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Cambodia Joins Washington Discussion on Effective Aid

Health and development experts from developing countries including Cambodia met with US policymakers in Washington this week to find means for more effective aid, including transparency for aid money, proper capacity building, and the right prioritization of aid projects.

Sun Somuny, executive director of Medicam, an umbrella group of Cambodian health organizations, said groups from developing countries want aid to promote leadership and ownership.

“Not only the government, but there should be a combination between the government and civil society, people and the private sector,” he said. “All of these are pillars and important and dynamic forces in the country.”

Up to 70 percent of aid money coming into Cambodia is spent on purchasing materials and equipment or spent on experts and consultants, which doesn’t provide national ownership, he said. More effective aid would put more money and decision-making in the hands of nationals, he said.

Other experts who joined the meeting, which was part of the Global Health Council Conference, sponsored by Oxfam America, questioned how much corruption can be tolerated and how much transparency is needed.

Francisco Songane, former minister of health for Mozambique, said donors should not isolate repressive regimes.

“That’s a major mistake,” he said. “Work together with the regional bodies in order to change the situation…. Not isolation.”

Warren Buckingham, a country coordinator for the US President’s Emergency Plan for AIDS, agreed, but added that remaining silent was not a good option either.

Media, for example, can be “better equipped to tell the story about health, tell the truth about health, tell the truth what is being done with resources.”

Porter McConnell, a policy adviser for Oxfam America, said US agencies need to be consolidated to work better.

Different agencies are unaware of each other’s activities and goals, she said, pointing to 12 US agencies involved in one health initiative. That means 12 representatives trying to work with one government, she said.