Special Program for Central Asian Countries in International Relations and Public Policy

Learning the art of international negotiation: Central Asia’s next generation of movers and shakers are honing their diplomatic skills at the University of Tsukuba

Following the 1991 fall of the Soviet Union, Central Asia’s newly independent states faced the task of building diplomatic relations with their global counterparts. Decision-makers in these states were, however, understandably inexperienced in international negotiation and have been building their skills in the area ever since. In 2007, the University of Tsukuba supported by Japan’s Ministry of Education, Culture, Sports, Science and Technology, introduced an English-language master’s and scholarship program aimed at boosting their efforts and helping to expand the capabilities of practitioners in international relations and public diplomacy from Central Asia.

The program fosters fluency in the diplomatic language used by government bodies, think tanks, corporate institutions and international organizations. “Our program is designed to bring up those individuals who would eventually serve as a bridge between Japan and Central Asia,” explains Timur Dadabaev, who heads the university’s Special Program for Central Asian Studies. Fellow faculty members include the 2014 recipient of the Japan Consortium for Area Studies Award.

Dadabaev’s research has identified historical evidence of long-standing support for Japan by the Central Asian states, rooted in sympathy for victims of the atomic bombs dropped on Hiroshima and Nagasaki; an attraction to Japan’s technological innovations; and respect for work by Japanese prisoners of war held in the region after WWII. Since 1991, Japan has provided crucial technical assistance for the development of agricultural, hydrological, financial and legal systems in the region. Host to key centers of commerce such as Bukhara and Samarkand along the former Silk Road, the region offers Japan new opportunities for trade in oil, gas and uranium — but such potentially mutually beneficial partnerships remain largely untapped. “Japan has become one of the biggest official development assistance providers to Central Asia, but the penetration of private business from Japan in the region has been very limited,” explains Dadabaev, who has published several papers and books on the subject.

The University of Tsukuba’s one-year Special Program for Central Asian Countries in International Relations and Public Policy is one of two English language degrees in Central Asian studies offered by the Graduate School of Humanities and Social Sciences. It accepts program applicants from Kazakhstan, Kyrgyzstan, Uzbekistan, Turkmenistan and Tajikistan. Among an annual applicant pool of almost 80, the program awards five full scholarships and offers an additional five placements for self-financed students. Candidates follow a rigorous English-language curriculum and are also encouraged to take Japanese language classes offered by the university.

“Over the course of the year, students become experts in public policy and in applying their knowledge to the resolution of a particular problem,” says Dadabaev. This involves developing skills for the day-to-day business of cultivating alliances and clinching agreements and contracts. Students build expertise in different forms of communication, from writing academic papers, engaging in conflict resolution and drafting formal documents to preparing recommendations for policymakers and debating controversial issues in international relations. They can choose from courses on Japanese foreign policy during the Cold War, state-building and social transformation in post-soviet Eurasia, theoretical approaches and tools for poverty alleviation and the role of technology and social media in international politics. They gain a strong empirical grounding about East Asia with some theoretical insight into the conceptualization of countries in the region. Their year of study culminates with a thesis on a subject of their choosing.

Graduates of the special program have gone on to work for companies in Japan or return home to join national universities, non-governmental organizations or national ministries. “We enable our students to develop working relationships in their respective areas of interest,” says Dadabaev.

For more information about this program, click here.