Julien Kervella T'11 spent his summer in Phnom Penh, Cambodia working on Cambodia's garment industry.

Programs - Career
Tuck GIVES Internship:

Julien Kervella T’11
Eesti Eurasian Fellowship
Phnom Penh, Cambodia

The purpose of the Eesti Eurasian Fellowship is to send graduates and undergraduates to Eastern Europe and Asia to work for governments in developing countries. It was founded during the 1990s by Jenik Radon, an international lawyer and professor at Columbia School of International Public Affairs. Since its inception, students have worked in Georgia, Estonia, Nepal, and recently in Cambodia and Kenya on national issues, such as strengthening legal institutions, improving women’s welfare, and developing a corporate social responsibility program across industries.

I spent my summer in Phnom Penh, Cambodia working on Cambodia’s garment industry. Cambodia is a least developed country (LDC) still recovering from wars and civil unrest that started in the mid-1950s and lasted until the beginning of the 1990s. As a consequence of the brutal Khmer Rouge dictatorship and its goal of a wholly agrarian society, in the beginning of the 1990s, the country had no functioning industries. The new government was able to take advantage of international agreements in apparel to create a garment industry. This industry has increased from an export value of $25 million in 1995 to $2.8 billion in 2007. The garment industry represents 80% of the country’s total exports, and about 16% of its total GDP. The recent worldwide recession and the end of multilateral agreements have weakened the industry. Foreign direct investment has decreased, and manufacturing plants have closed, resulting in massive lay-offs in an industry where women are the primary employees. These women have no choice but to either return home to work in rice paddy fields or work for the sex “industry”.

The goal of my summer’s work was to understand how the garment industry could increase its competitive advantage and determine whether or not a corporate social responsibility program could be implemented across the industry and then marketed to international buyers as a real differentiator. I was helped in this task by directors from the ministry of commerce, who arranged meetings with the industry’s main stakeholders, from international institutions to manufacturers. Government officials also gave me access to their materials regarding the industry. Working with a team of undergraduates, lawyers, and professors, we developed an implementable plan for the Cambodian government.