UN: Cambodia Flood-Ready!??!?!

I was asked to comment for this article and declined. Several colleagues have been burnt by the Post – misquoted or quoted out of context and I was leery of my research being dumbed down to a one liner.

However, now that I’ve read the article I DO wish I could add many, many, many footnotes and asterisks… I understand that the newspaper is not an academic forum but the over-simplification of such a complex and inherently political issue is discouraging.  How can anyone claim to be “Flood Ready”? What metrics does the UN use to determine readiness? What about the false sense of security the claim of “Flood Readiness” provides? The use of the UN name to inspire credibility? Why write an article that deems Flooding a non-issue, instead of calling for further accountability and action? 

How has anything really changed? Am I suppose to believe that a government involved in the murder of a environmental activist (Chut Wutty) is hard at work preventing future flood damage and flood deaths? Of last year’s floods the article says:

“..there had been delays in “conveying that this [was] quite a serious situation”, but said there was now a “different attitude” expressed by national and international representatives.”

This is an infuriating non-statement. The delays in ‘conveying that this was quite a serious situation’ costs human lives and millions of dollars. What sort of ‘different attitudes’ have emerged? Does the government now have a deep concern for human rights and life safety?

My cynicism abounds…and so very many questions remain:

_What preventative work has the National Committee for Disaster Management done?

_Where can I read the draft of the law? Is the a public forum for comment?

_Has Phnom Penh stopped infilling its lakes? Stopped building in the flood plain? Repaired its crumbling infrastructure?

_Will flood aid be distributed without political favor? To non-members of the CPP?

_What are the ‘lessons learned and best practices’ from last years floods? Were there any ‘best practices’?

_What are the avenues for government accountability in disaster preparedness and prevention? 

UN: Cambodia Flood-Ready

Cassandra Yeap Thursday, 26 April 2012

Government officials and civil-society groups were gearing up for floods ahead of the impending rainy season and appeared better prepared this time around, a UN official and NGO representatives said yesterday.

Visiting UN assistant secretary-general for disaster risk reduction Margareta Wahlström commended the Cambodian government and CSOs on their efforts to prepare for rainy-season floods.

“I’m convinced the country will be better prepared this year because so much attention has been given to these questions [of preparedness],” Wahlström  said on the fifth day of a six-day trip to Cambodia to meet government officials and development partners.

“The ministries and organisations, including local governments, are preparing and thinking about how they can have a higher level of alert for possible floods later this year,” Wahlström added.

This included a willingness to consider how provincial authorities could collaborate with CSOs, she said.

Extensive flooding last year affected more than a million people and left many stranded without aid for weeks due to a lack of governmental and NGO co-ordination.

Wahlström said there had been delays in “conveying that this [was] quite a serious situation”, but said there was now a “different attitude” expressed by national and international representatives.

Deputy secretary-general of the Cambodian Red Cross Men Neary Sopheak likewise said a flurry of consultations and co-ordination had been taking place in the past month, with the National Committee for Disaster Management working with provincial authorities and organisations on assessments and discussions of flood-related measures.

“We have lessons learned and best practices . . .  our common goal is how to best help the people, and we have been working constantly,” she said.

Last week, the final draft of the Disaster Management Law was discussed by the NCDM, according to the state press agency.

The draft states that “commune/sangkat disaster management councils” are to be established and counts “ensur[ing] social safety” and timely responses to people’s needs among its aims.


To contact the reporter of this story: Cassandra Yeap at newsroom@phnompenhpost.com

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