Our Perspective

The International Day for the Eradication of Poverty: Middle income Cambodia's three poverty challenges

17 Oct 2017

image Cook stove production in Kampong Chhnang, Cambodia

When the poverty data for the current round of Cambodia’s Socio-Economic Survey (CSES) is published next year, it will almost certainly show a further decline on the 13½ per cent of the population living below the national poverty line in 2014. Based on past trends, the rate could be below 10 per cent. This would continue the dramatic pattern of decline established some two decades ago, when poverty affected a staggering 60% of the population. Over this period literally millions of Cambodians have been lifted out of poverty. The trends on the international dollar-a-day poverty line have been equally dramatic.    This is a real cause for celebration and marked Cambodia out as a global achiever. But as a newcomer to Cambodia, who has worked on poverty issues elsewhere in the world, I want to underline that this does not mean that poverty - the deprivation of human lives and livelihoods - is in terminal decline and should no longer figure as a policy priority. I want to argue rather, that Cambodia’s poverty problem is evolving, that this country faces a series of significant poverty challenges, and that these have become more complex. First and foremost, it is important to keep  Read More

Going Back To Our Roots: A ‘New’ Pilot Approach for Gender Equality in Cambodia

02 Oct 2017

image This image has been widely used by women's rights advocates all over the world since the 1980s for women's self empowerment, campaign promotion and advertising.

I wish I could write a story about the outstanding gains that women have made in any of the countries I have been visiting or working in. But, lately, due to the current global backlash against women, I face serious problems in identifying those wins. In the last decade, some success stories of women from different parts of the world describe how women have improved their position in society through strong determination and tireless work. One could think that we are on the right track to achieving gender equality. But let’s be honest, success stories that only reflect the reality of few female individuals are not real success stories. At least, not the real success stories we want to see and write about. Not the collective success story we are truly working for. When promoting gender equality in the context of international development, some appropriate strategic advice can (in the best-case scenario) result in policies and laws that are either specifically focused on reducing gender inequalities at hand, or that are more responsive to the needs of women. But a deep-rooted resistance to change still exists in the mindsets of many decision makers across countries. Even some of our own UN  Read More

Value chains and commodity prices: getting cassava out of the red and into the black

13 Sep 2017

image At the National Steering Committee on Cassava Ministry of Commerce, Phnom Penh 5 September 2017 (Photo: UNDP Cambodia)

Cassava farming was never for rich farmers.  But at least last year the average price for fresh root at farm was 3.5 cents (about 140 Riel) a kilo.  There was hope it would get back into profit at 4.4 cents.  It’s now down to 2.6 cents (about 100 Riel). So why do famers bother?  Part of the answer is the famers are in fact seasonal migrant workers, either inside the country or to the neighboring countries such as Thailand.  They leave the cassava in the ground for around 10 months to fetch what price it gets when they come home. Unlike rice, it doesn’t take much care during its growing period and cultivation. Low returns in the cassava sector are a serious problem. 80% of the population still lives in rural areas and Cassava is Cambodia’s largest agricultural export crop by weight after rice, so these commodity prices falls have had wide spread and serious effects. They have highlighted weaknesses in production, supply chain and exports. This makes the proposed development of a national Cassava policy all the more important.  It also can suggest ways in which we can turn challenges into opportunities. There are three possible areas where such opportunities  Read More

Youth, we have the capacity and potential to achieve peace

23 Aug 2017

image Photo: Athika Phuong

My name is Athika, a 22-year-old university student and a journalist. I am also a member of the Change Makers Regional Asia-Pacific and a representative of the 2030 Youth Force network in Cambodia. My dream is to see people living in peace, happiness and hope. Even though I come from a poor family, as a youth I persist in seeking peace for my society. By participating in different fields of social work, I try to show other young people that we have the capacity and potential to achieve peace. The youth delivers peace Social participation of young people is very important when we seek, build and maintain peace. According to the United Nations Population Fund, more than half of the Cambodian population is youth who are under 30 and are “active citizens” in the country’s development. I believe that if the youth could improve our capacity, we can be driving forces towards positive change. We can be the centre of the machine supporting the decision making that fuels development of our country. Some people may think that young people bring many troubles — but we also bring solutions. Thus, the government should provide more protection and opportunity for the youth. My concept of volunteerism Volunteering  Read More

A sustainable kitchen, for people and planet

21 Aug 2017

image A market at Siem Reap, Photo: UNDP Cambodia

We have a pretty good idea of what’s good for us to eat – even if we can’t always resist temptation.  But what’s good for the planet?  How do our food choices affect the world around us? Adaptive Farms, Resilient Table, is a cookbook with a difference.  It focuses on traditional dishes from six countries including Cambodia, and uses ingredients that are more resistant to climate change. The book, produced under the Canada-UNDP Climate Change Adaptation Facility, introduces some Khmer classics such as Samla Kako (kako soup), Amok (steam curry) and Num Ansom Chek (steamed banana and sticky rice cakes). The recipes allow for variations based on locally available produce, making it possible to switch away from ingredients that have a high carbon footprint on account of being imported. It’s not just climate change that is changing what we put on our table.  In 2012 World Bank study showed that the numbers of people living in poverty are falling in both absolute and relative terms in every continent of the world. This is probably the greatest piece of good news no-one has heard about. In the next 20 years, we expect the size of the global middle class to triple to  Read More

Why fisher folk are planting trees

17 Aug 2017

image Mr. SAO Theang, Head of of Chumpu Khmao Community Fishery, Preynub District

