E-alert Interviews No.002 Anticipating Problems:
Effective Environmental Policies and Institutions for Economic
Integration in Asia
Dr. Moustapha Kamal
Policy Researcher, Long-term Perspective and Policy Integration
Dr. Kamal has Ph.D.
and MA in International Cooperation Studies from Nagoya University,
Japan and a DEA and LLM from Dakar University. He joined IGES
in April 2001. His current research areas are financing for
renewable energy development, policy integration on trade
and environment, and public interest action and representative
action in environmental litigation. Prior to joining IGES,
he worked with FAO and UNCTAD.
--- You have a wide and very
good mixture of expertise on financing, energy, trade, etc.
What originally led you to become a researcher?
There were two reasons really - I wanted
to do so, but it was also accidental. I understand your question
to mean not only an 'environmental' researcher, as I have
been doing research in other areas. I have an interest in
learning, and defining approaches to finding solutions to
problems. Science, or rather knowledge, is the starting point
for making decisions. That's the role of research for me -
to generate knowledge so society can make informed decisions.
The other reason was simply accidental. I happened to be studying,
and I kept studying, and then next thing I realised I had
a PhD and I was a researcher!
---- --- Many people may be curious
to know why and how you, who are from Senegal, are working
on research focusing on the Asia-Pacific region. What brought
you to Japan originally?
It has to do with what I was doing before
I came to Japan. I was at law school, where I was studying
International Economic Law (which deals with the legal systems
of the international monetary and trading systems), but when
I came to write my Masters thesis, that was at the time of
the Liberian civil war in December 1989. That was a development
that struck me, and I decided I would look at international
law, not just from an economic perspective, but other dimensions
such as peacekeeping mechanisms. I decided to write my Masters
thesis on peacekeeping in Liberia, and the role of ECOWAS,
the Economic Community of West African States.
After looking at the question of political
stability within the overall context of development, I came
to realise that growth was a very important thing, because
in comparing Liberia to my home country of Senegal, I saw
that although Senegal had good political stability in contrast
to Liberia, it still had many problems in terms of development
and meeting basic human needs. Stability was not enough to
ensure development - you need political stability, but you
also need growth and a big market, to deliver employment and
have high rates of investment. So my attention turned to the
economic dimensions of development. I was thinking that for
Africa, which has so many countries, many of them small and
limited in terms of capacity, regional economic integration
is an important policy aspect.
I did a comparative study of regional
integration in Africa and other regions, including research
on ASEAN, the Association of South-East Asian Nations. I wanted
to deepen my understanding of economic integration in Southeast
Asia, because for me it was one of the most successful models
of economic integration among developing countries, so I decided
to focus on that in advanced university studies.
I was initially supposed to join the Graduate Institute of
International Studies in Geneva, but eventually came to Japan
as I won a scholarship to Japan and because of its proximity
to Southeast Asia. I was recommended to go to either Yokohama
University or Nagoya University, because these were the pioneers
in Japan in terms of offering a programme on international
development studies. It just happened that I was accepted
by Nagoya University first, so I decided to go there! When
I came to Nagoya I decided to do a Masters again, in Development
--- Obviously you came to Japan to study economic integration
in Southeast Asia as a model for West Africa, but do you think
Southeast Asia can learn anything in turn from West Africa?
Of course it goes both ways.
Regional integration in Southeast Asia is largely market-driven,
in the sense that intra-regional trade and investment have
been well ahead of the formal legal and institutional mechanisms.
On the other hand, it seems to me that institutional integration
is much more developed in West Africa, if one takes for example
the case of WAEMU (the West African Economic and Monetary
Union). I do see a lot of things being done in Western Africa
which would be very useful to ASEAN, such as financial and
Role of free trade in developing countries in Asia
--- From your experience in
Asia, how do you see the role of free trade in developing
The trade structures among Asian countries
are generally found to be complementary, especially with regard
to exports between Japan, the newly industrialising economies,
ASEAN countries and China. This complementary structure has
been associated with the so-called flying-geese model in the
regional division of labour, whereby certain industries are
shifted from the more advanced countries (e.g. Japan) to countries
catching up from behind (e.g. the NIES and ASEAN). This pattern
has benefited Southeast Asia I would say, and has created
a system of complementary trade patterns. But you still see
protectionism in agriculture for example, so there isn't a
complete pattern of free trade across the region. International
trade is built on the comparative advantage of nations. If
you don't have a system that reflects the state of comparative
advantage, then the rules of the game are not really fair
and result in distortions. Governments have many reasons to
be protectionist, but that also has many negative impacts
for growth, efficiency and welfare in general.
