Southeast Asia is set to become the world’s fourth largest economy by 2030, with estimates that the region must invest more than 184 billion US dollars per year in upgrading infrastructure to sustain its economic growth.
Many Southeast Asian countries, including the Philippines, Vietnam and Indonesia, plan to rapidly expand investments, with billions being poured into infrastructure projects such as railways, highway systems and airports. Meanwhile, there is growing interest from foreign investors, such as from China through its Belt and Road Initiative (BRI), in Southeast Asia’s infrastructure needs.
As countries rush to break ground, regulatory processes such as Environmental Impact Assessments can be overlooked, while urbanization and the emergence of megacities exacerbate environmental issues such as congestion, urban sprawl and extreme environmental degradation. These pressures also put the rights of marginalized groups, including women, children, Indigenous peoples, migrants and rural populations, at high risk, as they often depend on natural resources for their livelihoods and/or are more vulnerable to pollution from such projects.
To address the need for in-depth media coverage that raises public awareness and holds governments and corporations to account during this infrastructure boom, Internews, in partnership with the Environmental Reporting Collective, the Institute for Policy Studies and Media Development in Vietnam, Malaysiakini, Lyf Solutions and the Philippine Network of Environmental Journalists, the Society of Indonesian Environmental Journalists and the Thai Society of Environmental Journalists is pleased to announce the launch of STRIDES, a two-year project that supports environmental reporting on infrastructure development and its impacts.
The project—funded by the US Department of State Bureau of Democracy, Human Rights and Labor (DRL)—will serve Southeast Asia, with a focus on Cambodia, Laos, Indonesia, Malaysia, Myanmar, Philippines, Thailand and Vietnam. Project activities include the following:
- Regional and country-specific reporting workshops on infrastructure development projects in the region, as well as safety training and a session on gender and social inclusion in reporting for journalists.
- Story grants and organizational grants to improve journalists’ capacity to produce in-depth, compelling investigations on infrastructure development and its impacts in Southeast Asia.
- Multi-stakeholder dialogues and regional discussions.
- A special collaborative journalism effort resulting in a cross-border investigation on infrastructure development.
- The production of reporter’s resources, including toolkits and online guides.
The project aims to equip journalists in Southeast Asia with knowledge of infrastructure investment, relevant laws and policies, human rights violations, environmental impacts and other issues to ultimately bolster reporting and public engagement on infrastructure development.
Banner image: A busy intersection in Yangon, Myanmar / Credit: Zuyet Awarmatik via Unsplash.