Corruption is the most critical issue of our time. People can make a difference.

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More than 1,500 leaders and activists from more than 130 countries are gathering at the 15th International Anti-Corruption Conference (IACC) today (November 7) in Brasilia, Brazil to share experience and learn new skills and tools to combat corruption more effectively. The honorable guests of speaker for the opening session include the President of Brazil, Honorable Dilma Rousseff and Chair of Transparency International, Madame Huguette Labelle.

The theme for the 15th IACC is “Mobilizing People, Connecting Agents of Change” which put strong emphasis on the importance of people who are the key factors in driving change for a better world and a better society through demanding for, and activity participating in creating, a more accountable and transparent government in each country and territory. I have the honor and privilege to participate in this special event and would like to write a short article to share my personal opinions and knowledge as the following:

The affects of Corruption:  It has always been clear that corruption does the greatest harm to the livelihood of people especially the poor who might not even fully understand the definition of corruption. Almost every single problem people are facing on this planet whether it is injustices, human right abuses, illegal logging and broken roads or bridges or poor quality of education and health services, increased crimes and drugs, etc have all been caused by corruptions. It is a symptom to many social problems.

It is evidenced that countries that are poorer are well known to be more corrupt and on the contrary, the countries

President of Brazil, Hon. Dilma Rousseff speaks at the opening of the 15th IACC

that are least corrupt are known to be richer and more developed. Corruption does kill and cause death to living beings and therefore, it is a serious crime. It hinders economic development, robs national resources that belong to all citizens for the benefits of a few. It is an evil and a monster that need to be eradicated.

Who cares about corruption: People from around the world care about the problem and there is an increasing number of people’s movement from around the world who are standing up and fighting against corruption. The recent Arab Spring Revolution clearly shows that the people in some parts of the world no longer tolerate corruptions and they decided to bring changes and improve the situation.

Transparency International is the leading civil society organization in the fight against corruption with representative offices and active members in more than 100 countries spreading out in all different parts of the world. Inter-Governmental and bi-lateral organizations such as the World Bank, Asian Development Bank, the United Nations and all major donors have been actively advocating for more transparency and accountability and place strict conditions in their financial loans and or donations for development of the country’s infrastructure and economy.

Most countries in the world have realized or been pressured to realize that corruption is one of the biggest challenges to development and growth. Most government have begun to take action to address the problem by adapting the anti-corruption laws, establishing the anti-corruption institutions and doing necessary reforms to prevent and reduce corruption or at least put the issue under control. Some countries are doing better than others in fighting corruption; some have genuine political will while some only have political show, the result of which are proved to be very different. Educated people can see the difference clearly while the less educated citizens might be confused because of the political ideologies relayed to them via the biased media.

Delegates and Activists particiate in the 15th IACC in Brasilia, Brazil.

Why Corruption Still Exist? If a lot of people and institutions care about corruption why does it still exist? The problem is because it is a tricky crime and often is done in the dark, under the table and are committed by powerful people who have power and necessary authorities to facilitate such corrupt acts to occur and prevent them from facing consequences and sanctions. The countries that lack the rules of laws and where the check and balance systems are weak are the countries with the most convenient avenue for corruptions to take place. In the countries where transparent and accountable systems are established and where the rules of laws are functioned, corruptions can hardly survive. It may still exist but in a much smaller scale and with high consequences.

Another reason is because there are too many people who do not believe that they can make a difference, they are just hopeless and become paralyzed by corruption. They don’t act enough to improve the situation and feel too scared to challenge the people with powers. They think by ignoring the issue they are freed from the negative impacts, but that is unfortunately not the case.

