Cambodia’s Patient Zero: The Political Economy of Foreign Aid and Avian Influenza

Stanford Center for International Development Working Paper No. 398

AVIAN INFUENZA: SCIENCE, POLICY AND POLITICS, Scoones, Ian, eds., Earthscan, April 2010

32 Pages Posted: 25 Feb 2010

Date Written: September 30, 2009

Abstract

What happens when a developing country with poor health infrastructure and even poorer animal health surveillance is thought to be a potential source for the next emerging infectious disease? This is the story of Cambodia and Avian Influenza. This paper undertakes a review of the relevant literature and analyzes the results of detailed semi-structured interviews of individuals highly engaged in Avian Influenza work in Cambodia. First, the political economy context is detailed with particular attention to aid dependency, tourism and the role of the livestock sector. The role of politics and the bureaucracy in this context is explored. Three competing policy narratives emerge: first, kill the birds, but don’t compensate as it’s too difficult and costly; second, behaviour modification change is the answer; and third, whatever happened to poverty and livelihoods? Finally, the political economy of the policy process in Cambodia is described, including actors, networks and interests. The paper finds that in the context of avian influenza, donors are too often motivated by concerns other than protecting livelihoods, just as traditional aid activities are often dominated by the need to tie aid to donor countries, avian influenza activities have been overtly focused on detecting and preventing pandemic as a threat to the donor countries themselves. As of 2008, donors have committed $35 million to Cambodia, placing it seventh among the top 10 recipients of avian influenza funding globally, fourth in terms of per case and per death from A/H5N1, and second in terms of per capita and per outbreak funding. Effective disease response and effective governance must go hand-in-hand. A rushed, emergency oriented response to avian influenza may have undermined already weak governance capacity in Cambodia, fueling patronage networks and encouraging rent seeking. Whether such funds have increased the ability of Cambodia – and the world – to prevent a future pandemic remains uncertain.

Keywords: Highly Pathogenic Avian Influenza, Cambodia, Political Economy

JEL Classification: P26, P32, P33

Suggested Citation

Ear, Sophal, Cambodia’s Patient Zero: The Political Economy of Foreign Aid and Avian Influenza (September 30, 2009). Stanford Center for International Development Working Paper No. 398, AVIAN INFUENZA: SCIENCE, POLICY AND POLITICS, Scoones, Ian, eds., Earthscan, April 2010, Available at SSRN: https://ssrn.com/abstract=1557408 or http://dx.doi.org/10.2139/ssrn.1557408

Sophal Ear (Contact Author)

Occidental College ( email )

1600 Campus Road
Los Angeles, CA 90041
United States

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