Logo of Phnom Penh Post newspaper Phnom Penh Post - Continue the debate



Continue the debate

Continue the debate

The Editor,

In a recent issue of the Phnom Penh Post (Jan 12 - 25) on development, my opinions

and comments were quoted a few times. Either due to the hurried nature of our conversation

or due to my lack of competence in the English language, they appear somewhat different

from what I intended to communicate.

When I said big projects operate in a vacuum I meant that the planners of these projects

often neglect local resources and wisdom and pretend that there was nothing before

they came.

Many "development" agencies seem to be in a hurry to implement "projects".

They hardly spend any time in defining the problems or understanding the resource

use conflicts.

Short supply of goods and services is emphasized and structural causes of poverty

like insecure land tenure and illegal tax collection etc. are neglected.

The coping strategies of vulnerable communities and their knowledge of local resources

are also neglected or overlooked.

Such selective vision results in projects that often destroy indigenous cultures

and increase dependency, insecurity and exploitation. This is what I meant when I

said that "big projects often start from zero".

My comments about local media, specially television, were not about showing people

how to help themselves. I complained that much coverage is given to the distribution

of aid by government and non-government agencies but hardly any examples are shown

of people and communities who are trying out new ideas, who are helping themselves

and supporting each other and not waiting for someone to come and "develop"

them.

I enjoyed reading the different opinions published in the article and would like

to thank you for initiating a lively debate.

I feel however that the debate on development aid today is not really about scale

of the projects. The real debate is about priorities (whose needs and which needs

should be met first? How to choose among different options?); about processes (how

to allow the intended beneficiaries to define their needs and make informed choices

among different options); and about appropriate roles (sharing of responsibilities

between central and local authorities, between government agencies and NGOs, academic

institutions etc).

Most of the UN agencies, many bilateral and multilateral aid agencies including the

World Bank agree now with the non-government development organizations that poverty

alleviation (and reduction of hunger, disease etc.) is the main goal of development.

Consequently it is obvious that the satisfaction of basic needs should have first

call on natural and other resources (especially those which are limited in supply).

The same agencies also declare their faith in decentralised and transparent decision

making processes, participatory planning, community-based management of natural resources

etc.

The Royal Government's policy paper presented last year in the Paris ICORC meeting

also stated the same strategics and principles.

On the conceptual level therefore there's hardly any debate and the arguments are

at the operational level.

Are we willing to put our money where our mouths are? How successful have our projects

been in reducing poverty, protecting natural resources and poor people's access to

those and ensuring people's participation in development planning ?

Let us continue the dialogue.
- Ardhendu S. Chatterjee, Technical Adviser, SARD Programme, JVC Cambodia

MOST VIEWED

  • Cambodia on the verge of national tragedy, WHO warns

    The World Health Organisation (WHO) in Cambodia warned that the country had reached another critical point amid a sudden, huge surge in community transmission cases and deaths. “We stand on the brink of a national tragedy because of Covid-19. Despite our best efforts, we are

  • Phnom Penh curfew starts today

    A two-week curfew from 8pm to 5am starts today in Phnom Penh, a day after a sub-decree detailing administrative measures to contain Covid-19 was issued by Prime Minister Hun Sen. “Travelling in Phnom Penh is temporally banned between 8pm and 5am,” said Phnom Penh governor

  • Phnom Penh placed in two-week lockdown

    The government has decided to place Phnom Penh in lockdown for two weeks, effective April 14 midnight through April 28, as Cambodia continues to grapple with the ongoing community outbreak of Covid-19, which has seen no sign of subsiding. According to a directive signed by Prime Minister

  • Vaccination open to foreigners in Cambodia

    The Ministry of Health on April 8 issued an announcement on Covid-19 vaccination for foreigners residing and working in Cambodia, directing the Ministry of Labour and Vocational Training and local authorities to register them. Health minister Mam Bun Heng, who is also head of the inter-ministerial

  • Cambodia gears up for muted New Year festival

    The recent curfew and restrictions imposed in the capital and other Covid-19 hotspots were intended to break the chain of transmission, Ministry of Health spokeswoman Or Vandine said as municipal and provincial authorities issued new directives banning certain activities during the upcoming Khmer New Year

  • Culture ministry: Take Tuol Sleng photos down, or else

    The Ministry of Culture and Fine Arts has told Irish photographer Matt Loughrey to take down the photos of Khmer Rouge victims at Tuol Sleng Genocidal Museum which he allegedly colourised and altered to show them smiling. The ministry said Loughrey's work is unacceptable, affecting