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To understand more about why you are so important to our member-supported initiative, we encourage you to read the following from our managing editor ~ Read more

The Globe as you know it is changing.

Since 2007, Southeast Asia Globe has been a space for some of the region’s best writers and photographers to take our readers behind the headlines into the stories that shape people’s lives. Every month, you could expect to pick up our latest print edition and find high-quality journalism, analysis and artwork waiting on every page. And since 2007, we’ve fought to uphold our promise of quality and independence to you, our readers.

But, like we said, the world is changing. Print publications just aren’t reaching the audiences they need to fulfil their promise of informing, educating and entertaining the public. Advertisers continue to invest in digital platforms while printing costs creep ever higher. Print may not be dead, but it’s fighting for its life. And we’re tired of waiting by a sickbed for its condition to improve. We want to be present at the birth of something new.

That’s why Southeast Asia Globe is relaunching as a member-driven platform featuring daily long-form features combining world-class journalism with enthralling art design and data-centered tech. Through our core pillars – Power, Money, Life and Earth – we are focusing in on the central issues that our readers have always engaged with most, with the same in-depth coverage of politics, business, social affairs and the environment that you’ve come to expect since 2007.

But leaving print behind us doesn’t just save our backs from lugging stacks of magazines across Southeast Asia. It opens up a global readership who don’t just want to read the news, but have a say in the stories that we tell and the way that we tell them. We’re not asking you to take out another magazine subscription – our stories are open to all. What we’re offering our members is a space where they can pitch and vote on the stories that they think deserve to be told. We want to inspire an engaged and active community of members who vote for, comment on and contribute to the stories that matter most to them. We want to work with our members to curate the way they engage with the news – not just as readers, but as an active extension of our editorial team.

That’s how we’re changing to bring you great stories. Here’s how we’re not.

We’re independent. Always have been, always will be. We’re not owned by any corporation or aligned with any state. We choose the stories that we tell, and the way that we tell them.

We’re creative. We’re not interested in churning out breaking news stories on the hour, every hour. We believe that the best stories are the ones that come alive on the page, digging deeper into the issues that shape Southeast Asia – and bringing you along for the ride. From our dedicated designers to our new software development team, our commitment is to constantly challenge ourselves to find new ways of reaching out to our readers.

We’re open. Challenging governments, NGOs and businesses to be transparent with the public means nothing if we keep our own readers in the dark. That’s why we will be completely open about why we tell the stories that we tell – and how we pay for them. Work with us to build something that endures where many media fail, and decide with us exactly where that money is going.

Above all, we’re optimistic. And yeah, we know what you’re thinking. Faced with impending climate collapse, the rise of right-wing authoritarian governments across the world, widening wealth and income inequality and deepening divisions rooted in race or gender or creed, it’s hard not to open the papers and feel the weight of the world pressing down. But we wouldn’t be doing this if we didn’t believe that when people work together, they can make their little corner of the world a more just, open and equal place.

And that’s why we can’t do this without you. We believe that across the globe is a community of people who care deeply about social justice, environmental action and press freedom – and who will join in to help make those ideals a reality. We’re not just holding our hand out – we need your voice to play a vital role in building Southeast Asia Globe into a leading space for progressive causes in the region. Tell us what stories the mainstream media is missing. Share with us the causes that matter most to you, and how we can champion those causes not just across Southeast Asia, but the world.

Our vision is clear. By 2025, we want to be recognised for building a great space for outstanding journalists from across the region to explore new ways of telling Southeast Asia’s most vital stories. Let’s bring together a community of engaged and loyal members who want to help reshape the media rather than just read it. And we want to reach a point where our readers, not advertisers, are the ones working to support our shared vision of an inclusive media.

We can’t do this without you. Let’s get together and build something that we all believe in.

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“Dead in the Water” / Book charts failings of Laos’ World Bank-funded hydro dam

By: Mark Tilly - Posted on: November 8, 2018 | Current Affairs

A recently released book has shined a spotlight on the failures of the World Bank’s flagship hydropower project in Laos, at a time when the country’s dams are facing increased scrutiny due to a collapse earlier this year

The Nam Theun 2 is a 1070 MW hydropower plant on Nam Theun river in Laos Photo: Asian Development Bank / Flickr

Dead in the Water delves into what lessons can be learned from the development of the World Bank-funded Nam Thuen 2 (NT2) hydropower dam in Laos.

Drawing on research and analysis conducted by experts before, during and after the dam’s completion in 2010, the book highlights the systemic failures to properly address the social and environmental impacts the dam has had on local populations and ecosystems, resulting in the project being widely regarded as failing to better the lives of the people of Laos.

Southeast Asia Globe talks to Bruce Shoemaker, an independent researcher and one of the book’s editors and co-authors, about the future of big hydro in the region in the wake of the Xe Pian-Xe Nam Noy dam collapse in Laos earlier this year and if Southeast Asian governments and developers are reconsidering the need to invest in hydropower.


