School children in Cambodia.
Photo: Magnus Saemundsson, Sida
Our work in Cambodia
Sweden’s development aid to Cambodia began in 1979. Humanitarian efforts have gradually given way to long-term cooperation. In the current cooperational strategy (2014-2018) our cooperation is focused on democracy, gender equality, human rights, education, climate and environment.
Cambodia’s young democracy still has major deficiencies. The country has a multi-party system, but the governing party holds much of the power, putting opposition parties in a vulnerable position. Poor people’s rights are strongly limited. Sida is working to distribute power across local levels and to strengthen the work of non-governmental organizations (NGOs) at grass-roots level.
Civil society’s role in the democratic process is a key issue. To improve poor people’s rights, the power of the governing party needs to be counterbalanced. Through the work of supporting NGOs, Sida is promoting for instance legal advice, observations and documentation of human rights violations, anticorruption and the development of a free press.
Sida is also supporting human rights organizations’ efforts in working for justice after the genocide. Trials against the old regime’s war criminals are an important part of the healing process.
Cambodia has taken major steps to develop its democratic institutions, but there is a long way to go. The judicial system is deficient and corruption is common. Power is centralized and millions of people in rural areas still lack basic rights.
We are working on a broad level to support public administration reforms as well as public participation for increased democracy. By supporting the government’s programme for decentralization, channelled through the United Nations Development Programme, we have contributed to establishing publicly-elected local authorities in rural areas, which has led to greater self-determination. The contributions also consist of financing basic infrastructure and service. We are also supporting the government’s programme to reform public financial management. The purpose is to improve the ability to manage and follow-up the budget and to have greater openness to reduce the risk of corruption.
The level of education in Cambodia is very low and many children do not continue their school education. The after-effects of the genocide have had a particularly large impact on education because the majority of the country’s intellectual elite was purged. Sida has a long history as one of the major donors supporting initiatives for education in Cambodia and we’re currently funding various programmes for better access to good basic education for poor children. The long term support has contributed to 95 per cent of the country’s children starting school today. However, only a few of them continue to higher education, which is a large problem.
Sweden’s support contributes to reforms within elementary education, in line with Cambodia’s education plan. The programme has been successful and the number of children enlisted in schools is constantly increasing. More girls have the chance of an education, in accordance with the targets. Despite the fact that the literacy rate has generally increased, from 35 per cent in 1990 to 86 per cent in 2008, estimated figures state that only 65 per cent of the women are able to read and write.
Cambodia is a country vulnerable to climate change. Sida is therefore working to integrate measures to adapt the effects of climate change into its operations in Cambodia and supports the government’s coordination of climate change interventions as well as a number of local projects through different organisations.