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Monitor Urges ‘Clear Purpose’ for US Aid

The US must show clear purposes behind its assistance to Cambodia and ensure that the aid is to champion a voice of all citizens, according to an Oxfam America report released on Wednesday in Washington.

The nine-page field report highlights mixed reactions from relevant parties interviewed in late 2008, including USAID, the Cambodian government, donors and non-governmental organizations.

“We found that the US needs to be very clear with their purposes behind the aid that they are doing that for a development reason and that is to help Cambodians help themselves out of poverty,” Archana Palaniappan, the report’s author, told VOA Khmer after the launch. “Cambodians are skeptical to some extent, but the US just needs to present clearly what exactly their motivations are and be more transparent about what their aims are in Cambodia.”

The report highlights some successes from US aid, citing for example the Community Legal Education Centre’s work in helping residents in a Phnom Penh neighborhood fight illegal attempts by local authorities to evict them.

The report also shows constraints that development agencies face. It quoted a USAID staff member complaining about the distance from the agency’s headquarters in the US Embassy to communities it was meant to help, as well as small staffs for growing budgets and projects.

“Civil society’s concerns related to shifts in foreign assistance could possibly be linked to the lack of strategic long-term planning,” the report quoted a USAID staff member saying. This made the Department of State’s efforts to integrate foreign assistance difficult to communicate.

US assistance to Cambodia focuses mainly on health, especially prevention and treatment of HIV/AIDS, the rule of law, human rights, good governance, military assistance, mine clearance and counterterrorism.

Between 2002 and 2007, the US provided an average $41.55 million per year to Cambodia.

No official from the US Embassy in Phnom Penh was available for comment on the report Thursday.

Palaniappan said that Oxfam believed in promoting “active states, active citizens and effective states.”

“The more information that the government and the people have about this money, the more they can own these processes,” she said.

The US is the fifth-largest donor to Cambodia after Japan, the Asian Development Bank, the World Bank, and the United Nations.