Helping the Cambodians gain a voice
The kingdom of Cambodia is located in south Indochina peninsula, South East Asia. The political structure of Cambodia is that of a Constitutional Monarchy; i.e. the Prime Minister is the head of the Government and the Monarch is the head of the state. Also, the Prime Minister is appointed by the king. However, in spite of the king being the head of the state, unlike most monarchies, the monarchy in Cambodia is not necessarily based on heredity. In fact, the king does not have a say in the selection of his successor. A new king is selected by the Royal Council of Throne; comprising of the President of the National Assembly, the Prime Minister, the Chiefs of Order, and the First and Second Vice Presidents of the Assembly.
The current Royal Government of Cambodia recognizes that good governance is required for poverty reduction and economic development. The United Nations works with the Government of Cambodia in the areas of local accountability, women’s empowerment, youth civic participation and inclusion of marginalized groups. One of the goals of the United Nations for Cambodia is to bring in the democratic form of government and decentralization of power.
Cambodia saw it’s first general election in 1993. Since then, there have been gradual steps in making Cambodia a more participative society. After a history of being extremely politically unstable, since the mid 1990s, the Government of Cambodia has started to make an effort to move from a centralized government set up to decentralizing power. The United Nations relates decentralization of power with other goals like poverty reduction and improved gender roles.
The United Nations works to increase the interaction and accountability of the elected members to the citizens at a local and national level. Since 1996, the United Nations have pumped in about 252 Million USD as small scale investment at a local level. 1600 elected commune councils now plan the local level, small scale infrastructure of Cambodia. The 2008 elections saw a voter turn-out of 75%. There was also a significant rise noticed in the number of women MPs. The number went up from 12% in 2003 to 22% in 2008.
However, a blog post for undergraduate students of Cambodia, titled Khmer Campus, while acknowledging the efforts out in by the United Nations, also mentions a small criticism. The blog post quotes, “On the one hand, modest progress towards some of the Millennium Development Goals (MDGs) is concentrated in specific regions and dependent on local circumstances. On the other, Cambodia possesses significant unexploited potential. Notably, some of its strongest assets are localized just where poverty and exclusion is the greatest. For example, despite its strong tourism and construction industries, Siem Reap remains one of the country’s poorest provinces.” The author of the blog further adds, “This local perspective may not be the solution to Cambodia’s economic, social and environmental challenges. But it is certainly part of the solution. Anyone who has travelled across Cambodia knows that this is a land of immense opportunities. A future is possible where rural areas thrive and where Cambodian cities act as hubs for development. But for this to happen, efforts need to be localized: Economic growth in Phnom Penh does not automatically translate into development in Ban Lung. In other words, growth is necessary, but it doesn’t necessarily imply balanced, sustainable development. If sustainable development is the objective, key actors need to act collectively, strategically and deliberately towards it.”
The Khmer Campus blog: http://khcampus.wordpress.com/2010/07/12/balancing-out-development/