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Bussiness & Economy Development & Education Human Rights and Peace Campaign

Cambodia: reform needed to combat poverty

Cambodia: reform needed to combat poverty ? Bertelsmann Future Challenges.

Cambodia: reform needed to combat poverty

Cambodia is among the world?s poorest countries. While parts of the economy are making considerable progress, more than 30 percent of the population still live in poverty. Though the government has proposed many strategies ? like the the Poverty Reduction Strategy Program, Cambodia Millennium Development Goals and the National Strategic Development Plan ? little progress has been made in improving people?s living standards. On the 2010 U.N. Development Program?s Human Development Index, Cambodia is ranked 124 out of 169 countries, just above Myanmar but below Laos. This is a slight improvement over 1995-2005. Over the past few years, Cambodia?s economic growth rate has been in double digits which has helped reduce poverty from 34.8 percent in 2004 to 30.1 percent in 2007, according to World Bank figures.

Cambodian government policies aimed at reducing poverty will not work without collaboration from people at the grassroots level, civil society organizations and donor communities. An active grassroots civil society would ensure that citizens? diverse voices are articulated and heard by local governments. It would also act as a check on local government action and ensure that it complies with the wishes of citizens ? a community-based monitoring function that enhances accountability. Both roles would promote governance for the benefit of the poor.

Poverty reduction is one of the mandates of international institutions such as the World Bank and the International Monetary Fund, and has been their joint focus since 1999. Their continued financial and technical assistance is crucial to both government and civil society organizations. There are huge grants from major donor countries and agencies that prioritize a formidable range of pressing issues including agricultural and rural development, human rights issues, decentralization, disability and rehabilitation, disarmament and demobilization, education, electoral reform, fishery and forestry sectors, gender and women?s participation, governance and transparency, health and HIV/AIDS, landmines and unexploded ordinances in affected communities, land reform, microfinance, resettlement and rights of affected people and the rule of law. If policies in these sectors are effectively implemented they will contribute to poverty reduction.

Since the early 1990s NGOs in Cambodia have been heavily involved in post-conflict reconstruction, emergency relief work, repatriation and resettlement of refugees, and assisting with the implementation of basic services and infrastructure. NGOs work hard under difficult conditions in many sectors and geographical areas where the Cambodian government has outsourced, ignored or failed to provide assistance.

Despite their contributions to government policies, the activities of some of these groups ? especially those that advocate civil rights or fight corruption ? are obstructed or rebutted by the government in the name of protecting national security and the social order.

The central issue here is thus the lack of cooperation between the government and civil society organizations. There is no communication and coordination between government and donor agencies so that funds can be channeled properly to avoid duplication of tasks, and no common fund-requesting procedures to facilitate the organizations? work.

In addition, there are donor-driven agendas to which NGOs often have to conform to maintain their funding. Such shifts may not be appropriate neither for NGOs themselves in terms of expertise nor for the particular development needs of the various communities. They also create conflicts of interest among civil society organizations when jockeying for funding which ultimately contributes to a lack of collaboration between them.

Furthermore, there are many challenges for people at grassroots level who wish to exercise their rights. A small oligarchy of high-ranking government officials, army generals and rich entrepreneurs dominates the country politically, socially and economically. The National Assembly and the Senate do not fulfill their functions effectively and hardly take any initiative on their own. The judiciary system, which is not dependent on the executive power, provides the rich and mighty with impunity. All TV channels and most of the radio stations and print media are controlled by the government and do not report fairly on the opposition parties.

Corruption is rampant in Cambodia; in fact, corruption is one of the main sources of human rights violations and one of the main factors fueling poverty. Instead of being properly consulted, rural and urban community leaders are intimidated and pushed aside. In most cases, the courts do not protect their rights to a fair trial. Grassroots activists who try to resist are arrested and given heavy sentences.

The poorest and most disadvantaged parts of society have limited opportunities to exercise their civil and political rights. They neither know about their rights nor how to advocate for them. The failure of the authorities to protect their rights, and excessive use of force by security forces sometimes lead to counter-violence. Thus in order to tackle poverty and violence, civil society organizations and donor communities need to lobby the government for administrative and judicial reforms and empowerment of people at the grassroots level.

Poverty reduction requires a strong government role in collaboration with civil society. First, the Cambodian government should work toward a clean, highly competent and courageous leadership. Second, Cambodia must develop a highly educated, development-oriented, non-corrupt, efficient bureaucracy. The new anti-corruption unit, recently established after the long awaited law on anti-corruption was finally adopted, should be aimed at strictly and independently enforcing the law.
Third, all civil society and government stakeholders interested in the development of the country should work towards a culture of mutual collaboration, through extensive community consultation rather than through pressure exerted by powerful groups or lobbies.

Ultimately, the Cambodian government should enforce reforms of the administrative, legal and judicial, military, economic and financial branches to improve the living conditions of the Cambodian people. Only if these reforms are implemented will poverty reduction policies be feasible

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Clogher Gender Human Rights and Peace Campaign

Cambodia: Violence Against Women, a Challenge for Gender Empowerment

Cambodia: Violence Against Women, a Challenge for Gender Empowerment (Khmer Version)
Written by Sopheap Chak in attribution to Open Institute’s Women Program
The article is part of Open Institute’s Women Bulletin issue #6, November 2010

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Clogher Gender Human Rights and Peace Campaign

Cambodia: 16 Days Campaign Against Violence on Women

Cambodia: 16 Days Campaign Against Violence on Women (Khmer Version)
Written by Sopheap Chak in attribution to Open Institute’s Women Program
The article is part of Open Institute’s Women Bulletin issue #6, November 2010

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Clogher Gender Human Rights and Peace Campaign

Cambodia: Gender Organization (GAD/C)

Cambodia: Gender Organization (GAD/C) (Khmer Version)
Written by Sopheap Chak in attribution to Open Institute’s Women Program
The article is part of Open Institute’s Women Bulletin issue #6, November 2010

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Clogher Gender Human Rights and Peace Campaign

Century of Women Rights Celebration: Where does the Cambodian Women Stand?

