Sophal Ear leads research on post-conflict countries — looking at the effectiveness of foreign aid and the challenge of development in places like his native land, Cambodia.

Why you should listen

TED Fellow Sophal Ear is an Assistant Professor in the Department of National Security Affairs at the US Naval Postgraduate School. He has taught on the hospital ship USNS Mercy in support of the Pacific Partnership 2008. He completed his postdoc at the Maxwell School at Syracuse University, where he taught Policy and Administration in Developing Countries.

Before entering academia, he consulted for the World Bank and worked for the United Nations Development Programme. Early in his career he traveled to the West Bank and Gaza, and to Algeria, on social protection projects, where he gained a firsthand understanding of the realities of foreign aid on a national scale. Having grown up on Aid to Families with Dependent Children, he personally knew there were pitfalls to welfare system.

He came to the US at the age of 10 as a Cambodian refugee via France after his mother escaped with him and his four siblings from the Khmer Rouge by posing as a Vietnamese woman. She recounted her journey to him in an article in The New York Times.

Sophal Ear’s TED talk

More news and ideas from Sophal Ear


Paying it forward: Fellows Friday with Sophal Ear

October 19, 2012

Political economist, author and educator Sophal Ear’s family escaped from the Killing Fields, a story he related in a moving 2009 TEDTalk. Now, driven to give back to Cambodia, he examines the detrimental effects of foreign aid dependence in his new book, Aid Dependence in Cambodia: How Foreign Assistance Undermines Democracy. Tell us about how […]

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The week in comments

July 11, 2009

This week featured strong talks and we’ve found some equally strong comments to go with them. From touching reactions on Sophal Ear’s escape with his family from the Khmer Rouge to amazement at Kary Mullis’ strikingly deft cure for killer infections and appreciation for Eames Demetrios’ sentimental portrait of his legendary designer grandparents. Here they […]

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Global Issues

Q&A with Sophal Ear: From refugee stories to international policies

July 9, 2009

In yesterday’s TEDTalk, development economist and political scientist Sophal Ear shared the deeply personal story of his family’s escape from the Khmer Rouge. In today’s interview with the TED Blog, he continues that story and gives us details on his current path in international aid policy. Your mother cleverly pretended to be Vietnamese to escape […]

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