Last week I took part in a national consultation related to climate change adaptation and disaster risk reduction here in Cambodia’s capital Phnom Penh. The consultation was held at one of the city’s fancy five-star hotels that just opened a few months ago.
Apart from being held at the venue is was, the consultation was in much just like any other Cambodian meeting (and maybe like meetings of this sort anywhere in the world), i.e much was said, big words were used, coffee break with lots and lots of snacks and a lunch buffet were provided to the less and less engaged participants.
In his opening speech, the head(?) of the EU delegation to Cambodia briefed all of us participating on the importance of increasing the adaptive capacity and resilience against disasters – climate change related or not – in Cambodia and the region in order to reduce the number of casualties and deaths these factors stand for each year. He was right about that and the importance of the matter and definitely sat the mood for the consultation on the serious scale. He was also right when saying that we always have to remind ourselves that we’re not doing this for us, development partners, foreign or domestic interests, but for those poor families in the remote provinces of Cambodia directly struck by the increasing amount of natural disasters in terms of not having enough food or water. It was a good start of the day; even though big words usually are just that…
To give you a further understanding of the venue for this meeting have a look at the photo below. The chandelier seen below in the upper right corner is one out of four… in this room… The coffee and snack-break was good but not out of the ordinary, however, after a luxury lunch a desert buffet way out of the ordinary was offered. Snacks, cake, cookies, yea all you can think of and lots of it, and, an ice-cream buffet with free access to all accessory, and, a chocolate-fountain with fresh fruit!
Stuffing ourselves full with cakes, ice-cream and chocolate-fountained dragon fruit we were all thinking about who we were really doing this for; that poor family in a remote Cambodian province without enough food for everyone.
I guess what I want to highlight with this post is the problem of dealing, or working with, development issues – aimed at helping the poor and vulnerable – on a ‘level’ (not really a good word since it implies that something is better or more than something else) so far away from where it actually happens. For sure, I can see some reasons for having a consultation at this level at a fancy venue… but at the same time, what could’ve been done? how many could’ve been fed? for the dollars spent on ONE participant this day.