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Built-in obsolescence, the personal kind, doing yourself out of a job
Ockenden-Cambodia was the second of the three former International NGOs that I was responsible for “localising”, i.e. handover in entirety to Cambodian management with their own Boards of Directors and Management Teams.
Update March 2020
A group of genuine "local" NGOs exposes a new habit of INGOs appearing to hand over locally but in reality are only pretending to do so to tap extra funds and stay in business. The real problem, and one that the big INGOs can exploit with their nimble professional fundraisers, is that donors come up with criteria in Calls for Proposals that makes it too easy for them - and harder for genuine local NGOs. See my tweets.
A couple of extra reflections:
1 Much media comment refers to a dictatorial leadership - Prime Minister Hun Sen may be an authoritarian leader, but he is far from having exclusive dictatorial powers. In some ways he is a hostage to powerful forces around him. Free to his own devices, he might have been more willing to make some reforms, but even then only ones that would position him or his personally trusted successor in power. Any other scenario would open up the possibility of the fate that has befallen many longtime rulers.
2 Back in 1998 I was one of many commentators who posed the question about whether it was better to have imperfect elections or none at all, for example in my paper about neutrality of security forces. The run-up to the commune elections in 2017 and national elections in 2018 has pronounced similarities to 1997-98 in terms of conditions for free, fair and credible elections. We can also draw on the experiences of the 2003 and 2008 elections.
I am now firmly of the view that we were wrong in 1998 and every five years since. No election is probably the only way to bring about the changes needed. The threat of losing international legitimacy is probably the last best sanction available.