Because of this, we can say that both the corruptor and the people who suffer from corruption can be considered as being selfish. The corruptors are selfish because they want the most for their personal greed knowing that the national resources belong to everyone who should have a fair or equitable share of them. On the other hand, the people who literally choose to do nothing about it knowing that it is a big social problem are selfish because they want no consequence and don’t want to take risk. Unfortunately, corruption cause so much harms to people that nobody can escape from being the victim of it. It is just a matter of time, sooner or later, big or small, each one of us will suffer from it one day. This is not to exclude those who are corrupt. They too, or their family members will suffer from corruption they commit themselves. There is no exception.

What can we do to fight corruption? There are many ways we can do to fight against corruption. I’d like to make the following suggestions:

1. People: They are one of the most important agents of change who can make the ultimate difference. Speaking up against corruption or showing an attitude of not supporting corrupt officials are something people can do at the individual level. By showing that they are aware of corruption and they do not support such practices, the people can demand for changes in a democratic society. Refuse to pay a bribe at all times. Corruption takes two parties to be able to commit; the givers and the receivers. If the people have the courage to refuse to pay a bribe, the officials will change their behavior and habit for asking for a bribe. These officials are now aware that taking a bribe is illegal and they are subject to punishment by law. In fact the people who pay a bribe are also committing a crime and are subject to punishment. It’s time to stop paying a bribe.

The people should find ways to report corruption when they see or experience it. They can take part in the budget planning at the various levels of the government administrations, especially in the commune levels. They can ask for information on the budget expenditures and verify whether or not it is accurate. They can monitor the construction of the roads and development projects to see if the costs for such development are reasonable or not and to see if the contractors are in full compliance with the terms and conditions stated in the contract. There are many other things they can do.

They are encouraged to not vote for the corrupt officials or candidates because if these corrupt officials or candidates continue to receive votes or supports from them why would they care about changing their behavior or stop committing corruption. People do make mistakes and committing corruption is a serious mistake. They deserve a chance to make correction, that’s why some of the anti-corruption laws do not publish people who commit corruption in the past but only do to corruption cases that occur after the law has been adapted and come into effect. That is kind enough.

In such a case, people should not be naïve or ignorant not to know whether those who have made such a mistake have made correction or not. Each one has to be a smarter citizen in order to benefit from the government officials rather than to be the victims of their conducts. They are elected to serve the citizens and not to do harm to their livelihood.

Youth are the real force of changes and the hope for a better future. They need to be educated on the ethical values and morals so that they will not repeat the same practices of their previous generations’ leaders. Corruption means stealing or cheating that are clearly immoral and unethical. One of the root causes to corruption is that the moral and values have dropped significantly in Cambodia and that people give too much values on the materials and properties (materialistic). Many people go after money through any means and do not care whether what they are doing is ethical or not.

I see this as a very serious problem in Cambodia now and unfortunately there seem to be nobody doing anything to improve the moral issues. It seems like the society allows this immoral and unethical conducts to exist and let everyone accept it as a normal behavior and way of life. Why is that so? This is a shame especially most of our people are Buddhist, a religion that places morals and ethics on top of other human values.  What are the Buddhist monks and nuns are doing these days? Aren’t they supposed to educate people about these moral rules? I don’t think they do enough, especially they only reach out to elder people while the young populations and the youth are completely out of reach. How about the parents? Can they educate their children? Most of them seem to have violated these moral rules themselves so it is unrealistic to expect them to educate their children when they themselves are not in full compliance.

I think the Buddhist monks and nuns could do a lot more than what they can do these days. At the very least they should go to schools (primary, secondary and high schools to teach these morals). One or two hours per week would be a good start. This should be one of their mission and they should not just wait for people to come to the pagodas to listen to their Dhamma or wait till they get invitation from the people. That’s actually what Buddha did during his time. He reached out to people from places to places and spread the Dhamma and moral education. Why don’t the current monks and nuns are doing that? Isn’t it their mission? Or perhaps some of them are selfish too and do not care about this?

