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How to Prepare for the Critical Issues Summit: Access to Water in Cambodia

How to Prepare for the Critical Issues Summit: Access to Water in Cambodia

Critical Issues Summit: Access to Water in Cambodia Resources

The purpose of these resources is to:

  • Provide context to the issue of water so you have a common starting place for initial discussions and feel prepared to ask relevant questions during your experience in Cambodia.
  • Introduce the scope of the issue and essential background information demonstrating the complexity, debates, and nuances of the issue.
  • Introduce the global context to water access, including a human rights framework that allows you to make connections to your home context.


Read or watch the links provided below. The resources are divided into relevant themes and topics. For most sections, there are both required and supplemental resources. Required resources are in bold. Start with the required resources in each section. If you’d like to go a bit deeper in your preparation, we highly recommend the supplemental resources. There are no resources related to Design Thinking on this list. Instead, we hope you will join us for our Introduction to Design Thinking webinar on Thursday, June 28 at 6:00pm ET or Friday, June 29 at 10:00am ET.

Guided Reading Questions

Guided reading questions are designed to help you focus on important takeaways. Answering them will ensure you are prepared to take full advantage of your Critical Issues Summit Immersion Week experience.

  1. What are the six reasons for the water crisis Dr. Peter Gleick outlines? What are the six solutions? From what you’ve read about Cambodia and the Floating Villages, which of the issues and solutions Dr. Gleick talks about do you think are most relevant to the context of your program? (See Solutions in a World of Peak Water Limits and Cambodia Context resources)
  2. Both Naoko Ishii and Balsher Singh Sidhu both make a point to connect the global water crisis to local actors and their decisions. Ishii introduces the concept of the “global commons.” What does she mean by that? What is one way you can think of that your actions in your local community affect water issues in Cambodia? (See An Economic Case for Protecting the Planet and Cambodia Context resources)
  3. Naoko Ishii also outlines four key economic systems we need to concentrate on in order to protect the planet. What are they? How does each relate to water? (See An Economic Case for Protecting the Planet and UN Water Facts)
  4. How are water issues connected to equity? How is the climate crisis related to the water crisis globally? How does that play out Cambodia? Who is most vulnerable? (See The United Nations World Water Development Report 2019: Leaving no one behind, The Ripple Effect: Climate change and children’s access to water and sanitation, and How can Cambodian farming survive climate change?)
  5. Why is international cooperation so important to solving the water crisis? What points were made about governance throughout your readings? What is one example you can think of where the priorities of a national government or large businesses differ to those of individuals and communities? (See Harnessing the Mekong or Killing It?)

Global Context of Water


  • Are We Running Out of Clean Water?: TedTalk by Balsher Singh Sidhu on the amount of water on Earth, how much humans use to sustain life, why some people are water poor, and some steps forward.
  • Solutions in a World of Peak Water Limits: Video of one of the world’s leading water and climate scientists, Dr. Peter Gleick. Gleick puts forward six reasons for the global water crisis and six corresponding solutions. While this talk is a few years old, it remains relevant and will guide your exploration of the issue.
  • An Economic Case for Protecting the Planet: Economist Naoko Ishii introduces the idea that we should think about taking care of the planet as a social contract between everyone who lives on it. She outlines four economic systems that are key to protecting our “global commons.”

Water, Human Rights, and Equity


  • UN Water and Human Rights to Water and Sanitation. The rights to safe drinking water and sanitation are recognized by the United Nations. Read these quick overviews to ensure you understand what that means.
  • Visit the UN Water Facts page. Click on each of the subtopics and read the challenges, opportunities, and facts and figures for each. The subtopics that are most relevant to your experience, in addition to Human Rights which is included above, are: Climate Change, Ecosystems, WASH, and Water, Food, and Energy.
  • The United Nations World Water Development Report 2019: Leaving no one behind. This Executive Summary provides the most comprehensive description of the key ideas you will be exploring on your program, with a special emphasis on equity and inclusion of marginalized groups.

Water’s relationship to Climate Change, Sustainable Development, and Globalization



  • Executive Summary – SDG 6 Synthesis Report 2018 on Water and Sanitation. This recent report goes into depth on Sustainable Development Goal #6 and its targets. It provides an overview of water and society, water and the environment, and water and the economy, which are three areas you will explore on the program. Pay attention to the “Key Messages” and “Enabling and Accelerating Progress” sections at the end.
  • The United Nations World Water Development Report, 2016: Water and Jobs; Executive Summary makes more clear the links between water, sustainable development, and the economy, specifically through the lens of employment. It offers context in the agriculture, energy, and industrial sectors and reiterates the importance of attention to human rights and gender, water source diversification, and capacity-building.

Water in the Cambodian Context


  • Aljazeera’s In Pictures: Cambodia’s floating villages photo essay paints a picture of the Floating Villages community you will be visiting. Though we will focus more on other inequities during the program, being aware of the marginalization that ethnic Vietnamese face in Cambodia is important to understanding the multifaceted equity issues in the country.
  • National Geographic’s Harnessing the Mekong or Killing It? provides essential background on the damming of the Mekong River in the region. Pay special attention to mentions of Cambodia throughout the article. Notice the conflict between the promise of development and environmental degradation, especially to Cambodia’s fisheries, that comes along with it. Take note of who benefits and who loses.
  • The Asean Post’s Refashioning the fashion industry, which provides an overview of the size of Cambodia’s textile industry and one Cambodian company’s leadership in sustainable fashion.
  • The Guardian’s piece Safe toilets help flush out disease in Cambodia’s floating communities discusses the challenges to sanitation in the Floating Villages and a promising innovation.
  • Eco-Business’ How can Cambodian farming survive climate change? Article provides context to the challenges of unpredictable weather events in Cambodia as well as the critical link between agriculture and the climate crisis.
  • Check out the websites of the organizations you will meet with on the program:


The Personal Context of Water


Critical Issues Summit: Resources for All

The purpose of the following resources is to spark your thinking on topics that are relevant to the Critical Issues Summit as a whole, rather than one particular Immersion Week experience.

These engaging videos from TED will also be shared in your Facebook group and are recommended for students traveling on all programs.

  1. Chimamanda Adichie’s Dangers of a Single Story Ted Talk
  2. Hans Rosling’s The best stats you’ve ever seen Ted Talk
  3. Greta Thunberg’s The disarming case to act right now on climate change Ted Talk
  4. Daniela Papi Thornton’s Reclaiming Social Entrepreneurship Tedx Talk and Tackling Heropreneurship: why we need to move from “the social entrepreneur” to social impact in Stanford Social Innovation Review
  5. Benedetta Berti’s What are the universal human rights? Ted Ed presentation and this Human Rights Watch publication where you should become familiar with the top human rights violations in the country you are traveling to.

There are no books required for the Summit, but for students who have asked for our recommendations, they are:

  1. Rustic’s 16 books that every future changemaker should read blog post
  2. To that list, we would add these non-fiction titles: