Our Perspective

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

Financing Cambodia's Gender Equality Goals

07 Mar 2017

image A farmer woman in Prey Veng harvesting her rice crop

Today, as we observe the International Women’s Day, let us look back at how far we have come and look forward to how we can overcome the remaining challenges together. Cambodia has undeniably made good progresses toward its gender equality goals in several areas, in addition to the improvement of legal framework, policies, and national plans to protect and improve the status of women and girls. For instance, girls’ access to education has improved, as reflected in the sharp contrast between female youth’s literacy rate and that of the old generations born before the Khmer Rouge regime. The number of female members of parliament and female local councillors has also increased, and Cambodian women’s participation rate in the workforce is among the highest in Asia. These progresses have been made despite limited funding from both state and foreign development assistance, that has always been low compared to other sectors. For instance, an analysis of the 2014 Official Development Assistance (ODA) undertaken by UNDP, the Ministry of Women’s Affairs (MoWA) and the Council for Development of Cambodia (CDC) reveals that out of a total ODA resource envelope of US$1.5 billion disbursed in 2014, projects with gender as a principal sector represented only  Read More

UNDP Awarded the Royal Oder of Sahametrei

10 Jan 2017

image (Photo: H.E. Deputy Prime Minister Bin Chhin and Nick Beresford, UNDP Cambodia's Country Director ©RathaSoy/UNDPCambodia)

UNDP was awarded the Royal Order of Sahametrei, Tepidin Class (Commander of the Order) from the Royal Government of Cambodia for its major effort to the country’s environmental conservation and protection. The Order was founded by the late King Norodom Sihanouk in 1948. It is the highest ranking medal conferred to foreigners for their distinguished service to Cambodia. Cambodia is undergoing impressive and rapid development; environmental protection and natural resource management have become indispensable for sustainable development. Over the past two decades, UNDP has been actively engaging with Cambodia’s government agencies, development partners, and civil society organizations in building institutional and legal framework for environment, climate change response, and biodiversity conservation (read more details here). During the 1990s, UNDP was one of the first few partners supporting climate change actions. It began with the support to Climate Change Office/Ministry of Environment (currently known as Department of Climate Change/National Council for Sustainable Development) in building technical capacity and raising awareness of climate change. Since then, UNDP has been working with MoE through valuable financial support from development partners such as the EU and Embassy of Sweden in response to climate change. One of the significant achievements was the formulation of the national  Read More

Creating an inclusive and equitable society for persons with disabilities

02 Dec 2016

image Performance of Epic group during the National Workshop on reflection of National Disability Strategic Plan

According to the 2014 Cambodia Demographic Health Survey, 9.5% of the Cambodian population experiences at least some degree of difficulty in performing basic functions while 2.1% experience major difficulties and cannot perform basic functions. This figure is consistent with the World Health Organization’s World Report on Disability (15% of the world’s population are living with some form of disability with prevalence rates predicted to increase due to aging populations and increases in non-communicable disease). Persons with disabilities face multiple challenges such as inequality and discrimination in access to education, healthcare services, social and economic social justice, political participation as well as being particularly vulnerable to violence and other violations.  With a predominantly Buddhist population, it is often thought that disability is seen as a result of a sin in a past life. There are however, other cultural norms that impact on people’s perception of disability. Cambodian women with disabilities experience multiple disadvantages resulting from the interplay between gender, disability and poverty. They experience almost five times higher rates of emotional, physical and sexual violence by household members (other than partners). They are considered less valuable and more burdensome within the household and 2.5 times more likely to require permission from a  Read More

Escaping the 'Middle Income Trap' by Investing in Human Capital

01 Aug 2016

image (Photo: ©FaniLlaurado/UNDP Cambodia)

Investing in people has essential and direct implications on meeting development challenges now and in the future. In the absence of people’s ability and adaptability, physical assets such as land, capital and other endowments, are not enough to drive economic growth and sustain livelihoods. Investment in education, skills and health, perhaps defined as spending on human capital, is important for a country's sustainable and inclusive growth as it improves citizens’ participation in socio-economic activities. Well-educated and trained citizens would then act capably in their individual, parental, community, and work lives. Cambodia’s policymakers have increasingly recognized the importance of human capital development for inclusive growth and building resilience. The proof is in the recent education reform drive and the doubling of education and health expenditures as a percent of total government expenditure in the current National Strategic Development Plan (NSDP, 2014-2018). Currently, by looking at the education participation ratios, in Cambodia human capital endowment is extremely low justifying government interventions. The Cambodian Government’s commitments in education and health development is yet to be seen in terms of inputs (financial and human) and results by the end of the current national plan. Education, particularly basic nine years’ schooling plays a key role in  Read More

Development finance: how much does Cambodia need and where will it come from?

17 Jul 2016

image Meeting between UNDP and Development Partners (Photo: ©UNDP Cambodia)

Cambodia has been one of the world’s fastest growing economies over the last decade. This growth has been translated into reduced levels of poverty and impressive progress towards reaching the Cambodia Millennium Development Goals (CMDGs). Average annual incomes now exceed US$1,000 per person. CMDG Goal 1: The number of people living in poverty has fallen from 55% in 1990 to 18% in 2013 as seen in the attached Graph 1 (Source: World Bank).  The World Bank has recently upgraded Cambodia’s economic status to Lower-Middle Income group. How then, will the transition affect its access to development finance, particularly as Official Development Assistance (ODA) declines? As Cambodia is presented with new opportunities from regional integration and prepares to take on new challenges, such as the implementation of its new Industrial Development Policy, where will financing come from? To find the answers, it is important to reflect on the wider development landscape over the last decade. For one, many other developing countries have moved into the Middle Income group over the last 20 years and are now expected to mobilize more of their own domestic resources to support socio-economic development and improve public service delivery. Cambodia's domestic revenue has now reached 18% of  Read More

Leaving UNDP in Cambodia on the right pathway to relevance

06 Jul 2016

image Photo of Enrico Gaveglia @ UNDP Cambodia

As it often happens in our work, we familiarize ourselves with relevant data on the country we are going to work in when we are assigned to a new UNDP office operations. Amidst the impressive accounts I read about Cambodia prior to my arrival, I only came to appreciate the profound economic and social transformation the country had gone through once I arrived. Economic performance had positive statistics telling of an average GDP growth of 8.2% between 2000-2010, and 7.4% from 2011-2013.  Cambodia is home to people where 65% of its population are under the age of 30 and will remain so until 2038, creating an unprecedented demographic dividend. Given these premises, I was eager to see for myself the world’s 15th fastest growing economy perform during the period of my stay. Most importantly, I was interested to see how UNDP would contribute to make this growth more inclusive and more conducive to human development. As we know, while poverty may decline in absolute terms, it is seriously challenged by a wide range of vulnerability threats. These can come through shocks embedded within a narrowly based economic structure, through climate change or climate-induced calamities, and within an unfinished agenda over the  Read More

Water: Fewer Drops for Increasing Different Demands

22 Apr 2016

image (Photo: ©UNDP Cambodia)

In the Royal Government of Cambodia’s ‘Policy Document on Promotion of Paddy Rice Production and Export of Milled Rice,’ rice is referred to as “white gold.” This is due to the role of rice in economic growth, poverty reduction and improved livelihoods of the Cambodian people. But the term ‘gold’ should also be used for another important resource in Cambodia — water. Water is central to agricultural production including paddy rice, through the expansion of irrigation. Water also plays a key role in the energy sector in Cambodia through hydropower development. Therefore, it is fairly sensible to regard water as “liquid gold.” Currently, over six million people in Cambodia do not have access to grid-quality electricity. The government aims to provide electricity to all villages by 2020 and to 70% of all rural households by 2030. To realize this goal, Cambodia must diversify its energy sources to include renewable energy. Hydropower is a cornerstone of Cambodia’s renewable energy development. Being a water-rich nation, Cambodia is blessed with hydropower potential, which if fully exploited, this naturally extracted power could fulfill the electricity demand of its population. However, by making energy development a top priority, investments in building hydropower dams are seen to  Read More

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