2. Civil Society Organization: Set good examples and comply with high standard of good governance, transparency and accountability. Promote these values of integrity and ethics within its own institutions and spread such educations to other institutions to do the same. Build coalition and work together with others to demand such a standard to be practiced in the public sector or the government administration. Do not pay a bribe and resist strongly when being asked to pay a bribe.

3. Media and Journalist: increase efforts, times and resources to expose corruption cases to the public and put pressure to the government to take zero tolerance towards the officials who commit corruptions. Impunity is heaven for the corruptors.

To make the cases stronger and more convincing, they need to do proper investigation and expose the cases with concrete evidences or references. The media and journalists play a very important role in the fight against corruption. Of course this involves a greater risk in a country such as Cambodia, so it takes extra courage and caution to do so. But without brave journalists it is an unfortunate lack of an important element of change.

4. Anti-Corruption Institution:  This institution has to be very well equipped with the human and financial resource, but most importantly it has to be independent from the executive power. Adequate power and authorities must be given to this institution and it has to be guaranteed in the legal framework. Facilities and mechanisms must be set to allow people to file complaints without fears. The complainants must be encouraged and well protected.

5. Political Institutions: Political parties must put fighting corruption on the top of their political platform and all members and activists must make sure that their party leaders uphold to their pledges to fight corruption in practice not just in paper. Young members of the parties (youth wings) who are the future leaders must make sure that their current generation leaders genuinely practice high standard of integrity and are fully accountable to their misconducts. The young people in Cambodia have a great chance because they comprise of the majority population in the country and are the sweetest voters. But they don’t really see their leverage and power and they don’t bother to advocate or demand for such a standard.

By reflecting all these aspects, it seems like we are all to be blamed if we dare to question ourselves whether or not we are responsible citizens. If we are not part of the solutions, we must be part of the problems we face these days. Think about it.

But it is not yet too late. Now it is very clear that people can make a difference. There are evidences in different parts of the world. Yes we can and together we will make a better society that is more transparent and accountable. We must restore integrity, morals and ethical values and put them higher than materials and wealth otherwise we will continue to suffer and not only that, we allow our future generations to suffer without a prospect ending. Don’t we know that we have an obligation to make the lives of our future generation better than us today? That is one of the best legacies we can leave for our children, grand children and our future generations.

Thank you for reading my long article. This article is written in Brasilia (Brazil) at 3:00 a.m (November 8, 2012). Written with love and care and by no mean to anger anyone. Please forgive me if it offenses you. I don’t have such an intention at all. Best wishes, Kol.

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Silence means approval to remain as victim of corruption

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Corruption Perception Index 2011

My life has always been moved by inspiration and aspiration, hope and self-confidence. However, I am starting to feel a bit disappointed today when I now come to a conclusion that very few of my fellow Cambodians have the courage to speak up against corruption although they are affected by it everyday. They tend to stay silence or distance themselves from this very critical issue, not to even like the or make comments to my post about corruption, watch or listen to the interview on this topic which I posted on facebook. This is a very worrying situation and trend.

If we know that we are the victim of corruption and yet we choose to bend our head down into the sand and totally ignore this issue, we not only choose to remain the victim of corruption for the rest of our lives but we also allow our children and grand children to become the victims of corruption with our full conscience and agreement. Can we really afford to do this? If anyone answer “yes” to this question, he or she is not a responsible citizen, sorry to say that, but i do so with my good heart and good intention.

Here are some stunning facts and figures related to corruptions that I wish to share with you briefly:
1. Corruption deepens poverty – the developing world lost US$8.44 trillions in illicit flows over the decade ending 2009 (source: Global Financial Integrity 2009);
2. Corruption destabilises – countries with weak governance, control of corruption and rule of law have a 30-40 percent higher risk of civil war (source: World Bank Development Report 2011); and
3. Corruption steals – one in four people reported paying bribes in the last year (source: Global Corruption Barometer 2010/11).

