Aid Dependence in Cambodia: How Foreign Assistance Undermines Democracy

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When: Oct 9 2013 - 10:30am until Oct 9 2013 - 12:00pm
Where: 1819 L St, NW, Washington, DC. Sixth Floor Conference Room
What:

Aid Dependence in Cambodia: How Foreign Assistance Undermines Democracy

An Asia-Pacific Political Economy Seminar and book launch featuring:

Dr. Sophal Ear

Assistant Professor of National Security Affairs, U.S. Naval Postgraduate School


Dr. Sophal Ear discuss latest book, Aid Dependence in Cambodia: How Foreign Assistance Undermines Democracy at the East-West Center in Washington

International intervention liberated Cambodia from pariah state status in the early 1990s and laid the foundations for more peaceful, representative rule. Yet the country’s social indicators and the integrity of its political institutions declined rapidly within a few short years, while inequality grew dramatically. International intervention and foreign aid resulted in higher maternal (and possibly infant and child) mortality rates and unprecedented corruption by the mid-2000s.

In his new book, Aid Dependence in Cambodia: How Foreign Assistance Undermines Democracy (Columbia University Press, 2013), Dr. Sophal Ear argues that the more aid dependent a country, the more distorted its incentives to develop sustainably. A postconflict state unable to refuse aid, Cambodia is rife with trial-and-error donor experiments and their unintended consequences, such as bad governance and poor domestic and tax revenue performance—a major factor curbing sustainable, nationally-owned growth.

Dr. Ear began his discussion with an overview of the decades of conflict and slow process of reconstruction, in which the international community has been heavily involved. His primary argument is that foreign assistance allows the government to tax people less, making leaders less accountable to the will of the people, stalling the growth of a healthy representative democracy. Moreover widespread corruption undermines the effectiveness of this development aid as graft causes a shortfall in needed resources. This of course was not the intent of international development assistance, but an unforseen consequence. Therefore he stressed the need of a real committment from foriegn donors to seek local buy-in for successful reconstruction and development projects in order to properly understand the areas of greatest need and potential second and third order effects of their assistance.

Additional photos from this program can be found in the East-West Center's Flickr Gallery.


Dr. Sophal Ear is Assistant Professor of National Security Affairs at the U.S. Naval Postgraduate School where he teaches political economy and post-conflict reconstruction, and previously worked for the World Bank and United Nations. He is a TED Fellow (2009), Fulbright Specialist (Chulalongkorn University, 2010), Council on Foreign Relations Term Member (2011), Young Global Leader of the World Economic Forum (2011), a Fellow of Salzburg Global Seminar (2012), and an Independent Trustee of the Nathan Cummings Foundation (2012). He advises the Master of Development Studies Program at the Royal University of Phnom Penh, and serves on the boards of several academic journals. Aside from Aid Dependence in Cambodia: How Foreign Assistance Undermines Democracy (Columbia University Press, 2013), he is the co-author of The Hungry Dragon: How China’s Resources Quest is Reshaping the World (Routledge, 2013). A graduate of Princeton, and Berkeley, he moved to the United States from France as a Cambodian refugee at the age of 10.


Primary Contact Info:
Name: Grace Ruch
Phone: 202-327-9762