--- What would you say is
the most exciting aspect of your research?
What I've found particularly
exciting in the work I do at IGES is the question of financing
mechanisms for renewable energy, and also ensuring that trade
policies and liberalisation contribute to the objectives of
sustainable development - in other words, the environmental
aspect of trade policies. Trade liberalisation can deliver
growth, which is an important aspect of poverty alleviation
and economic development, but we must still ensure that trade
does not have negative and irreversible environmental effects.
--- And what would you say is the most challenging aspect
of your research?
Talking about environmental sustainability
in relation to trade for example - IGES as an institution
has so far been working on environmental policies, so the
challenge we have now is to adapt our research and the focus
that we have to what is important for the Asia-Pacific region.
The process of regional economic integration and trade liberalisation
that is now taking place in various countries in the region
is a very important development that will have tremendous
implications for the environment. There is a need to consider
what would be effective environmental institutions and policies
compatible with the presence of economic integration. That
would require us to adjust our level of analysis of environmental
policies, while extending our focus beyond the environment
per se, to other sectoral areas, such as trade and investment
policies, that have important effects on the environment.
For us to be able to deliver research-based policy advice
on important but emerging or yet to come policy agendas is
indeed a challenge.
--- Looking at life outside IGES, how do you compare living
in Senegal, Nagoya and Hayama?
Nagoya is not a very big city,
so it's a place that's easy to live in. I don't like a very
busy environment. For living or working I prefer to be in
quiet places. I wouldn't like to live in Tokyo for example
- you get so tired just going from one place to another!
If I was to compare Senegal and Japan in terms
of living in a developing country and in an industrialised
country, I see different aspects and problems of development
in different ways. In Senegal, many people are confronted
with issues of basic needs, but even though the state isn't
able to deliver them for everyone, the social system very
much complements what the state fails to do. For example,
you would hardly see homeless people in Senegal. Many people
have no employment or regular sources of income, but they
are able to survive because of social solidarity.
On the other hand, Japan is a land of opportunity, but somehow
there is also exclusion, and the social structure is not as
flexible. There are opportunities for everyone, but if you
fail to get them, you're excluded. I don't think there are
really poor people in Japan, but there's a phenomenon of exclusion
if you fail to integrate yourself in the social and economic
structure. You see a lot of homeless people and people who
cannot take care of themselves, when the country has the means.
The contrast is between the capacity of the state, and the
social structure. While countries such as Japan have social
insurance, they don't always have the family as a safety net.
Of course developing countries have plenty to learn from developed
countries, but this is one area where developed countries
need to reinvent society and look back at societal mechanisms
of inclusion that one still finds in developing countries.
--- What do you hope to achieve in your further research at
I would like to see us make
a good contribution in terms of research in this area of environmentally
sustainable economic integration in Asia. I hope we can build
on strong partnerships within IGES. We have also started to
build strategic partnerships with other institutions, in Korea,
China, India and Southeast Asia. It would be an achievement
to build a strong policy research network across these countries.
LTP (Long-term Perspective and Policy Integration Project)
should focus its research on important issues, but we should
be able to react to new issues and emerging agendas. As researchers,
we don't have to be stuck in one area of research - we should
be flexible. For example, I studied at law school, I worked
on peacekeeping, and finally I looked at foreign direct investment
in Southeast Asia in the context of regional integration.
But I also felt the importance of the environment within the
overall context of development, and that's what took me to
IGES. Having worked in all these areas, I see that they are
interrelated. You cannot call yourself a policy researcher
if you only see these issues from, say, a legal point of view
- you have to look at the economic or environmental aspects
--- Finally, what is strategic research in your opinion?
In IGES we always discuss the
difference between 'policy research' and 'strategic research'.
The role of strategic research as we do it in IGES is to find
out what are the options one has in addressing a problem.
My understanding of policy research is to evaluate the different
options we have, and find out which of these options would
be most efficient, workable, and in line with other social
priorities, not just environmental concerns.
Strategic research is also to anticipate problems. The reason,
for example, why LTP has decided to work on economic integration
in Asia is not because it's a phenomenon that's already here,
but because it's a process we see taking place in Asia over
the next 15 to 20 years. We are anticipating this phenomenon,
and trying to see when this is taking place what sort of environmental
policies and institutions would be needed.