Workshop on Sharing Experience and Dissemination of a Smart City Concept for Sihanoukville
Remarks by Pauline Tamesis, the UN Resident Coordinator in Cambodia
It is a privilege to deliver welcome remarks in person at today’s Workshop on Sharing Experience and Dissemination of a Smart City Concept for Sihanoukville. This event is a culminating activity of the UN joint programme, ‘Sihanoukville for All: Promoting a Smart, Sustainable, and Inclusive City” organized by the United Nations in Cambodia and the Preah Sihanouk Provincial Office.
Thank you H.E. Sor Vorin, Deputy Director-General of General Department of Administration, Ministry of Interior, H.E. Kong Vitanak, Deputy-Governor of Preah Sihanouk Province and Chair of the Sihanoukville Smart City Working Group and all distinguished participants from Phnom Penh, Siem Reap, Battambang, and the members of the Smart City Working Group for your time and engagement.
Our work on smart and inclusive city in Sihanoukville is made possible by the UN Human Security Trust Fund. We are grateful for their support. It complements initiatives and projects already implemented in Sihanoukville by 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.
Addressing you today, I recall the UN Country Team’s visit and meeting with H.E Kuoch Chamroeun, Governor of Preah Sihanouk Province, two years ago around the same time late November 2019. At that time, we discussed a range of issues, including urbanization, economic growth and inclusive development. As the result of that discussion, we have developed a shared understanding and a common vision for a smart, sustainable and inclusive city concept for Sihanoukville.
What have we learned since that initial meeting and in the activities, we implemented under the joint programme?
- Our starting point is the joint aspiration for the implementation of the smart city concept in Sihanoukville is grounded on the 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development and the achievement of the SDGs. While Sustainable Development Goal 11: “make cities and human settlements inclusive, safe, resilient and sustainable” is the most directly related to the concept of a smart city; other goals and targets related to poverty (SDG 1), hunger (SDG 2), health (SDG 3), gender equality (SDG 5), inequality (SDG 10), water (SDG 6 & 14), climate change (SDG 13) and land (SDG 15), must also be integrated in the smart city framework. Linking the smart city project to the SDGs alone is also not enough. No city can be considered ‘smart’ if it ignores the interests of poor, marginalized and vulnerable groups and communities.
- To be a real smart city, Sihanoukville must conform to city master plans and incorporate international standards and guidelines related to housing, sustainable development, environmental protection, disaster prepardness, 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 mechanisms; promoting gender equality; and respecting human rights, particularly those related to land and housing for everyone. A smart, sustainable and inclusive city integrates a human security approach, a programme framework that addresses Sihanoukville and its people’s needs.
- The development of a Sustainable, Inclusive, Smart City Concept for Sihanoukville implements the guiding principle “Leaving no one behind.” How? By promoting a novel alliance between citizens and local authorities, encouraging citizens participation and improving the local governance through the smart city approach and tools. Centering attention on people, applying the human rights lens, and focusing on the specific needs of women, girls and youth drive the design and implementation roadmap of the Smart City Strategy in Sihanoukville.
In terms of implementation, there are at least three points of reflection I wanted to share with you:
- Importance of forming a ‘smart city working group’, which is composed of different stakeholders and enables engagement throughout the process.
- The engagement of national and local stakeholders, in turn, promotes ownership, leadership and cooperation.
- Through multi-stakeholder consultations, an inclusive assessment process can be facilitated. The consultations also allow deepening understanding of the ‘human security approach’ and ‘leaving no one behind’ principle.
I quote Kofi Annan, former UN Secretaty General, who said, “there is no peace without development, there is no development without peace, there is no peace and development without human rights.” Our commitment is to help government fulfill its obligation of providing space for civic participation and reducing social exclusion as well as poverty. With this commitment, we can accelerate the drive towards a smart, sustainable and inclusive Sihanoukville.
As we all know, Cambodia will be the Chair of the Association of Southeast Asian Nations (ASEAN) in 2022. I think there will be more opportunities for engagement and cooperation within ASEAN framework on smart city initiatives and projects. As I am aware, Phnom Penh, Battambang and Siem Reap cities have been members of the ASEAN Smart City Network, whereas Sihanoukville has also applied for membership. I see the coordination role of the Ministry of Interior as the Chair of the national Steering Committee of Smart Cities is crucial in setting out national smart city policy/strategy to be implemented in Cambodia and in supporting regional ASEAN smart city network. With the request from the Ministry of Interior for the UN’s technical cooperation and support, we have reached out to various partners within the UN system – the country team, the UN Human Security Trust Fund and ESCAP and development partners and it is still under ongoing discussions.
During the dinner yesterday, I had the opportunity to meet and learn from various participants on their smart city initiatives and projects. I think these ideas are useful for us to follow up and link with lessons from various consultative processes in Sihanoukville, and consequently support development of smart city policy framework at national level.
I see the opportunity for all of us to revisit development pathways to build forward better from the pandemic and to truly keep people and planet at the center of recovery efforts.
Given this, my hope is that this two-day workshop moves the discussions forward and solicits inputs for the Ministry of Interior and municipalities from Phnom Penh, Battambang, Siem Reap and Sihanoukville.
In closing, I reiterate the UN’s appreciation of the strong cooperation at both the national level and provincial levels. The Smart City Assessment and Concept reports that we have worked together, will be aspirational for Phnom Penh, Battambang, Siem Reap and Preah Sihanouk provinces, and instrumental for the Royal Government for the development a national smart city policy framework.
Once again I convey our sincere thanks and gratitude to Provincial Governor H.E. Kuoch Chamroeun. We look forward to our continued collaboration.