Annual Dialogue of the UNCT with Samdech Prime Minister
Opening Remarks by Ms. Pauline Tamesis, UN Resident Coordinator
Samdech Akka Moha Sena Padei Techo Hun Sen, Prime Minister of the Kingdom of Cambodia,
Excellencies, Deputy Prime Ministers, Senior Ministers, Ministers
Excellencies, Ladies and Gentlemen
The United Nations Country Team is grateful for the opportunity to meet with Samdech Prime Minister for our annual dialogue. This year’s dialogue is significant to the UN family in Cambodia, as today, we also sign, in your presence, the next five-year UN Development Assistance Framework.
The new framework builds on the long-standing partnership between the United Nations and the Royal Government of Cambodia. In the next five years the UN will strategically support national development priorities, as articulated in the Rectangular Strategy IV, the draft National Strategic Development Plan 2019-2023 and the Cambodia SDG Framework. We acknowledge, in particular, the role of the Council for the Development of Cambodia throughout the process of preparing our framework for cooperation.
Samdech Prime Minister, Excellencies, before we move to the three discussion topics, I would like to take this opportunity to share with you:
- an overview of this new UNDAF;
- selected highlights of our results from the previous three-year cycle that position us to scale our efforts in the next five years; and
- an update on the UN development system reforms, and how these measures strengthen our partnership for inclusive and sustainable development in Cambodia.
Please allow me to start by thanking the Royal Government for its sustained contribution to UN Peacekeeping. I also recognize its support to the Extraordinary Chambers in the Courts of Cambodia (ECCC).
Cambodia has taken bold steps to accelerate its transition to upper-middle-income country by 2030 and to become a high-income country by 2050. The fast pace of development in Cambodia presents great opportunities for the majority of its citizens. At the same time, the 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development made a compelling case for inclusion and sustainability to fulfill the imperative of leaving no one behind.
It is in this light that we commend the Royal Government’s efforts to closely link the CSDGs with the NSDP, the Budget Strategic Plan, and the Rectangular Strategy IV. Hand in hand with Cambodia’s Universal Periodic Review in January, the on-going preparations for the Voluntary National Review of SDG progress, and more importantly the follow up to these processes, present a tremendous opportunity to share the country’s remarkable development story at a global stage. They are also a chance to reflect on the remaining challenges the country faces and highlight support that may be helpful to Cambodia’s most vulnerable populations. Perhaps in moving forward, high priority attention will be needed to balance economic growth with safeguarding the environment, protecting human rights and promoting social goals, to ensure that the poor are protected from shocks, that prosperity is equitably shared, and that future generations also benefit from today’s decisions on how resources are managed.
Samdech Prime Minister, Excellencies, how might the next UNDAF support the vision of the Royal Government?
Cambodia has ambitious goals to accelerate growth and achieve high income status by 2050. The 2030 Agenda supports Cambodia’s vision and the SDGs help orient further progress on reducing vulnerabilities and increasing sustainability.
Under the new UNDAF, the UN provides financial and technical support to the Royal Government to develop and implement plans, policies and frameworks to help prioritize issues affecting the most vulnerable. To achieve this, the UN will accelerate support to the production and use of disaggregated data necessary to know who the vulnerable are, where they are and what their needs are, to ensure that “no one is left behind.”
The five outcomes and four accelerators of the UNDAF offer a comprehensive multi-dimensional framework for addressing vulnerabilities in: society and institutions; the economy; the environment; and in cities.
To help society and institutions to be more inclusive, the UN will focus on, one, expanding social opportunities and two, strengthening participation and accountability.
UN experience indicates that inclusion of civil society voices is a catalyst to good development and healthy institutions. By having the space to express their needs and articulate their rights, citizens and representative organizations can provide concrete inputs to policy-makers about solutions to their problems. At the same time, an inclusive environment gives citizens the possibility to feed back to the authorities about the quality and effectiveness of services they receive. Human rights principles help guide and promote good relations between citizens and authorities.
We welcome efforts by the Royal Government to create platforms for dialogue with civil society and NGOs. The UN has already offered support to this process and stands ready to complement efforts such as the implementation of the social accountability framework, the one window service, and other civil service innovations that strengthen the citizen-government interface.
By focusing on improving service delivery in healthcare, nutrition, education, water and sanitation, as well as in expanding social protection and promoting universal health coverage, we support the Royal Government to be more responsive and effective in reaching the most disadvantaged and in helping the people of Cambodia, in rural areas as well as in cities, to be more resilient and productive.