My friends, brother and sisters – If you just take a few minutes to ask yourself these three question: 1) is there anything I can do about this issue?. The answer is “yes of course”. You can make a difference and improve the situation for example by standing up and speaking up against corruption or refuse to pay a bribe. Citizens from around the world can certainly make one of the two choices: 1) continue to be a victim or 2) improve the situation to reduce the negative affect to themselves and to their children and grand children. You have to choose one of them. 2) Do you love yourself and your children? and 3) If you do, will you allow yourself and your children to be the victim of corruption?

“My friends, brothers and sisters, the best time to fight against corruption is now and It’s time to wake up”. I wrote this post at 3:00 a.m from Brasilia, (Brazil) with my good heart.

You can start to make a difference by Sharing this post with your friends in facebook. Please do and feel good for doing so. With love from me as always…Kol.

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ASEAN People’s Forum in Cambodia “two events in a small city”

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Prior to the ASEAN summit which Cambodia is the chair this year, NGOs, members the Civil Society Organizations (CSOs) and citizens group from the 10 ASEAM member states/countries had come together for a three-day forum/conference to discuss issues of their concerns and to identify recommendations to put forward for the ASEAN Delegates to take on board for their discussion at a higher governmental and political level during the summit which will be held in early April.

Civil Society Representatives from the ASEAN Countries give testimonies

Around one thousand participants attended the first day of the event mostly from the NGOs and members of CSOs from the 10 countries and citizens group from across Cambodia who were enthusiastic and excited as the opening session began which was accompanied by colorful symbolic shows, traditional blessing dance, drum performance and inspiring testimonies from representatives of the 10 ASEAN member states. The participants, through this forum, hope to make contribution to the agenda of the ASEAN summit by submitting key recommendations to be solicited from the three-day discussions.

To a disappointment of many, there was no representative from the Government of Cambodia who were on the list of invitee to be honorable guests for the event. However, there were few honorable guests including the head of UNOHCHR and a representative from the French Embassy along with several international organizations and development partners who kept low profile at the event.

What may sound a bit weird is that there are also the same forum organized by another smaller group of NGOs who were said to have been supported by the government which began a day earlier and is still in progress in parallel with this event which is led by leaders from the NGOs and CSOs in Cambodia including NGO Forum and CCC together with many other well-known organizations. One may ask these questions: why are there two separate forums for the same purpose in such a small city? Why there were no government representatives for this forum and a lot of government officials including the Deputy Prime Minister for the other one? From which group will the recommendations be put forward and accepted by the ASEAN Delegates as part of their agenda? Let’s wait and see.

The theme for the ASEAN summit this year is “One Community, One Destiny” which sounds very nice on the banner. How much this theme will contribute to a realization of reality remain to be seen. But the situation described above is unfortunately a reflection of the opposite.

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5 Most Important Skills

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I often come across questions from friends who are employees and students that I interacted with who asked what would I recommend them to learn in order to meet requirements of the current evolving world and to be able to obtain a decent and higher paid career. Surprisingly my answers now are not be different from my answer 15 fifteen years ago and I am pretty sure that it will not be different thirty years from now either.

I believe that there are five skills that are most important for people to learn in order to gain adequate comparative advantages in the job markets. I would consider a combination of these five skills as the greatest human capital that cannot be stolen and the more we make use of them the better and more valuable we will become. These skills are as the following:

1. National Language Skills:I believe it is very important to learn and become master in our national language if we wish to live and work in our own country. Being able to read, write and speak the national language at the higher level gives us the greatest advantage for some of the prestige jobs including working as or for senior elites. For example in Khmer language, there are different levels of vocabularies and terminologies that are used for different groups or classes of people such as for the king, monks, honorable persons, regular persons, children, men and women, etc.There are not many Khmer people who are able to know how to use all these different terminologies and vocabularies for all different groups. Most of them can use the normal language to communicate at an ordinary level. When culture and respect between young and old people and positions are very important, being to use the right words for the right groups of people does give the most desirable impression and therefore are attractive to favorable careers or social status.

