School children in Cambodia.
Photo: Magnus Saemundsson, Sida
Our work in Cambodia
Sweden was one of the first countries to provide humanitarian support to Cambodia after the fall of the Khmer Rouge in 1979. The long-term development cooperation began in the 1990s. It focuses on democracy and human rights, education and labour market issues, as well as the environment, sustainable natural resource management and climate.
The Swedish government’s results strategy for Sweden’s international development assistance in Cambodia 2014-2018 has focused on:
- Strengthened democracy and gender equality, greater respect for human rights and freedom from oppression.
- More education and employment to improve possibilities for the poor to contribute to and benefit from economic growth.
- Improved environment, limited climate impact and strengthened resilience to environmental impact, climate changes and natural disasters.
Cambodia has made some progress in establishing a democratic constitutional state, but has a long way to go. The judicial system is weak and corruption is common at all levels of society. Power is centralised and the countryside’s millions of poor often live under sparse circumstances and lack fundamental community services.
The political climate is polarised and the conflict level can be predicted to increase during the period until the parliamentary elections in 2018. A large and growing generation of young people with partly new hopes and expectations of the future is facing an older generation’s emphasis on peace and stability. The governing Cambodian People’s Party (CPP) and the main opposition party Cambodia National Rescue Party (CNRP) are both led by elderly politicians with a long history of personal conflicts.
Sida works broadly to support both reforms in public administration and popular participation for greater democracy. Through support to the government’s programme for decentralisation, Sweden has contributed to establishing elected representatives in municipalities in the countryside, which has led to greater self-determination. The efforts also comprise the financing of fundamental infrastructure and service. Support is also given to individual organisations, which among other things work with legal advice, freedom of speech, anti-corruption and violations of human rights. Sweden provides support to the programme Partnership for Gender Equity (PGE), which has contributed to Cambodia developing a new national strategy for gender equality, in order to reduce the occurrence of gender-related violence, among other things.
In 2016, the programme Partnership for Accountability and Transparency in Cambodia (PAT) began, an EU programme being carried out by Sweden. It aims to strengthen Cambodian authorities that work with statistics, public financial management, transparency and accountability to the citizens, which takes place through close cooperation with Statistics Sweden, the Swedish Tax Agency, the Swedish National Audit Office and the Swedish Parliament’s investigation service. Transparency International Cambodia (TIC) is a part of the programme to increase awareness that corruption is a serious problem in the Cambodian society and about how corruption can be fought.
Since 2012, Sweden has increased its commitment for the Khmer Rouge tribunal. The tribunal tries legal cases against those responsible for crimes against international and Cambodian law during the period of rule of the Khmer Rouge 1975-1979. The tribunal fills a central role for handling the crimes, preventing immunity and documenting and spreading knowledge about the period.
Education and employment
The level of education in Cambodia is low and many children do not complete school. The after-effects of the genocide have had a major negative impact on the education system since many from the intellectual elite were killed.
Sweden has long been one of the largest donors to educational efforts in Cambodia and today, we support various programmes to provide poor children access to good basic education. One of the efforts is the Swedish support for flexible School Improvement Grants that began in 2014. The grants comprise more than 8,000 schools at the pre-school, compulsory school and upper-secondary level. The efforts have contributed to 95 per cent of the country’s children beginning in compulsory school today. However, only a few students continue to higher education, which is a major problem. Despite literacy in Cambodia generally increasing from 35 per cent in 1990 to 86 per cent in 2008, only 65 per cent of the country’s women are estimated to be able to read.
Sweden supports Cambodia’s ambition to improve the industrial relations and conditions in the labour market – not least for young people. Sida supports the Arbitration Council Foundation, whose mission is to arbitrate labour market conflicts. Since 2014, a four-party cooperation is also under way between Sweden, the International Labour Organisation (ILO), H&M and IF Metall that aims to improve industrial relations in the textile sector.
In cooperation with UNDP and BBC Media Action, a popular multimedia initiative, Klahan9, is also being implemented to spread information to young people through TV, radio and social media about issues concerning the labour market and employment.
Much of the development work that Sweden contributes to in the labour market area is framed by the common Global Deal initiative that Sweden launched in 2016 together with ILO and the OECD. Cambodia backed the initiative early on. Global Deal aims to improve the social dialogue between the parties of the labour market and lead to gains for society, employers and employees.
Environmental and climate changes
In 2016, Cambodia began the work of integrating the Global Sustainable Development Goals in policy and development plans. This is particularly important since Cambodia is one of the countries most vulnerable to changes in the climate. Sida supports the government’s coordination of climate efforts, as well as a number of local projects through individual organisations.
In cooperation with Forum Syd, a programme is being conducted that engages a large number of Cambodian private organisations in the work on climate adaptation and sustainable use of natural resources, including land rights. The objective of the programme is to let the local population in the areas particularly affected by climate changes participate in the work of analysing environmental problems and finding solutions to them together with local leaders.