To help in ensuring that prosperity lifts up the poor and that more Cambodians and future generations benefit from growth, the UN will work with partners to expand economic opportunities and promote sustainable living.
The Royal Government has put a solid framework for reform, development and shared prosperity in place. As a result, Cambodia’s economic growth and industrialization has created more and better jobs for youth and women. But economic growth needs to be knowledge-based to provide long term prospects and good jobs anchored on better education and skills, and not on low cost. Cambodia’s investments in education and women’s economic participation have not only reduced gender inequality but also accelerated economic growth.
In the next UNDAF, we will target first, that more people have decent work and appropriate skills both in traditional sectors, such as in tourism, agriculture, forestry, fisheries, and garments, but also in emerging industries such as e-commerce, renewable energy and circular economy. Second, the UN will help improve economic productivity, by supporting institutional reforms, and by working with businesses to embrace innovation and technology to successfully compete in a digital, environmentally-friendly and green economy. Third, we will support measures to make growth more inclusive through ensuring an enabling environment for workers to access justice and grievance mechanisms, prevent discrimination and violence against women and children, and nurture women and young people’s participation and leadership in society.
Economic growth also needs to be environmentally sustainable to preserve Cambodia’s natural resources. The Royal Government has taken strong steps in this regard, not least by having 41% of the country designated as protected areas. Opportunities exist to build on this strength through legal and regulatory reform, and in particular in enforcement of existing law. Measures such as increased use of solar energy can not only mitigate climate and health risks, but improve the stability of energy supply and further boost economic growth. The UN is ready to scale-up its cooperation with the Royal Government in this area.
To promote sustainable living, the UN will work with communities, the public and the private sector to manage land and natural resources more sustainably, enhance access to affordable, diverse and healthy diets, improve safety of food and water, cope better with disasters and climate change, and protect the environment. To enable these changes, the UN will focus on strengthening implementation of policy and regulatory measures, as well as fostering innovations and use of data.
To help cities drive inclusive and sustainable economic growth, the UN will assist in managing urbanization. First, the UN will work with marginalised groups to ensure that their voices are heard, in how cities are designed and work. Second, the UN will support urban authorities to deliver better urban services. Third, the UN will help collect data, and improve laws and policies, to promote green spaces, affordable housing, reduce pollution, and provide better transportation.
The UN has a lot to offer to address existing vulnerabilities and prevent new ones, as will be elaborated by in the course of this dialogue, particularly on social protection and use of data, two out of the four accelerators in the new UNDAF.
Samdech Prime Minister, Excellencies,
Please allow me to now look back and share only a few examples of our past three-year results that positions the UN to better support the vision of a prosperous, inclusive and sustainable Cambodia.
Our partnership from 2016-2018 has mobilized upwards of $300 million in programme resources and has contributed to:
One, inclusive growth and sustainable development;
Two, social development, social protection and human capital development; and
Three, governance and human rights.
On inclusive growth and sustainable development.
Together with the government, the UN improved agricultural productivity and exports. Three examples to illustrate:
First, working with private fisheries sector, UN support to value chain development, creation of the first model processing plant complying with international food safety standards, together with improved business linkages, helped expand the domestic market by 35% with 5% higher profit margin compared to exports. Along with modernizing the processing facilities, the UN also upgraded skills of workers, 84% of whom were female. With its success, the UN with the support of partners, will scale up efforts to strengthen the fisheries sector in Cambodia, creating 16,000 additional jobs and new markets.
Second, in the cassava sector, the UN is collaborating with the Ministry of Commerce in improving cassava value chains. UN’s efforts have contributed to an increase in the export of cassava starch and partnered with private sector that have stimulated new investment plans amounting to $150m.
Our work in the fisheries and cassava sectors show promise and also allows us to understand better how to mobilize private sector for the SDGs. We will explore more opportunities to facilitate public-private partnerships that deliver not only profits but also social and environmental impact.
The third example, both improved productivity and saved lives through UN support in the clearance of land mines and explosive remnants of war. Together we cleared 48 square kilometers of mine contaminated land, safely disposed 4,862 anti-personnel mines, 81 anti-tank mines, and 8,318 Explosive Remnants of War to help 20,581 households gain safe access to their land.
We also supported the government’s commitment to protect the environment. The UN helped develop policies and tools for sustainable natural resource management and biodiversity conservation such as the Environmental Code and the first National Action Programme to Combat Land Degradation. The UN also supported an Action and Investment Plan to safeguard more than seven million hectares of protected areas and invested in climate-smart agriculture and climate resilient small-scale rural infrastructure.