2. Foreign Language Skills:for a country that is still heavily dependent on foreign investments and assistance like Cambodia, it is very crystal clear that being able to speak foreign languages does give much more chance for having higher paid careers. All foreign languages are useful to various degrees but I believe English language stands out to be the most favorable one for now.Although French is still relevant and being used in some international organizations such as the United Nations or European Unions, English seems to be still the most spoken Language at the work places. As China’s economy continues to rise and is predicted to be in the first place and taken over the United States within the next decade or so, Chinese language would likely give additional opportunity and advantage for those who seek careers with foreign private industries.

3. Computer Skills:in this modern world the Internet and Communication Technology (ICT) has been playing a very important role in the transformation and evolution of human beings in every aspect including businesses, hobbies, socialization and so on. Computer has been tremendously useful for all kinds of large and medium businesses and works. It also provides the most convenient ways or tools to access to information quickly through internet search (google search) and for all kinds of human communications and interaction.It would be hard for someone to get a decent career these days if they do not know how to use the computer. The more programs we can use the more advantage we will have in competing for a good career and in managing or running our businesses. If you are not interested in becoming and IT Expert, I would suggest you learn and be able to use at least a few programs such as Microsoft Office (word, excel, power points), and how to use internet and e-mail properly (including using Microsoft Outook). If you are interested in or if there is a need to do designing work, you will need to learn Adopt Photoshop or other relevant programs. If you want to be working in finance sector or work as accountant, you need to learn Quick Book or Peachtree. The more skillful you are in any of these programs, the better chance you stand in competing for a good career or in performing your job effectively.

4. Technical & Academic Knowledge or Skills: this refers to your academic studies or vocational skills that you learn at schools. It can be university decrees or professional skill certificates that you acquire from educational institutions. Decree or professional skills in any field are important so long as they are relevant to your passion and talents. I have found out that many people have chosen to study the subjects that are not necessarily related to their passion and talents but they did so because they wanted to comply or fulfill their parents’ wisdom.Surprisingly some people even decide to study a particular subject because they follow their friends. It is unfortunately not smart and not effective to study about something that you are not really interested in or that is not relevant to your natural talents. The immediate impacts of this is that you will not like your studies much and thus the period of your studies usually become much longer when you get bored. Then I would think your study result would not be as good as it should be or as good as you should be able to achieve.There is also a longer term impacts for this. Supposed you had struggled to finish your degree and get into the job. Then for a while will find that job does not match you interest and passion. It is common that people of then looks for the job that matches their decree or the skills they have learned at schools. But the problem is if you do not like what you study, it is very likely that you will not like your job either because the job might also be something not relevant to your passion and talents. Then you are not performing your best and you are the star employees.

Therefore, I suggest that you choose your study subjects that match your passion and talents in order to have a desirable study results and a more fulfilling career.    But if you already realized that you had chosen the wrong subjects and it seems too late to change it, there is a way to resolve the problem but it is quite difficult. You need to transform or change your perception which could help change your interest and the way you see you future. This is difficult but it is possible. I can help with this through mentoring, coaching and counseling sessions, but it takes time and commitment to achieve it.

5. Communication Skills: the four skills that I mentioned above (from #1-4) are important and I am sure most people are aiming to learn all of them. How well they can learn will depend on their ability, talents and commitments. But Communication skills are often over looked and many people mistakenly think that they are part of what they are learning everyday as they grow up and there is no need to study it as an addition. What do you think?Well, I would say that there are not many people who are born with natural gift in communications. These individuals are good when it comes to human relations or public relations. Many people, especially my friends believe that I belong to this group, perhaps it is true but I have always been trying to master these skills throughout my careers over the last 15 years. I am still trying to shape it up now.When you see my career growth and progression, you can feel that it is quite extraordinary and if you ask me what did I do to achieve that, you might be able to even guess the answer. It is because of my ability to communicate at a world class level.

