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Atlantic Fellows for Social and Economic Equity
Badrul Hisham Ismail AFSEE

Badrul Hisham Ismail

Researcher & Arts practitioner

Badrul is a researcher and arts practitioner committed to championing democracy and social equity and focused on human security, urban development, and the arts. His dedication to addressing systemic issues is further exemplified by his leadership as the Director of Programs at IMAN Research, in a multi-year program in Malaysia that tackled the pressing issue of Violent Extremism (VE).

At IMAN Research, Badrul also developed a programme to monitor regional conflicts in Southeast Asia, focusing on the Southern Thai and Mindanao conflicts and their implications for Malaysia. This programme has helped shape discourses on regional security. The insights have contributed to a better understanding of the interconnected nature of these conflicts and their broader social and economic impacts.

Badrul’s career also includes election observation in post-conflict countries such as Afghanistan, Sri Lanka, the Southern Philippines, and Myanmar. These assignments under the Asian Network for Free Elections (ANFREL) provided him with a deep understanding of the complexities involved in restoring democratic processes and promoting stability in fragile states.

One of Badrul’s most significant achievements is a groundbreaking policy reform initiative aimed at enhancing public housing in Malaysia. As a consultant at Think City, he oversaw a comprehensive research agenda to drive evidence-based decision-making, culminating in the development and co-authorship of a White Paper on Malaysia’s public housing system. He also authored a policy brief on the impact of the COVID-19 pandemic on Malaysia’s public housing communities.

In addition to his policy and programmatic work, Badrul co-founded and serves as the content editor of Svara, a print magazine that explores culture and contemporary issues. He has also made his mark as a writer, director, and photographer. Badrul consistently tells stories that touch on subjects at the fringes of society and themes that question the normality of everyday life. His recent directorial venture, ‘Maryam’, received international acclaim by winning the Most Original Film award at the 21st Asian Film Festival in Rome, Italy.

Badrul holds a BSc in Liberal Arts from The New School and an MSc in Urban Science, Policy and Planning from the Singapore University of Technology and Design.

Mostly, I have witnessed changes for the worse. Improvements in the economy often come with a decline in quality of life; better infrastructure brings a loss of freedom. Yet, sometimes, we see true positive change, where lives genuinely improve, and the gains outweigh the costs. It's for these rare moments that we persist in our work.

Badrul Hisham Ismail


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