Cambodia’s new Environmental Codes and power of collaborative management Sao Theang steers his boat through the waters in and around the mangrove forest of Preynub, close to Sihanouk Ville on the Cambodian coast. It’s beautiful scenery and Theang tells us he hopes tourist numbers will start to pick up. As the Head of Chumpu Khmao Community Fishery, he and his community already make a good living from shrimp, fish, mussels and other plentiful aquaculture. But now the community is actively engaged in growing and protecting their own mangrove trees. Why are these fisher folk planting trees? Using tidal water flows and square blocks of natural mangrove, maximizes the yields of valuable shrimp, fish and mussels. The mangrove forest adds to the beauty of the area: a plus for tourism.  The community works closely with the Department of Fisheries, Ministry of Agriculture, Forestry and Fishery, Ministry of Environment and the local Commune, fostering a thriving business for the community, and effective environmental protection of a valuable forest. This week, the Ministry of Environment continued consultations on new legislation: the Environmental Codes. In a sign of how seriously these codes are being taken by Government, the consultations were led by the Minister, H.E.  Read More

Will dreams come true?

15 Jul 2017

image The rural family of Ms. Prak Thavy whose two older daughters are unemployed and her younger daughter, age 13, is a student who has talent for math and Khmer and wishes to become a teacher in the future.

When young people transition into the world of work, it’s a critical time—for young people themselves, their families, and Cambodian society. Cambodia’s economic success means young people have more hope and better prospects for the future. But what does it take for young people to succeed at work and in life? I’ve researched this and other questions about young people over the past several years. A recent survey on school-to-work transition by the International Labour Organisation (ILO) gives a curious picture of youth employment. About three-fourths of young people aged 15 to 29 are employed. However, many of them are in vulnerable or poor-quality employment, are under-qualified for their jobs, or work excessively long hours. In addition, many young Cambodians have to enter the labour market early and don’t have the necessary skills and education. Obviously, young people from wealthier families often end up with better incomes and job conditions. About 90 per cent of youth say they are “satisfied” with their current job, but at the same time half of them say they intend to change for a better paid job. Cambodians see education as a major means to securing upward social mobility. Educational opportunities, from primary to post-secondary level,  Read More

Who will finance development in Cambodia?

24 May 2017

image UNDP's staff holding notes to demonstrate the linkage among the leadership, policies, UNDP's support and development.

The Government is well positioned to lead and finance the next stage of national development. Managing partnerships with the private sector will be of increased importance while Cambodia’s development partners and NGOs will need to adapt to new roles in support of the SDGs. Last week’s World Economic Forum on ASEAN highlighted the pressing need to accelerate infrastructure development and to improve connectivity in the region. Opening the meeting, Prime Minister Hun Sen emphasized the importance of investments, from within and outside the country, in boosting competitiveness and moving Cambodia’s fledgling industry up the value chain. Elsewhere in the meeting, participants noted the need to invest in education and skills as well as to promote the transfer of technology. All of this will cost money. In addition, the Government has shown a strong commitment to continuing its pro-growth policies and to localising the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs). Strengthening Government institutions and capacities to improve public services and deliver on its commitments to the SDGs will come with a hefty price tag. So where will the money come from? Recent work completed by UNDP in partnership with the Royal Government’s Council for the Development of Cambodia (CDC) - called the Development Finance  Read More

Message from the Country Director

05 May 2017

image Country Director Nick Beresford with colleagues and community members were planting mangrove trees

We are going through a period of huge global transformations, a mass emergence from poverty and towards wealth, the rise of Asia, economically and politically. And here in Cambodia we are right in the heart of it. We have seen in the last 15 years a tripling of the size of the economy and poverty being cut more than half. These are remarkable achievements. As a newly minted Lower Middle Income Country, the challenge is now to join the emergence of a new global middle class. The size of the “global middle class” is expected to increase from 1.8 billion in 2009 to 3.2 billion by 2020 and 4.9 billion by 2030. The bulk of this growth will come from Asia: by 2030, two-thirds of the global middle class – the big engine of growth, technology and political power – will be in Asia. The challenge now is how to make that transformation a sustainable one.  To de-risk it and ensure those gains are stable.  In short, can we want a globally shared prosperity – an end to poverty – but without destroying our planet in the process? So what is our role in UNDP? We have done some great work  Read More

My volunteer experience with UNDP Cambodia opened a lot of doors for me

29 Mar 2017

image Maeve Anne Halpin (center), UN Youth Volunteer with UNV Project ‘Volunteer Caravan’ in Cambodia. As part of the project, Maeve travelled throughout Cambodia to meet with volunteers and their organizations. (UNV, Cambodia)

"Volunteering took me out of my comfort zone.” Maeve Anne Halpin, UN Youth Volunteer in Communication, Outreach and Youth served with the United Nations Development Programme (UNDP) in Phnom Penh, Cambodia. Her assignment was funded by Irish Aid. I had never been to South East Asia nor had I ever worked in the UN System – it was a big change for me, professionally and personally. Volunteering abroad took me out of my comfort zone. It was nerve-wracking the first couple of weeks, navigating the busy streets, meeting new faces every day, and attempting to communicate in Khmer, all while starting a new job in an unfamiliar setting. UN Volunteers are highly regarded in the United Nations system. Our assignment has a lot of responsibility. We are encouraged to take part in and organize activities related to our assignments, to motivate our UN colleagues to volunteer and to create a sense of community. For a UNV project called ‘Volunteer Caravan’, I travelled throughout Cambodia to meet with volunteers and their organizations. We discussed issues affecting volunteers, various projects the volunteers worked on, and the impact of their work. My role involved a steep learning curve as I was thrown in at  Read More

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