Senior Researcher, Cambodia Development Resource Institute
Balancing the Central and Local
security, reform sequencing, patronage, military reform, managing diversity, donor relations, decentralization, court reform, corruption, capacity building, administrative reform
Mon Oct 26 2009
Kim Sedara comments on international donors who try to import reforms and models of governance into Cambodia without understanding the need to take context into account. He suggests that the task is not to build a system from scratch, but to fix and cure the problems of existing institutions. Referring to the challenges of institution building in his home country, he notes that Cambodia “is still very much in a post-conflict stage.” From the early 1970s to 2009, Cambodia went through at least six major political regimes, leading to numerous “institutional interruptions,” making it very difficult for the state to be responsive and accountable to its citizens, he says. The first challenge was to provide security; the second, food; the third, re-integration of formerly warring factions. He states that a major problem had been a shortage of professional talent, and an educational system poorly designed to correct it. He believes that the rule of law can be achieved only if it is internalized by the population, and that takes time. Sedara says corruption cannot be controlled until people are able to feed themselves and their families from their legitimate earnings. He suggests targeting four major reform areas: courts, the military, administration and public finance. Decentralization and de-concentration are part of administrative reform. Citing a World Bank report, Sedara says that 45% of post-conflict societies fall back into civil war within five years of emerging from conflict. Cambodia avoided this fate, and Sedara says he is hopeful for the future.
At the time of this interview, Kim Sedara was a senior researcher at the Cambodia Development Resource Institute, an independent think tank in Phnom Penh. In 1994, he received a degree in archeology in Cambodia and another from the University of Hawaii in 1996. He won a 1998 Fulbright scholarship in 1998 and degrees in economics and political anthropology from the University of Illinois and Stanford. He earned a Ph.D. from Gothenburg University in Sweden in 2005. Sedara has written widely on issues of post-conflict reconstruction, elections, decentralization and deconcentration, and governance in Cambodia.