New York, 16th July 2019, a senior delegation presented Cambodia’s Voluntary National Review (VNR) of Implementation of the Sustainable Development Goals, to the High- level Political Forum at UN HQ in New York. The discussion, led by H.E. Minister Chhieng Yanara, Minister Aattached to the Cambodian Prime Minister of Cambodia, and supported by H.E. Secretary of State Tuon Thavrak, Secretary of State, was the culmination of a long process which brought together Government, civil society and others – to jointly report on Cambodia’s progress to date.  UNDP actively supported the VNR and the arrangements the Royal Government of Cambodia has put in place for delivering the goals.

The Government has taken several bold steps, - establishing capacities and mechanisms, not least the adoption of the Cambodia Sustainable Development Goals (- the CSDGs). These build on the global goals,– but include an additional goal in respect of de-mining. The CSDGs are supported by 88 targets and 148 indicators, and the framework draws heavily on local datasets and the national policy approach.

The CSDGs have enabled integration within national plans and policies – via the National Strategic Development Plan, where the CSDG framework  has helped identify  priorities, and provide over 50 percent of the mMonitoring and evaluation&E indicators.  Additionally, the Royal Government of Cambodia innovatively intends to use CSDG indicators as performance measures within ministry and agency Budget Strategic Plans. This is a real innovation and is attracting some international interest.

Crucially, the Government sees the CSDGs as a means for the realization of national development objectives. At the core of the Royal Government of Cambodia’s commitment is an understanding that the SDGs align with, and complement, its ambitious Vision 2050, which seeks a prosperous, but also, socially inclusive and environmentally sustainable Cambodia.

However, there are still many challenges to be overcome, and the VNR team recognized that a business as usual approach to the SDGs will noton’t succeed. They identified three major priorities to be tackled: evidential weaknesses and a lack of credible data sources, which limits effective oversight; the need for greater management capacity and governance reforms that are vital for delivery; and a set of questions around financing the goals. The latter includes: how new resources can be found as traditional sources like ODA decline, and how the role of non-state-actors can be channeled to support the goals. These are areas where UNDP and the wider UN system will continue to offer assistance, drawing on its technical capacities and by bringing experiences from elsewhere in the world. 

Figure 1: Progress on VNR prioritized SDGs

In terms of progress against the goals and targets, although still early days, Cambodia’s performance has been strong. Under the heading, “Empowering people and ensuring inclusiveness and equality”, this year’s VNR process focused on 6 related goals: SDG 4 (quality education), SDG 8 (economic growth), SDG 10 (reduced inequality), SDG 13 (climate action), and SDG 16 (peace and strong institutions), and plus SDG 17 (partnerships) which is reviewed each year. Cambodia’s VNR also focused on these providing an in-depth review of each goaln each. Here, the and here picture is very positive with well over 60% of the targets above or on track (see Figure 1).

Figure 2: Progress on remaining SDGs

The Government also highlighted its focus on inclusion and equity, – demonstrated by policy initiatives like the National Social Protection Policy Framework, the expansion of Health Equity Funds and renewed investment in technical and vocational education and training. 

Performance on the remaining 12 goals was less strong, but still very impressive given it remainsis so early in the implementation period (see Figure 2the second chart). For these 12 goals,Here over 50% of the targets are on or ahead of track. 

Yet as both figurescharts also show, a key issue for all goals remains a lack of data to track outcomes. This further  highlightsfurther highlights the importance of developing new statistical surveys and identifying alternative sources of data. This is an area where the Royal Government of Cambodia plans to devote additional resources - and, here too, the UN system in Cambodia stands ready to assist at a technical  and operational level.

VNR compilation has additionally also been a valuable process in of itself. Foremost, it has drawn in many stakeholders, including – different arms and levels of government, civil society and businesses. This is important as the SDG delivery must be the “business of all actors”, - and it is encouraging that the Royal Government of CambodiaGC is seeking a whole of government and whole of society approach.  Second, the process has further highlighted the value the CSDGs Framework offers as a tool for guiding and informing the realization of the planning and delivery of national, local  and sectoral development objectives.

Cambodia’s presentation at the 2019 High-level Political Forum on Sustainable Development won plaudits from other member states, with many remarking on Cambodia’s striking transition from conflict to ongoing developmental success.  Supportive questions and messages of appreciation came from Cambodia’s ASEAN partners and its valued neighbours.  The VNR marks a further step in Cambodia’s developmental story and the realization of the ambition embedded in the CSDGs. 


Written by: Richard Colin Marshall, Senior Economist, UNDP Cambodia

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