Friday, July 6, 2007

Friday afternoon here in the office

I've been trying to be productive, but it's a little crazy in here today. I think we have a bit of a "while the cat's away" situation going on. Suzanne is the boss here, and it's her house and cat I'm "sitting." All week there's been quite a bit of non-work going on around here. Pizza parties, random strangers hanging out, talking and laughing. Okay, I'm really just trying to justify why I'm blogging instead of working right now.
This week has been filled with meeting new people. Tuesday I met with the German legal advisor to the Senate, and he was great. He is a law professor in Germany, primarily in Constitutional Law. We spoke about what the role of the Senate is here in Cambodia (really quite limited as they get laws after the National Assembly and we've already seen how much the National Assembly does) and what his job is here, which seems to consist of quite a bit of much needed capacity building. I'm going to be reading over some articles for him that he's writing for this Encyclopedia of Public International Law that is being put together. Professor Miller is also contributing to this, seems to be a worldwide effort.
Wednesday morning I had a top secret meeting that I can't talk about, but I just want you all to know I'm attending top secret meetings :-) We were somewhere we weren't supposed to be, talking to people about things we're not supposed to be involved in. Okay, I guess it's really not too top secret, maybe just semi-secret. I got to contribute some of my research and ideas on a law to a UN agency and then they're going to put together some pressure groups to try to get some changes to the law implemented. The Ministry just can't be seen to be behind the changes.
Then Wednesday afternoon I met with someone from the International Organization on Migration to discuss issues relating to human trafficking and sexual exploitation in Cambodia. It was really interesting, as much for the information on that as for the general information about working in development and working in Cambodia. The man has been in Cambodia for something like 10 years (also knew a lot of the people from Moscow who've worked over here) and had a lot to say about going into development work.

Thursday I had lunch with the legal specialist from the World Bank. We talked more about broad concepts of how to best go about development and legal reform. Instead of trying to change the whole system to fit to western ideals of "best practice" he thinks we should work with what is the current situation in Cambodia and find ways to just make little changes to make it more equitable. Maybe not indicative of World Bank's approach, but interesting. He's worked a lot on labor reform, land issues, and umm, some third issue I can't remember. So we talked a little about the land issues and how people tend to want to use conciliation methods instead of the courts to deal with conflicts.
Today I had lunch with someone from GTZ who works on land management issues and has been in country for 9 years. He has been very involved in that conciliation system here and we talked about that some. Pretty much an Alternative Dispute Resolution approach that utilizes the local officials instead of the courts. He also shared information on the frustrations associated with working in a place like this, not the least of which is the foreigners who are all out for their own gain.
This is something I've noticed here as well. I was expecting to meet more people who were here because they want to make a difference, change the world, etc. Maybe they started out that way, I don't know, but what I see is that for many people here these are just jobs like any other. Cooperation with other agencies in an attempt to create positive change is often sacrificed for personal gain. And maybe everyone does want to make a difference but they think everyone else is out for personal gain and so they get frustrated and a little less likely to cooperate. Chicken and egg problem. Or it could just be all the different ideas about the best approach to a problem coming into conflict and people wanting their way to win. I'm really not sure though. It does seem to take a different sort of personality to make it here for a long period of time though, that seems clear.
Anyhow, that's been my week. Oh, and I got a Thai massage on the 4th as my little Independence Day celebration. This weekend I'm just going to stick around the house and read law review articles (people trying to get onto law review have submitted papers that we have to grade and rank to determine who gets invitations to join) and get some other errand type things done. Hope everyone is doing well.


Donna said...

I enjoyed reading your blog. I support you in all that you are doing this summer. Whether it seems significant or not, you never know what you say and do that might be making a big differnce in lives today or in the future. Thinking of you.

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