New Social Development Strategies beyond Millennium Development Goals (MDGs)’. The department of Social work at Visva Bharati University, Sriniketan, West Bengal, India, organized the fifth ICSDAP conference in 2015 and the main theme was ‘Human Development and Sustainability: Challenges and Strategies for the Asian Country’. The sixth conference was held in the Department of Sociology, University of Peradeniya, Kandy, Sri Lanka in 2017 and the main theme was ‘Social Work-Social Development and Sustainable Development Goals’. And the Department of Social Welfare, Islamic University has gone down in history by organizing the 7th and the latest ICSDAP Biennial conference in Bangladesh.
During the 2-day conference Islamic University was buzzing with academics, intellectuals, social scientists, journalists and enthusiasts. Speakers from home and abroad expressed their opinions about myriad problems of Asia-Pacific region and the world as well and tried to find viable solutions. The Rohingya repatriation crisis was in the limelight. Technical and training sessions on curriculum development also took place. As a matter of fact, the conference gave an intriguing window into the way we can be in touch with a larger social working community in the Asia-Pacific region and beyond.
The conference also gave the recipe for development and peace. The participants agreed on the fact that increasing religious intolerance, the majority-minority complex and all other forms of reactive co-radicalization leading to militancy and fanaticism have become a constant threat to global peace and harmony. We must address ourselves to this crisis in right earnest and build a global community with a shared future for mankind. While “world politics is entering a new phase, and intellectuals have not hesitated to proliferate visions of what it will be – the end of history, the return of traditional rivalries between nation states, and the decline of the nation state from the conflicting pulls of tribalism and globalism” (Huntington 1996), we should make solid efforts to boost social communications with people across the globe. The American political scientist Samuel P. Huntington in his 1996 book The Clash of Civilizations and the Remaking of World Order hypothesizes that “the fundamental source of conflict in this new world will not be primarily ideological or primarily economic. The great divisions among humankind and the dominating source of conflict will be cultural…the principal conflicts of global politics will occur between nations and groups of different civilizations. The clash of civilizations will dominate global politics. The fault lines between civilizations will be the battle lines of the future.”
Huntington’s apprehension cannot be glossed over when we see the harrowing incidents of 9/11, the rise of Al-Qaeda, ISIL and the reactive co-radicalization called Islamophobia, the latest manifestation of which happened in Christchurch, New Zealand, in the name of ‘White Supremacy’. ICSDAP conference must act as a resistance to what Huntington is apprehensive of. Despite all setbacks in the process of global peace, it is not all doom and gloom for mankind if they can grow as good social workers and build a community with a shared future. Mutual tolerance and peaceful coexistence should be the foremost survival policy of the people living in a pluralistic society. The world is a melting pot of castes, creeds and religions. And hence, to exist is to coexist! One does not need to be crusader for the protection of their religion or ideology. There is no room for militancy in the civilized world.
In the new millennium, with the advent of a new era, mankind is on the brink of a new revolution called the Fourth Industrial Revolution (4IR). It has become very high on the global agenda and we must know what it really means and how we should respond to it individually, socially, economically, politically, nationally, regionally and globally. The first Industrial Revolution used steam, the second electricity to mechanize production and the third used electronics and information technology to automate the manufacturing processes. Now the Fourth Industrial Revolution is emerging from the 3rd in the wake of the digital revolution over the last few decades. It could be a fusion of technologies that combines the physical, digital and biological spheres. Compared with the previous ones, the Fourth Industrial Revolution is developing in geometric progression affecting almost every aspect of human life in the society. We have reached such a crossroads that may completely change the way we live, we work and we connect with each other. The fastest growing connectivity with unprecedented processing power, enormous storage capacity, unlimited access to information and emerging technology breakthroughs in fields of Artificial Intelligence (AI), Robotics, the Internet of Things (IoT), Autonomous Vehicles, 3-D Printing, Nanotechnology, and Quantum Computing are real mind-blowing experiences. We have yet to fully understand how we will deal with such a transformation humankind has never ever experienced before. However, one thing is for sure, the response to the Fourth Industrial Revolution must be very comprehensive and we need to develop a coordinated approach to it at home and abroad and hence we need to develop social work skills.
Dr. Rashid Askari is a writer, fictionist, columnist and the current vice chancellor of Islamic University, Kushtia, Bangladesh. Email: firstname.lastname@example.org
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