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Cambodia Prepares for New Round of UN Development Goals

A young Cambodian woman rides a bike near slum homes on the outskirts of Phnom Penh, file photo.

A young Cambodian woman rides a bike near slum homes on the outskirts of Phnom Penh, file photo.

Cambodia has failed to meet a number of UN Millennium Development Goals, which were set out years ago and aimed at halving global poverty.

It has met some of these goals, and as the 2015 deadline for the plan approaches, government officials and development workers are looking at what worked and what didn’t and preparing for a new set of benchmarks under the UN Sustainable Development Goals.

These will be discussed at a UN summit in New York in September. To meet the new set of goals, Cambodia will have to strengthen its governmental institutions as well as sustain its economic growth, experts told VOA Khmer recently.

Khus Thida, executive director of Silaka, a development organization that focuses on women, told VOA Khmer that Cambodia had set some unrealistic goals in the past, particularly for women. “They just put it and are not serious about it,” she said. Women remain severely underrepresented in government, she said: 52 percent of the population has 20 percent representation at the national level and less than 18 percent at the local level.

Ros Sopheap, executive director for Gender and Development for Cambodia, said gender equality and the empowerment of women have not been successful. Wage disparities continue to be a problem, she said.

There have been successes, including in combatting HIV and AIDs, malaria and other diseases.

Theng Pagnathun, director general for Ministry of Planning, said “the main goals” have been achieved, though environmental sustainability has proven “the most challenging.”

However, much poverty remains in the country, and many of those who have escaped the poverty level had done so only just barely.

Khus Thida said that in order for Cambodia to meet any development goals, it will need to pick a few priorities, properly support them with a budget, and work independently to meet them.

“To effectively reach the targets of Sustainable Development Goals goals, we have to have good governance, where every institution has to work together in order to gather and spread information,” she said. “In addition, the goverment has to estlablish rapport and understanding among the public or private sectors, as well as citizens.”

Cambodia will face the dual challenges of limited resources and unqualified admistration, she added.

Ros Sopheap said she welcomed the potential adoption of the Sustainable Development Goals, “because it allows the country to compare its results to others, and reflects the government’s performance.”

Chan Sophal, an economist and policy analyst, said the concern with such goals is that they can bring challenges to short-term growth. “If we want to achieve sustainable economic development, it takes time to ensure growth, so short-term growth can create dissastisfaction among citizens.”

Cambodia has not officially adopted the Sustainable Development Goals; officials at the Ministry of Planning declined to comment.