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Political, economic & institutional environment

Poverty Reduction Policies

Cambodia has made notable progress since the Paris Peace Accords of 1991. Some key accomplishments, although believed by some to be fragile, include: national elections in 1993 and regularly thereafter; return of all feuding factions to a democratic framework with the dissolution of the Khmer Rouge in 1998; Commune Council elections in 2002 and 2007; an open market and fast-growing economy that has attracted foreign investments since 1993; and expanding tourism, a thriving civil society and a vibrant media. Cambodia is a full member of ASEAN and WTO. Thus, the country has gradually recovered from being a nation of conflict in the 1970s, 1980s and early 1990s. Yet Cambodia must face many challenges to move from being an aid-dependent Least Developed Country (LDC) with more than a third of its population subsisting below the poverty line, mostly in rural areas (MOP, 2007).

The Rectangular Strategy, introduced after the formation of the new Government in July 2004, outlines the current Government’s economic policy agenda during its remaining term in office. The strategy has been conceptualized as a structure of four interlocking rectangles, including: i) enhancement of agricultural sector, ii) further rehabilitation and construction of physical infrastructure, iii) private sector growth and employment, and iv) capacity building and human resource development. Within these areas, greater attention to the informal sector, land and family support as social protection mechanisms, health insurance for the poor, and increased rule of law to ensure equity in use of resources have been identified as important priorities. The Royal Government of Cambodia (RGC) policies implicitly recognize that social protection measures need to be commensurate with Cambodia’s level of development, which may require greater initial emphasis on establishing basic social safety nets rather than on developing a full-fledged pension system, for example. The Government also views ensuring peace and safety within the country and building trust between civil society and Government as important elements of its role in social protection.

The Rectangular Strategy is operationalized in the new National Strategic Development Plan (NSDP), which lays out key sectoral strategies for achieving the CMDG poverty reduction targets. The new NSDP 2006-2010 recognizes the need to address rural development and identifies improving the livelihoods of the rural poor as a top priority. Key commitments related to social protection include: creating jobs in the formal and informal sectors and ensuring improved working conditions; providing social safety nets for the disadvantaged, including measures to assist victims of natural disasters, targeted programs for vulnerable groups such as poor female-headed households and veterans, and establishment of rehabilitation centres for orphans and the elderly; addressing domestic violence and trafficking; and improving health service delivery, quality, and financing. Although more concrete details are needed on how sectoral strategies will be implemented, the NSDP provides a promising vehicle for improving coordination of efforts aimed at helping Cambodia move toward its CMDGs.

Thus in summary, the Cambodian government has publicly announced the following measures / actions that will be undertaken to combat poverty (National Poverty Reduction Strategy, 2005).

Priority Areas: The implementation of the Governance Action Plan (GAP), a strategic framework that provides a consistent and transparent approach to coordinate efforts in eight priority areas

  1. Legal and Judicial Reform

  2. Administrative Reform (including civil service reform) and Deconcentration

  3. Decentralization and Local Governance

  4. Public Finance Reform (including banking reform, treasury management and the reduction of fiscal deficit)

  5. Anti-corruption

  6. Gender Equity

  7. Demobilization and Reform of the Armed Forces, and

  8. Reform of Natural Resources Management (Land, Forestry and Fisheries)

The priority poverty reductions actions to be undertaken have been identified as:

  1. Maintaining macroeconomic stability

  2. Improving rural livelihoods

  3. Expanding job opportunities

  4. Improving capabilities

  5. Strengthening institutions and improving governance

  6. Reducing vulnerability and strengthening social inclusion

  7. Promoting gender equity; and

  8. Priority focus on population.

Food Security Policies

Cambodia has experienced significant progress in reducing the direct outcomes of food insecurity among children in terms of reducing the very high levels of malnutrition and mortality rates in children under 5 years of age. However, food security has not yet been fully achieved for all Cambodian people at all times. Too many Cambodians still suffer from hunger and malnutrition for some or most of the time. In other words they are suffering "Food Insecurity".

With the formation of the Royal Cambodian Government in 1993, new national policy frameworks were progressively developed in the period up to 2005. A consistent theme in all national government policy frameworks since 1994 has been the highest priority given to poverty alleviation and which have included measures to improve food security.

