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Aid Dependence in Cambodia: How Foreign Assistance Undermines Democracy Hardcover – October 16, 2012

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Editorial Reviews


Using cross-national statistical evidence and his immense knowledge of Cambodian society, Sophal Ear has produced an important book on the perverse effects of development aid on governance. If this could be the starting point from which future discussions began, there would be a much greater chance of outsiders truly helping poor countries to develop.

(James Robinson, Harvard University)

Sophal Ear's Aid Dependence in Cambodia is both passionate and level-headed. Inspired by his family's history and based on extensive field interviews and careful case studies, it offers a sustained criticism of how aid policies have contributed to dependence and helped undermine fragile democracies. There are valuable lessons here for all countries attempting to build peace and development with international assistance.

(Michael Doyle, Columbia University)

Khmer Rouge survivor Sophal Ear is uniquely qualified to address the issue of aid and dependence in developing countries. Much more than academic criticism, Aid Dependence in Cambodia also charts a path for Cambodian reform. Although it is highly unlikely, Cambodian leaders would be wise to heed Ear's advice.

(Peter Maguire, author of Facing Death in Cambodia)

...offers valuable lessons not just for policy-makers working on Cambodia but also for other countries emerging from conflict or upheaval.

(Sebastian Strangio Asia Times)

Sophal Ear's work stands out for its social science rigour, its cohesion, as well as its probing quality, offering a new standard of scholarship on aid dependence not only applicable to the Cambodia case but easily replicable around the developing world.

(Geoffrey C. Gunn Asian Affairs)

An important and timely contribution to the field. It raises awareness around Cambodia, and sheds light on what is otherwise widespread apathy and complacency.

(Peter Tan Keo The Diplomat)

[Ear's] concise study provides valuable insights into the role of Official Development Assistance (ODA) in promoting governance in post-conflict societies.

(D. Gordon Longmuir Pacific Afairs)

... Sophal Ear's logical, yet personal account of the impact that international foreign aid has on Cambodia, the country of his birth, should cause the entire aid community to reflect inwardly.

(Small Wars Journal)

A pungent, grounded contribution...

(International Journal of Asian Studies)

An excellent introduction to the literature on development on the region (and globally)... Everyone hoping to do some good in Cambodia ought to read this book...

(Journal of Southeast Asian Studies)


A refreshing and badly needed effort at teasing out the relationship between governance and aid.

(Sophie Richardson, author of China, Cambodia, and the Five Principles of Peaceful Coexistence)

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Product Details

  • Hardcover: 208 pages
  • Publisher: Columbia University Press (October 16, 2012)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0231161123
  • ISBN-13: 978-0231161121
  • Product Dimensions: 0.5 x 6 x 9 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 15.2 ounces (View shipping rates and policies)
  • Average Customer Review: 5.0 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (1 customer review)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #1,977,164 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

More About the Author

Sophal Ear, Ph.D., is Assistant Professor of National Security Affairs at the U.S. Naval Postgraduate School where he teaches courses on political economy and post-conflict reconstruction. 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), and Fellow of Salzburg Global Seminar (2012). Dr. Ear also serves as Vice-Chair of Diagnostic Microbiology Development Program, a non-profit that builds laboratory capacity in the developing world. He advises the Master of Development Studies Program at the Royal University of Phnom Penh, and serves on the Editorial Review Boards of the International Public Management Journal and Journal of South-East Asian American Education & Advancement. His book, Aid Dependence in Cambodia: How Foreign Assistance Undermines Democracy (Columbia University Press) launched in October 2012 and his co-authored book, The Hungry Dragon: How China's Resources Quest is Reshaping the World (Routledge), will launch in 2013. Previously, he worked for the World Bank and the United Nations. A graduate of Princeton and Berkeley, he moved to the United States from France as a Cambodian refugee at the age of 10.

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Most Helpful Customer Reviews

1 of 1 people found the following review helpful By Debra Carney on June 19, 2014
Format: Hardcover
Using clear prose and vivid, meticulously researched case studies and examples, Dr. Sophal Ear analyzes a modern conundrum: why has Cambodia, despite being the recipient of massive amounts of foreign aid, continued to languish near the bottom of so many measures of social and institutional development? Readers of this book will understand, along with much else, the disincentives for many rural Cambodians to cooperate with the Western response to halting bird flu and will learn about agricultural initiatives that worked-- and those that didn't--and why. Dr. Ear's contention that the government should levy taxes to insure accountability (at present, foreign aid takes the place of taxes and most Cambodians have little influence with their entrenched, often corrupt, government officials) is compelling. Dr. Ear argues the overarching thesis of his book persuasively: foreign aid has often undermined and stymied true democratic reform in Cambodia. And, despite the best intentions of those who send this aid, Cambodia may not be well-served by much of it.

Debra Carney, 2009 Fulbright Senior Specialist to the National Institute of Education, Phnom Penh, Cambodia
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