Opening Remarks by Pauline Tamesis, the UN Resident Coordinator
Firstly, let me congratulate the Smart City Working Group formation at Sihanoukville by the Provincial Governor last year.
Allow me to convey my warm greetings virtually from Phnom Penh to H.E. Kong Vitanak, Deputy-Governor of Preah Sihanouk Province and Chair of the Smart City Working Group Meeting sitting at Sihanoukville meeting hall.
My warm welcome to distinguished participants, UN colleagues and other experts and guest (3i and DFAT) joining in this meeting both present in Sihanoukville provincial hall and via zoom.
It is a great pleasure to deliver virtual opening remarks at the Smart City Working Group Meeting chaired by H.E. Deputy Governor at Sihanoukville.
This is a good opportunity for us to provide an update on UN support to ‘Sihanoukville for All: Promoting a Smart, Sustainable, and Inclusive City” implemented by the Office of the High Commissioner for Human Rights (U.N. HUMAN RIGHTS) and UN-Habitat.
This project is made possible through the generous support from the UN Human Security Trust Fund and we are grateful for their support. It complements numerous other initiatives and projects already implemented in Sihanoukville by a few other UN agencies, not the least, UNICEF on child protection and child-friendly support, UNDP on payment ecosystem services and tackling maritime plastic litter projects, and as I understand with UNIDO on the master plan for Sihanoukville.
This project was the outcome of the UN Country Team’s visit and meeting with H.E Kuoch Chamroeun, Governor of Preah Sihanouk Province, in November 2019, where we discussed a wide range of issues, including urbanization, economic growth and inclusive development. Given the rapid development in this coastal province, attention must be given to how the city and the province develop in a smart, inclusive and sustainable way.
Please allow me to highlight the following key areas of the UN joint programme:
Leaving no one behind: UN’s human security approach to development emphasizes leaving no one behind at all times, especially during the sudden onset of change, whether this may be due to urbanization and other factors that affect the livelihoods of people, especially women, children and other vulnerable groups.
Resilience to climate change and long term sustainable development: the 2030 Agenda for sustainable development demonstrates the need to better understand the underlying factors faced by middle-income countries. With the UN’s joint programme, we want to support the Royal Government of Cambodia and Sihanoukville city to identify, assess and propose policy solutions that take into account how investments in urbanization can be better managed and aligned with priorities to protect vulnerable populations and natural ecosystems.
Evidence-based data solutions: This joint programme intends to provide data and analysis on the specific context of the province, and facilitate multi-stakeholder discussions and partnerships, including private sector contributions to a smart, sustainable and inclusive city. Experience and practice from the UN’s past and current development cooperation in Cambodia and in other countries point to the importance of evidence-based and data-driven solutions. When policymakers and citizens have better access to and understanding of data and analysis, and more importantly come together to exchange views and co-design solutions together, development outcomes are more durable.
This is our aspiration for the implementation of the Smart City concept in Sihanoukville – one that is grounded on the sustainable development agenda and the SDGs. While Sustainable Development Goal 11 (“Make cities and human settlements inclusive, safe, resilient and sustainable”) is most directly related to the concept of a smart city; other goals and targets related to hunger, poverty, inequality, health, gender equality, land, water, and climate change must be integrated into the Smart city framework.
Linking the smart city project to the SDGs is not enough, the simple fact is that NO city can be considered ‘smart’ if it ignores the interests of poor, marginalized, and vulnerable groups and communities. This smart city needs to be the result of a series of consultations with experts, civil society organizations, social movements, and people’s representatives to ensure that the project is comprehensive and holistic.
Cambodia recently accepted several recommendations related to housing and sustainable development during its third Universal Periodic Review (UPR) at the UN Human Rights Council in 2019. The Smart City development should prioritize implementing these recommendations, while also incorporating them to monitor the Smart City project.
To be a real Smart City, The Smart City must conform to city master plans and incorporate international standards and guidelines related to housing, sustainable development, environmental protection, disasters, forced evictions, and displacement. It means adopting an inclusive and sustainable approach to development; ensuring the right to participation and information, such as the representation of city residents in monitoring bodies; promoting gender equality; and respecting the human rights related to land and housing for everyone, including the most marginalized.
The UN has a ‘human security approach to development, which I believe responds to the Governor’s call for the UN’s support. We are happy to see this project kicking off now with sustaining support and cooperation from the provincial authorities, especially the Smart City Working Group, since last year.
Excellencies, ladies and gentlemen,
Recently, the Department of Administration approached my office, seeking UN support for developing a national Smart City framework that inspires other provinces and cities. As far as we know, Phnom Penh, Battambang and Siem Reap provinces have been included by the Cambodian Government in ASEAN Smart City Network. I think this is a good opportunity to learn and share within ASEAN on smart cities network. This request has been considered and I have reached out to the UN Economic and Social Commission for Asia and Pacific (UN-ESCAP) and UN-Habitat Headquarters for their collaboration and support of the Ministry of Interior. The entire UN Country Team in Cambodia will be mobilized to support the request by the Ministry of Interior as it prepares for chairing the ASEAN Smart City Summit in 2022.
COVID-19 pandemic crisis can be transformed into an opportunity for many countries, including Cambodia. Despite challenges posed by the pandemic, I see the opportunity for us and Cambodia to revisit the pathway to development to ensure we will build forward better by keeping people and the planet at the centre.
Excellencies and colleagues,
We value your strong support and cooperation, particularly from the provincial partners. We are looking forward to further engage with the Ministry of Interior at the national level. We also believe that our intervention and support will complement other initiatives by the province and the smart city project implemented by the Investment in Infrastructure (3i) financially supported by DFAT/Australian Embassy.
In closing, on behalf of the UN Country Team in Cambodia, I’m grateful for the support and collaboration provided by all partners, especially the Provincial Office, to make this project a reality. With your continued support and cooperation, the UN teams working on the ground together with provincial officials and other stakeholders will be successful in conducting a comprehensive assessment for Sihanoukville’s smart, sustainable and inclusive city aspiration.
I’d like to convey my sincere thanks and gratitude to H.E. Kuoch Chamroeun, the Governor for his support and I’m looking forward to continued collaboration.
Thank you, H.E. Kong Vitanak, and colleagues, for your attention and I wish you a fruitful discussion.
 These include, among other things, General Comments 4 (on adequate housing) and 7 (on forced evictions) of the U.N. Committee on Economic, Social and Cultural Rights, the Basic Principles and Guidelines on Development-based Evictions and Displacement, the Guiding Principles on Security of Tenure for the Urban Poor and the Inter-Agency Standing Committee’s Operational Guidelines on the Protection of Persons in Situations of Natural Disasters