Through his nonprofit Asia America Initiative (AAI), IWP Professor Al Santoli is providing front line support to service providers in the fight against the coronavirus in the Philippines. Through these efforts, he is engaging in citizen diplomacy as a peacebuilding mechanism in this region.
Thus far, more than 1,062 frontline aid workers have been infected with the disease across the Philippines, including 422 doctors and 386 nurses, with 26 health workers having perished. This region has also suffered from more than a half-century of civil war.
The emergency intervention effort coordinated by AAI involves engaging local communities to support and protect vulnerable front-line health workers who are aiding victims of COVID-19 and doing heroic battle against the spread of this deadly virus. This effort includes work with Asia America Initiative native staff, provincial firefighters, schoolteachers, and local medical professionals.
On April 27, Jolo Mayor Kerkhar Tan issued Prof. Santoli and ten additional members of the AAI team with ID badges certifying that they are part of the official province-wide health effort. This is the only involvement of an international organization in the province, which has a 95 percent Muslim population in the tri-border area with Malaysia and Indonesia. It is also an area where China’s navy is seeking to dominate the resource-rich littoral coast and where some 35% of total world trade transits.
In the past week, AAI purchased more than 200 N95 cloth face masks for hospital workers, firefighters, and AAI volunteers and created care packages of food, soap, and rubbing alcohol for families in need. The AAI team has provided and distributed enough supplies for 17,500 meals in the last week alone.
AAI will soon be supporting similar efforts in Hawaii and other Pacific Islands.
Professor Santoli’s efforts in this crisis reflect in practice what is taught at IWP with regard to promoting peace abroad using a full-spectrum approach, including arts of statecraft like public diplomacy and cultural diplomacy. For instance, in AAI’s current work against the coronavirus, donated food supplies are helping to deter communal violence and the spread of extremist groups as food supplies are running low. Intercultural and international partnerships are helping build goodwill within the community and between the Philippines and the United States, even amidst martial law and the health lockdown. Importantly, this full-spectrum approach is not political and keeps the emphasis on American values rooted in community-based work and human dignity.
This approach is studied and practiced in IWP’s Center for Culture and Freedom, a partnership between IWP and Asia America Initiative that is directed by Prof. Santoli. At IWP, Prof. Santoli teaches courses on Counterterrorism through Cultural Engagement and Development, Cultural Intelligence for Strategy and Analysis, and Peace, Strategy and Conflict Resolution (which will be offered this summer on Tuesday/Thursday evenings).