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NGOs Call on Donors To Strengthen Conditions

Leaders of Cambodia’s leading development organizations said Tuesday they want the international community to put conditions on development aid pledges, which are expected to be more than $ 1 billion when they meet with senior government officials this week.

A donor meeting Wednesday and Thursday will focus on the government’s national development plan, which is expected $6.2 billion over the next five years.

The meeting, officially known as the Cambodian Development Cooperation Forum, gathers Prime Minister Hun Sen and his Cabinet with representatives from the US, the European Union, China, Japan, the World Bank, the International Monetary Fund, UN and others.

Local and international non-governmental organizations will also be represented by NGO Forum and the Committee for Free and Fair Elections.

“We request international donors to present the list of recommendations on what to demand from the Cambodian government before agreeing to provide future development aid,” Chhith Sam Ath, executive director of NGO Forum, a consortium of development organizations, said. “We have concerns over the management of land and natural resources, which the government and the donors should think about deeply.”

Much of Cambodia’s annual budget is supported by aid from other countries and larger development banks and agencies. In recent years, that has included large aid packages from China, who Cambodian officials say grant money without the conditions typically imposed by the West.

“The stance of the NGOs is of reflection and discussion,” Chhith Sam Ath said. “We don’t want to prevent development aid. We welcome the aid, but we want the aid provided to Cambodia to be used directly and effectively.”

Aid conditions have nettled Cambodia’s leaders in the past, although some critics say the donors do not use enough leverage to push the government to do more to fight corruption, poverty and human rights abuses.

Ahead of this week’s meetings the outspoken critic of Cambodian policies, Global Witness, called on donors to do more.

“The Cambodian government has been promising to reform for years, but nothing had changed,” Global Witness Campaigns Director Gavin Hayman said in a statement Tuesday. “Our latest report shows that the political elite has no intention of loosening its stranglehold over the country’s natural resource wealth. Donors simply cannot continue to turn a blind eye.”

Hang Chhaya, executive director of the Khmer Institute for Democracy, said the donors should “put condition pressure on the government for providing aid to end human rights violations and evictions, as well as recommend to the government legal and judicial reform and anti-corruption [where] reform is slow.”

“The donors should have influence or power over the Cambodian government to respect human rights and democracy,” Hang Chhaya said.

Ros Sopheap, executive director of Gender and Development organization, said the government’s policy to promote gender equity has not been effectively implemented.

“So we would like the government and the donors to take care of solving the challenges to women, like poverty, low education, domestic violence and trafficking,” she said.