Further important cross-sectoral policy initiatives by the government during this period were the issuing for the Prime Minister’s Circulars on Food Security in 1999 and 2003. These circulars emphasized the importance of improving food security and nutrition and specified a range of measures to be implemented by all levels of government to achieve improvements. More broadly under the ambit of good governance reforms the RGC approved its Governance Action Plan (GAP I) in March 2001 followed by an updated GAP II, 2005-2008. GAP II covers 9 inter-related critical areas of governance that directly impact on poverty reduction. Food security is included under the GAP good governance and poverty reduction framework [1] .

The National Poverty Reduction Strategy for the period 2003 - 2005 identified the following priority areas key to securing greater food security.

  • Disaster management – especially in the face of floods

  • Increasing environmental sustainability

  • Land mine clearance

  • Vulnerability of the disabled, those affected by HIV/AIDS, orphans, street and abandoned children, and the homeless

  • Social Safety net programmes

A brief review of these policy frameworks in the period from 1994 to 2004 indicates that food security and nutrition (FSN) issues have been consistently recognized as a priority development issue by the RGC along with poverty alleviation. While these policy frameworks were an achievement, they frequently suffered from insufficient coordination and institutional capacity for implementation. In terms of FSN their impact was limited by not enough specification of the nature and prevalence of food insecurity and malnutrition, its causes and a lack of a comprehensive strategy to improve FSN.

With reference document regarding to the cross-cutting issue of food security and nutrition, the Strategic Framework for Food Security and Nutrition in Cambodia 2007-2010 (SFFSN) was established by the Council for Agricultural and Rural Development (CARD) in consultation with the Technical Working Group on Food Security and Nutrition in 2007. Improving the nutrition and food security is a development priority of the Royal Cambodian Government in current national strategic frameworks including the Cambodian Millennium Goals, The Rectangular Strategy, and the National Strategic Development Plan 2006-2010. It is also a priority recognized in a broad range of government sector policies from agriculture and water resources, economic development, to health policy.

The FSN Strategic Framework Goal focuses on the achievement of substantial progress toward improved food security and nutrition in Cambodia within the time period of the current NSDP framework 2006-2010. This FSN Strategic Framework Goal is already incorporated into the NSDP and is consistent with progress toward meeting the CMDGs over the medium term.

Key Food Security Policies, Actions and interventions identified by the Cambodian Government (Rectangular Strategy, 2005) 

Improving Agricultural Productivity and Diversification

  • The need to invest substantial domestic resources to promote agricultural intensification and diversification to bolster economic growth, create employment and generate income in the rural areas, thus ensuring nutritional improvement, food security and increased agricultural exports.

  • Ensure an increase in private sector participation in the agriculture sector enterprise by accelerating the distribution of land and the issuance of secure land titles.

  • The developing of irrigation facilities and improving of existing irrigation systems.

  • The need to expand support services such as agricultural research and extension, development of markets for agricultural product, distribution of inputs, seeds, fertilizers and the increased supply of the rural credit.

Land Reform and De-mining

  • The need to implement the Law on land management and land policy thus ensuring an equitable and efficient system of land management, distribution and utilization.

  • The need to review idle and vacant State lands, as well as State lands illegally occupied by private entities in contravention with the regulations and procedures.

  •   The strengthening of land tenure rights of the people who need small lots for settlement and family production as a mechanism to assist poor households and vulnerable groups.

  • The implementing of demining activities in Cambodia in accordance with international security standards and international obligations.

Fisheries Reform

  • Encourage community-based development of the fisheries sector by empowering local communities so that farmers can participate directly, actively and equitably in fishery plans, programs and management.

  • The transforming of fishing lots whose concession contracts have expired into fish sanctuaries; thereby helping increase natural fish stocks, and conserving endangered species.

Forestry Reform

Employ a sustainable forest management policy, to ensure the rational and strict monitoring of forest exploitation according to the international best practices in forest management that require adequate forest reserves for domestic consumption, protection against drought and floods as well as wetlands that serve as fish sanctuary

[1] CARD, 2007, Draft Strategic Framework for Food Security and Nutrition in Cambodia 2007-2010.




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