The ability to communicate effectively in both local and foreign language together with my attitude toward people and my work have been the key factors that help me accelerate in my careers. It is not my luck, or maybe it is a small part of it, but if so my “luck” is the meeting of my preparation and opportunities. Please do not ask me how did I get these opportunities? I have always been searching for them with my preparation all years long. I still continue to chase my new dreams.When most people are going to have the four skills (1-4), what comparative advantage you would have is to master your fifth skill, the communication skills which include verbal, non-verbal, written communications, presentation and public speaking.  Let us make an easy to understand example: supposed that Mr. A holds Master Degree in Business Administration (MBA) and Mr. B holds Bachelor Degree in Business Administration (BBA).

Mr. A is a quiet and less spoken person. He does not talk to colleagues or other very much. He is simple and gentle and is reserved. He is somehow shy. Whereas, Mr. B is very talkative and very outgoing. He is confident in talking and sharing his opinions with colleagues and others. He always has ideas and able to speak in every meeting both internal and external and is able to expressing his opinions very effectively and persuasively. He then follows up through letters or e-mails and be able to share the information quickly with colleagues. Between Mr. A and Mr. B, who do you think should be the manager? I am sure you would agree that Mr. B should be the manager although he has lower degree, is that right? If this is the case even Mr. A holds Ph.D, I would still prefer hiring the Mr. B as a manager for my organization or company. So you can see the difference? I hope this is an easier way of answering the question about why and how I have accelerated in my career so quickly over the last 15 years.

Now I am on a mission and in the mood to share this tactics and secrets about communications to others and want to help people become more outstanding individuals and be able find jobs. If they already have jobs I will help them accelerate and climb the career ladders. In addition, doing this will also help them live a happier life because according research, 85% of our satisfaction comes from having good relationship with others as result of having good communications and inter-personal relationship. It is so true as it proves to my experience. To be star employees, to be effective manager, to be effective leaders you must have good communications skills.

Now if you agree that communication skills are important to your success and happiness I recommend you to look for opportunity that you can master these most important skills with a small investment but huge impacts. I believe investment in learning and improving our skills is the best investment. The opportunity is available now. Please check it out by clicking here.

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Favorite quotes that have shaped my life. They might be meaningful to you too.

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These are a collection of quotes and phrases that I have come across. I believe they have, to some extends, contributed to shaping my life. They should be meaningful to you, too.

“Success is what you make it mean to you and it can also change over time. The trick is to figure out what it looks like to you and go after it”.

“Doing what you love is the key. You never achieve success unless you like what you are doing”.

“Passion is the driving force behind every significant human achievement. When your heart isn’t in something, it’s hard to do it well”.

“Emerging leaders want to make a good living, but they also want to make a difference. They will not stay with employers who do not support their efforts to find purpose in their lives”.

“In searching for happiness, money alone is not the answer. There are many things people want in life that money can’t buy”.

“Luck is the meeting of preparation and opportunity. Destiny is the meeting of purpose, passion and preparation using talents”.

“You have to have self-belief to get to where you want to be in life. Where you end up is where your self-believe takes you to. You are the product of all that you believe to be possible for you”.

“Your life is in your hand and in your mind”.

“Fate and destiny only exist with your full support and agreement”.

“The mistake people make is in waiting for destiny to deliver the goods or in feeling that fate or an unlucky planetary alignment has

condemned them to conditions or a life they would rather not have”.

“What matters most is not the problems you are facing, but how you are responding to the problems”.

“The extent to which you believe others or something else to be responsible for the circumstances of your life is the extent to which you deny yourself access to your own resources, capacities and ingenuity”.

“Your beliefs create your behavior, and your behavior creates your experience”.

“Nurture your mind with great thoughts, for you will never go any higher than you think”. Disraeli.

“Nothing happens until something moves. Successful people do more than their less successful counterparts”.


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