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Role of Civil Society Sometimes Overlooked, Governance Expert Says

  • VOA Khmer

Governance expert Ok Serei Sopheak on 'Hello VOA' Monday.

Governance expert Ok Serei Sopheak on 'Hello VOA' Monday.

Ok Serei Sopheak said civil society groups often go where the national government cannot, in remote areas where people receive few services.

WASHINGTON DC - While civil society has done much to help Cambodia develop, it has not integrated its services with the government, to the detriment of the country, a governance expert told “Hello VOA” Monday.

Ok Serei Sopheak said civil society groups often go where the national government cannot, in remote areas where people receive few services.

There, non-governmental groups cooperate with local authorities to achieve their goals, something that does not happen at the national level, he said.

More dialogue is necessary between NGOs and the government, he said, if the country is to continue to develop. And it needs to expand beyond the non-sensitive arenas, like infrastructure, and into larger issues of human rights and environmental protection.

Local officials are unwilling to help on these last issues, “because they are afraid of losing their positions, they are afraid of getting chastised by their superiors, and of media coverage,” he said.


In terms of human rights, the national government and NGOs need more than dialogue, he said. “They should sit down at the table and see eye to eye on what they can do to solve their problems. It is not possible to use language that one side cannot accept. This is not a way to solve the problem.”

Cambodia’s development is closely tied to rights groups and other developmental NGOs, many of which are funded by donor countries.

Donors met with top officials on Wednesday to plan for a pledge meeting that might be held in 2014. That meeting would take the place of a 2011 meeting postponed by the government.

On Wednesday, donors stressed the need for better land management, improved rights and judicial reform, which are recurring demands by the international community.

Masafumi Kuroki, Japan’s ambassador to Cambodia, said Wednesday the donors want “immediate attention” paid to public administration reform and financial management.
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