How Aid Dependence Derailed Cambodian Democracy: A Book Discussion with Sophal Ear sponsored by the World Policy Institute, Thursday, October 11, 2012 - 8:30am, at Demos, 220 Fifth Avenue, 5th Floor, New York, NY 10001. A little over two decades ago, there was an optimism surrounding Cambodia's democracy. International intervention had liberated the country from pariah state status. The UN Transitional Authority appeared to be laying the foundations for peaceful, representative rule, and the beloved former king had returned after 13 years in exile, endorsing the need for elections.
But within a few short years, there were assassination attempts, pitched battles in the street, and a grenade attack. Cambodia's leaders enriched themselves on the country's natural resources while the general population remained impoverished.
All this time, foreign aid poured in. Instead of helping the country, Sophal Ear says international intervention and foreign aid perverted Cambodia's democracy and helped create today's corrupt state. Unwilling to refuse aid, Cambodia is a poster child for the unintended consequences of trial-and-error donor experiments.
The Cambodian case is only one example. The more aid dependent a country, says Ear, the more distorted its incentives to develop sustainably. In this discussion, Ear outlines an alternative path for post-conflict countries, where self-driven development coexists alongside vital foreign aid.
About the Author
Sophal Ear is an assistant professor of national security affairs at the U.S. Naval Postgraduate School, where he teaches courses on post-conflict reconstruction and political economy. Previously, he worked for the World Bank and the United Nations. He has given a TED Talk, addressed the Oslo Freedom Forum and International Baccalaureate Organization, served as a Fulbright Specialist at Chulalongkorn University in Bangkok, and is a Young Global Leader of the World Economic Forum. He arrived in the United States from France as a Cambodian refugee at the age of 10, and went on to earn his doctorate and two masters degrees at the University of California, Berkeley, and a third masters degree at Princeton's Woodrow Wilson School. For more information on Sophal Ear, please visit http://faculty.nps.edu/sear
Christopher Shay is managing editor of World Policy Journal and a former reporter and editor at the Phnom Penh Post, an English-language daily newspaper in Cambodia.