How Foreign Assistance Undermines Democracy: Aid Dependence in Cambodia



Sophal Ear, US Naval Postgraduate School

Date and Time

November 26, 2012 12:15 PM - 1:45 PM



Open to the public.

RSVP required by 5PM November 25.


Daniel and Nancy Okimoto Conference Room

The more a country depends on aid, the more distorted are its incentives to manage its own development in sustainably beneficial ways. Cambodia, a post-conflict state that cannot refuse aid, is rife with trial-and-error donor experiments and their unintended results, including bad governance—a major impediment to rational economic growth. Massive intervention by the UN in the early 1990s did help to end the Cambodian civil war and to prepare for more representative rule. Yet the country’s social indicators, the integrity of its political institutions, and its ability to manage its own development soon deteriorated. Based on a comparison of how more and less aid-dependent sectors have performed, Prof. Ear will highlight the complicity of foreign assistance in helping to degrade Cambodia’s political economy. Copies of his just-published book, Aid Dependence in Cambodia, will be available for sale. The book intertwines events in 1990s and 2000s Cambodia with the story of his own family’s life (and death) under the Khmer Rouge, escape to Vietnam in 1976, asylum in France in 1978, and immigration to America in 1985.

Sophal Ear was named a Young Global Leader by the World Economic Forum in 2011 and a TED Fellow in 2009. His next book—The Hungry Dragon: How China’s Resources Quest is Reshaping the World, co-authored with Sigfrido Burgos Cáceres—will appear in February 2013. Prof. Ear is vice-president of the Diagnostic Microbiology Development Program, advises the University of Phnom Penh’s master’s program in development studies, and serves on the international advisory board of the International Public Management Journal. He wrote and narrated “The End/Beginning: Cambodia,” an award-winning documentary about his family’s escape from the Khmer Rouge. He has a PhD in political science, two master’s degrees from the University of California-Berkeley, and a third master’s from Princeton University.