Strengthening Democracy in Cambodia
Brief Project Description
As part of our degree requirements, every master’s student at the LBJ School of Public Affairs must participate in a year-long “Policy Research Project” or PRP. The topics of these PRPs vary from year to year and cover a range of issue areas related to the public policy work we do at the LBJ School. These PRPs enable us to work side-by-side with an outside organization and gain hands-on experience in dealing with a real-world public policy problem or issue area. This degree requirement, in conjunction with our required summer internships, provides us with experiential learning that can be put on our résumés alongside our traditional classroom learning. This, in turn, will strengthen our future employment prospects upon graduation.
Our PRP team, consisting of about a dozen LBJ master’s students and led by Professor Jenny Knowles Morrison, will be working with the Parliamentary Institute of Cambodia (PIC) over the course of the 2018-2019 school year. Our team consists mostly of “Global Policy Studies” students in addition to a few “Public Affairs” students. Our interest areas and expertise range from environmental protection and historic preservation to post-conflict reconciliation and international development.
About the Parliamentary Institute of Cambodia
The Parliamentary Institute of Cambodia was founded in 2011 at the request of members of the Cambodian Parliament and its General Secretariats. It has two mandates:
- To contribute to the strengthening of the Cambodian Parliament through the capacity development of its members and parliamentary staff; and
- to share its experiences with others and other parliaments in the region and beyond.
PIC is independently run and funded, adheres to a policy of strict neutrality and is demand-driven so that it can fully align its activities to those of the Parliament. Capacity strengthening is at the core of PIC’s activities, and services include training, workshops, seminars and internships, as well as support for outreach activities such as expert hearings, public consultations and national and international fact finding and study missions.
There is a particular emphasis on strengthening the parliamentary research skills of parliamentary staff, some of whom take year-long internships with PIC while they learn-by-doing. The emphasis has always been on building the skills of parliamentary staff while producing the research information to inform parliamentarians in pursuing their legislative function. Other capacity strengthening topics include English, parliamentary communications, legal drafting and more.
In contributing to strengthen the Cambodian Parliament and other parliaments in the region, PIC draws on the expertise of regional, national, and international partners including parliamentary organizations in other parts of the world.
In the fall of 2018, we will build our expertise in parliamentarian research, institution models, and strategic functioning, as well as work closely with PIC staff to develop a model for parliamentarian research institution-building across ASEAN (“Association of Southeast Asian Nations”) parliaments. We will conduct an environmental scan of different parliamentarian research units across the globe, a participatory-based SWOT (“Strengths, Weaknesses, Opportunities and Threats”) assessment of current parliamentarian research institutions across the region, and participate in seminars with legislative research experts (e.g. Congressional Research Service), retired legislators, and international NGO and donor staff, to identify replicable research institutional models most appropriate for the ASEAN parliamentarian community.
The semester will culminate with presentations to colleagues at the Parliamentarian Institute of Cambodia (PIC), which we hope to conduct in-person over the holiday break, or in collaboration between a U.S. based team and a travel team visiting Cambodia over the holiday break. By December 1, we will shape a formal agreement with the PIC executive team to determine a spring work plan and deliverables.
In the spring of 2019, we will co-design an implementation process with PIC staff, as well as have the opportunity to support research and design of training materials on policy topics of greatest relevance to the ASEAN legislative community, including gender issues, natural resource management, climate change, and food security among others.
Why We Need Your Help
As master’s students, none of us have very much disposable income to spend on a trip to Cambodia. We need your help to make that happen. We need your help in order afford travel expenses so that we can present our fall work to our PIC counterparts on Phnom Penh. This trip to Cambodia will also allow us to explore and get to know the country we have been working with and studying. Only a couple of our team members has ever been to Southeast Asia. After working with an organization in Cambodia all year, it would be incredible to see what life is actually like there. With your help, our team can visit this beautiful, developing corner of the world over the winter break and present our work. Please help us make this happen! Donations of any size are welcome and will be very much appreciated by our team. Thank you!