You’re currently touring the book throughout Southeast Asia. What are some of the responses you’ve received from the general public? What is their attitude toward hydropower dam development?
I think the fact that our book was published three weeks before the Xe-Pian Xe-Namnoy dam collapse disaster in Laos is very interesting timing; it came out at a time when there was increased attention to hydropower in Laos and the Mekong region. I know a lot of the local civil society organisations expressed a lot of interest in learning more about what’s been happening in Laos given the recent disaster and the fact that the World Bank and International Finance Corporation (IFC) are actively involved in the hydropower sector in Myanmar now, so people seem very interested in learning lessons about what’s happening in Laos.

What are some of the key lessons that should be learned from your book and the NT2 project as a whole by both the financial sector and development sector?
One is certainly on large-scale resettlement of people, especially those from indigenous backgrounds or those whose livelihoods depend on natural resources. It’s extremely challenging, if not impossible, to successfully restore their livelihoods and protect their cultures when you do a massive resettlement. There’ll probably never be as many resources put into resettlement as there was for NT2, and it’s still not at all sustainable many years later.

Another one would be the limited influence even large institutions like the World Bank can have to actually make something happen in a sovereign country, despite all their money, advisors and assurances they could make something work in a certain way, it didn’t.

The book highlights that, despite the years of consultation work, these institutions seem to fail to recognise, or are unable to reconcile, the contextual issues that are present in Laos and the region. How can developers who want to alleviate poverty address these issues?
I fundamentally think we have to question whether it makes sense to do large-scale development projects through authoritarian regimes in situations where people aren’t actually able to speak up. To a large extent this is about people’s participation in the decisions that affect their lives tremendously. I think we’ve had a lot of international development institutions completely overlook that in their willingness and wanting to keep their programmes going, keep the money flowing and continue to support countries where there’s obviously need, but I see we’ve just ended up banging our heads against the wall time and again.

I don’t think you can fine tune your approaches to working in countries like this; I just don’t know if it actually makes sense to support large projects that have as many governance problems as Laos does.

There’s a sense in the book that NT2 was one of the milestones for unchecked hydropower development in the region that has little sign of slowing down. Is this a fair assessment?
I think the process of planning and approving NT2 set up the whole financial system. The World Bank helped rewrite Laos law on the concession agreement for these types of large projects. The sector was already starting to emerge, so I can’t put it all on the World Bank and the Asian Development Bank, but they were both involved and I think do bear a certain amount of responsibility.

A Laotian villager is helped by rescue workers to evacuate from a flooded area, caused by the Xe-Pian Xe-Namnoy dam collapse at a village in Sanamxai, Attapeu province, Laos, 27 July 2018 Photo: ABC Laos News / EPA-EFE

You attended the World Bank AGM last month. Based on the Xe-Pian Xe-Namnoy dam collapse do you feel there’s some momentum to counter hydropower? Is the World Bank listening and taking these factors into consideration when deciding on future projects?
I’m going to meet the World Bank folks in about a week. Despite us being invited to do this session at the World Bank AGM and inviting the World Bank to participate and getting initial indications that they would, a couple of weeks before they told us they were not providing any staff to come to the session, and then there wasn’t even any World Bank people in the room. Their excuse was they were busy, but being busy is a euphemism of having other priorities.

Would other emerging financial institutions – that may not have the same human rights or environmental concerns when funding projects – be phased at all by something like the Laos dam collapse in terms of their choice of investment?
I would hope so; in terms of the Asian Infrastructure Investment Bank there hasn’t really been enough time for it to have much of a track record. I don’t discount the idea of there being some concern in China moving forward around the impacts of their projects. I think it would be dismissive of China and Chinese people to think there’s no concern over those issues, so I’d say the jury is still out on that.

If these institutions aren’t listening, what do you think it will take to change the industry’s current trajectory?
One thing is government regulation and obviously there’s little or none of that in Laos and it’s been way too easy for these [foreign] companies to go ahead with these [large-scale hydroelectric dam] projects without having any accountability or oversight over what they’re doing and maybe there’s more potential for that.

I know there is South Korean media focusing on the Xe-Pian Xe-Namnoy project and some civil society groups, so hopefully there can be some level of accountability. I don’t see the companies doing it themselves without some external pressure from either government regulation and oversight or media and civil society scrutiny – it’s got to be some combination of both.

*Update 26/11/18: Shoemaker was supposed to meet with representatives of the World Bank in Laos, hosted by the Australian embassy. That meeting never went ahead. Shoemaker offered this explanation:

“Disappointingly, the Australian embassy in Laos, which had agreed to host a discussion [about the book] with large donors and international foreign investors (IFIs) – including the World Bank and ADB – backed out shortly before the meeting was [due] to take place. It seems that some of the invested IFIs were uncomfortable having a critical discussion and so pressured the Australian Embassy and Department of Foreign Affairs and Trade to cancel the meeting.”