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Human Rights and Peace Campaign

Global Human Rights Initiative Speak Truth to Power launched in Cambodia

By Chak Sopheap
Published on Future Challenges on March 02 2011

Global Human Rights Initiative Speak Truth to Power Launched in Cambodia with the main goal is to inspire the young to act as human rights defenders.

A multi-faceted program of the Robert F. Kennedy Center for Justice and Human Rights, ?Speak Truth to Power? was first launched on this February 23, 2011 at the Pannasastra University of Cambodia. Aiming at sharing experience of courageous human rights defenders from around the world to Cambodian community, the program, in cooperation with local Cambodian Civic Education organization CIVICUS, has received great attendance of key players. This ranges from the government?s human rights commissioner, prominent civil society human rights defenders, foreign diplomats, academia, media, and even the United Nations special rapporteur for human rights who were on his 10 day mission also present to gave a short but inspiring message along with others to large audience that are mainly students.

This remarkable launch aiming at promoting for more human rights respect and activism may alert message to both government and civil society actors on the current decline in the 2011 world freedom index surveyed by the Freedom House of which Cambodia, along with Afghanistan, Fiji, Indian Kashmir, Sri Lanka and Thailand, the countries in the Asia Pacific Region were observed being declined in term of political rights and civil liberties; while Philippines and Tonga improved.

With the main goal is to inspire the young to act as human rights defenders to fight for equality and democracy, Kerry Kennedy, a daughter of Robert F. Kennedy and president of the RFK center recalled her rational to the cause of human rights work and then inspired by her interview with many human rights defenders around the world such as Tibet?s Dalai Lama and South African activist Desmond Tutu.

With amusing start, Kerry provoked her own experience to be born along with many other her female siblings and less boy in the family, make herself feel of gender sensitivity already. Then she shared her disturbing feeling when knowing her good friend whose father was beating up the mother; her gay friend died alone of AIDS as he had not wanted to reveal his gender identity; her two friends were rapped. Her uncle, former US President John F. Kennedy and her father Robert F Kennedy was both assassinated. She then recalled this as a chaotic event for her life and she just did not know what to do with them and sadly said ?I was so confused.?

Ms Kennedy realized all these cases had been human rights abuses when she started internship with Amnesty International where she also learned the abuses of Salvadoran refugees in the US. ?But I also learned that all of the horrible things that had happened in my life were violations of international law. And that there were people in my country and around the world ? human rights defenders ? who were organized and were putting an end to these violations and that I could join them,? said Kennedy, reported by the Phnom Penh Post.

What remarkable speech that the government officials would feel uneasy during the launch was that she credited all efforts to bring the change of human rights respect from the end of slavery to basic human rights principles including freedom of speech to civil society organizations and mainly individual human rights defenders who can be simply be any anyone who stand up to speak for their own and community rights, not the government who implicitly hinder the works of those human rights activists.

This may reflect with the figure released by the Amnesty International for its 2010 Anual Report that at least 149 Cambodian activists has been arrested for their peaceful defense of the right to housing indicating how the criminal justice system has been used to silence people from advocating for their livelihood cause or community benefits. Also, Sithi.org, the first Cambodian human rights portal that crowd source human rights violation and resources, documented in the late 2010 of 10 journalists killed so far.

However, when reflecting to Cambodian context, Kennedy also alerted, as quoted by a local newspaper the Cambodia Daily, saying that ?as a journalist, or an activist, our job is to push, push, push and say this can be better, that should be better, what is wrong. It is important to look at what?s rights as well.?

Remarkably, the message from Surya Subedi, the UN special rapporteur for human rights, even weight the necessity and inspiring momentum for both existing and future to be human rights activists who may despair enough with ongoing human rights abuses such as unresolved land grabbing, freedom of expression and association restriction by using legal provisions and courts as mechanisms to silencing the voice of key pillars of democracy including parliamentarians, lawyers, human rights defenders, media and ordinary people. He says, as quoted from the Phnom Penh Post, ?the value of human rights education cannot be measured. Some of the work we do today may bring results tomorrow. Some of the work we do today may bring results in five years time. So we have to be persistent.?

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Human Rights and Peace Campaign Movie Review Social Politics

Burma VJ: people power vs repressive military junta

The world were quickly aware of the historical and dramatic days of September 2007 in Burma where the Saffron Revolution unexpectedly began after 19 year silence. We all mobilized and joint the solidarity cause for Burma. A group of Cambodian rights activists, net-citizens, and ordinary people wearing red-shirt gathered to protest in front of Burmese Embassy of Cambodia for the same solidarity cause for Burma by condemning the violence that had claimed the lives of demonstrators including monks.

Thanks to digital technology and a number of reporters who risk their life to make information reached the world so that we all could be aware of the event and solidarity cause could be mobilized.

Through Burma VJ, it is hardly to deny the role of media in democratization and social movement. Even worst, the role of media is more crucial, though it bears more risks, in a closed country, such the case of Burma. Though the role of media in the film acted a bit beyond its professionalism, once the reporters apparently guided and advised the demonstration forces, it could be understood that media in such sociopolitical context has its tendency and agenda for their country?s freedom.

Once we have watched the film, we would agree that the film is deserved its Award of Best Documentary Feature, not because of geopolitics or film production, but the natural and its way of reporting from a CLOSED COUNTRY.

Make your own judgment by watching it: