The poverty reigning in Cambodia is multifaceted. Malnutrition and undernourishment, child labour and exploitation, trafficking in persons and violence against women and children,unprotected migration and lack of access to schools, along with natural disasters are all factors contributing to the precarious situation. The transition from a war-torn country to one with functioning social, political, and economic structures started only in2000. Part of this transition process is the decentralization of the State administration. This began with the 2002 communal elections and has been continuing with a national programme of reform. The UNICEF programme Local Governance for Child Rights – Seth Koma is embedded in this national reform programme.
UNICEF supports the creation and strengthening of Commune Committees for Women and Children (CCWC) tasked with representing their concerns on the local level. The committees are made up of women and children from the given commune who are able to contribute their input in an advisory capacity on the communal level. To ensure that these committees exert adequate influence, key members of the local administration are also always given a seat on the committee. Thanks to the Programme, in the meantime all of the1621 communal authorities in Cambodia dispose of such a committee.
Strengthening of the democracy-building process
The Programme has been conceived and calculated not only to foster responsiveness to the concerns of the citizens, but also to offer the population increased participation in democratic processes. The members of the communal administration are thus intended to better understand the needs and rights of women and children, while women are meant to become better acquainted with and able to demand respect for their rights. Other goals are that:
- the Commune Committees for Women and Children influence local development plans and budgets, thus ensuring a policy that is more friendly towards women and children;
- local authorities and communities have the capacities and means to reduce poverty on the local level in concert with service providers.
- experiences and knowledge also flow into policies at national level, thus influencing the national decentralization policy.
The Programme was already launched back in 2002. The latest evaluations show that the Commune Committees for Women and Children have taken on a key role in the protection and promotion of the rights of women and children. The project has also strengthened the capacities of individual persons, organizational and institutional development, and social networks.
The influence of the CCWCs has impacted the planning and budget of the communal governments and conferred upon the latter a focus on the concerns of children and women. The consequences areimprovements in basic healthcare, early childhood development, primary education, child protection, and basic water provision and sanitation services.
In working with UNICEF in Cambodia, the SDC is directly cooperating with a key strategic partner with many years of experience in the process of transition. UNICEF Cambodia is well networked with Cambodian institutions on all levels. As a new actor in Cambodia, the SDC is thus able to aim for significant results with reduced risk in this dynamic and sensitive domain of activity.