On social development, social protection and human capital development.
In the previous UNDAF, our engagement in the development of the National Social Protection Policy Framework and support to the National Social Protection Council, has helped to increase budget for social assistance, including the planned rollout of the new cash transfer programme for pregnant women and children under two years, school meals and scholarships, as well as the disability allowance programme. [More on this from my colleagues.]
To reduce malnutrition, UN’s support led to an 8.4% reduction in severe acute malnutrition in six districts in the north-eastern provinces, showcasing the profound impact a targeted investment can make. In this light, we commend the Royal Government for increasing national budget allocations to combat malnutrition. Despite improvements, there are opportunities to accelerate progress towards zero hunger and improved nutrition. The UN supports the Government’s recognition of nutrition as a critical investment area to accelerate progress across the SDGs. We will continue to work with the Council for Agricultural and Rural Development and its members in this regard.
In terms of health, our partnership with government has led to strong progress in promoting universal health coverage and reducing maternal mortality. There is also significant progress in combatting HIV. With UN support, new HIV infections dropped by 63 per cent from 2010 to 2017, and Cambodia has the highest HIV treatment coverage in the Asia-Pacific region. Efforts to expand access to the equity card by People Living with HIV in vulnerable populations also help the hardest to reach.
On education, with UN support, pre-, primary and lower secondary school enrollment have improved. Primary school enrollment is now close to 98%. We commend the government’s strong focus on education, as demonstrated by the steadily increasing national budget allocation. Together we will continue our efforts to enhance quality of education, improve retention and learning.
On governance and human rights
The UN supported the draft law on Access to Information and the development of a draft Code of Conduct for Public Officials. We continued our support to the implementation of judicial reforms, including support to draft the legal aid policy. We congratulate the government for the adoption of the long awaited Juvenile Justice Law, implementation of the law is now a priority.
The UN also worked closely with government to improve the lives of people with disabilities. Sector coordination improved, with disability mechanisms established in 19 line ministries and provincial disability action councils.
In line with the Government’s commitment to gender equality, the UN helped to support Cambodia’s first Gender Policy. To address gender-based violence, the UN supported implementation of a multi-faceted National Action Plan to Prevent Violence Against Women.
The UN also helped to strengthen labour market governance, notably in the garment sector. In terms of dispute resolution and remedies, the UN assisted in capacity strengthening of national conciliators and complaint mechanisms for migrant workers.
We worked with government, to improve communal land titling for indigenous communities. There are opportunities to do more, as new cases continue to arise in the context of rapid urbanisation and increasing pressure on land and resources.
Across the three UNDAF Outcomes, the UN supported the National Committee for Disaster Management and its members to improve preparedness and response to natural disasters.
Samdech Prime Minister, Excellencies,
As we reflect on the Royal Government’s remarkable achievements in economic and social development, we recognize, among many other reasons, of how strong national ownership backed with investments from the budget, is one of the critical elements to Cambodia’s success. This is perhaps a good opportunity for me to close on why the UN development system reforms create the conditions for how together we can achieve the 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development.
The 2030 Agenda and the SDGs are ambitious and challenging. It demands a new way of responding to our shared global challenges. It demands integrated responses, new and enhanced skills and knowledge, and coherence of action across diverse stakeholder groups – government, parliaments, civil society, the private sector, academia, international organizations, among others. This includes the United Nations Development system and repositioning the system to best support member states in making this agenda a reality.
At its core, the reforms build a new generation of UN country teams, led by an independent and empowered Resident Coordinator system, and supported by a revitalized regional approach. The landmark resolution agreed by all 193 countries on 31 May 2018 provides the mandate required for the Secretary-General and the UN system to take forward their collective responsibilities to make the UN fit for purpose to support the 2030 Agenda.
The first visible step in the reforms was to separate the functions of the UN Resident Coordinator from those of the UNDP Resident Representative. The UN Resident Coordinator now reports to the Secretary General and is linked directly to the UN Secretariat in New York.
By prioritizing the reforms, the Secretary General [and I quote] “has placed development back at the center of the work of the Organization grounded in rights and in the realization that sound investments in sustainable development form the basis for peaceful and prosperous societies that provide access to opportunities for all, without harming the planet.” [end quote]
Samdech Prime Minister, Excellencies, I borrow the Secretary General’s own words to renew the UN in Cambodia’s commitment to the Royal Government.
Thank you for this opportunity.