The impact of the Khmer Rouge and subsequent years of violence, coupled with high levels of corruption, low social capital and a lack of trust both of government and within society, has had a long-lasting impact on Cambodia’s development. More recently, the country has experienced political and civil unrest and natural disasters.
Food security and livelihoods
Food security is one of the biggest challenges facing people in Cambodia. Despite recent economic development, 30% of the population continues to live in poverty and 12% often go hungry.
Extensive investment has meant that Cambodia’s natural resources, such as forest and agricultural land – a key source of people’s livelihoods – are being sold as economic land concessions.
In 2012, an estimated two million hectares of land were allocated to concessionaires for economic purposes. Some of these development projects have led to serious human rights abuses related to displacement and destruction of sources of livelihoods.
Companies are making millions of dollars logging these lands, and then from the plantations that are developed. Very little, if any, of this money is trickling down to local Cambodian communities.
Christian Aid and sister agency DanChurchAid work together in Cambodia, where our partners are working in rural communities to improve livelihoods and at national and international levels to defend the rights of communities to their sources of livelihoods.
Cambodia is increasingly vulnerable to the effects of climate change. In 2011, German Watch ranked the country second most affected by climate change.
The absence of sustainable management of natural resources, combined with low levels of capacity to adapt to climate changes - in terms of knowledge, technology and infrastructure - contributes to the vulnerability of rural households.
In recent years, the country has experienced devastating floods. In 2011, its worst seasonal flood in over a decade affected more than 1.7 million people. 50,000 people lost their homes, and almost 250 died.
More flooding in 2013 further damaged crops and infrastructure. Over 375,000 households were affected in 20 provinces, with 188 people dying, including 88 children.
Our partners provide timely support to communities affected by natural disasters and work with communities to improve their ability to adapt to climate change.
Migration, from rural to urban or cross-border, is a common survival strategy. This is usually informal and often results in exploitation of both men and women. While migration was previously an emergency coping mechanism (for example during flood or drought), it is increasingly becoming an annual reality to supplement household income.
Our partners are committed to promoting safe migration within Cambodia and within the region.
Traditionally seen as subservient in society, women in Cambodia continue to occupy an inferior status in all aspects of life. Women generally lack the capacity to challenge gender stereotypes and address the power dynamics that contribute to high levels of gender-based violence and prevent women’s equal participation in politics and decision-making.
The empowerment of women is key to the work of DanChurchAid/Christian Aid in Cambodia, and we support partners working on women’s political participation.
Democracy and civic engagement
Cambodia’s democracy has yet to emerge. The main opposition party continues to contest the results of the 2013 national elections, won by the ruling party. Despite several independent reports that found numerous examples of electoral fraud, the government has refused to support any independent investigation.
Despite this, the ruling party took its seat in the National Assembly; the opposition party has continued to boycott. As a result, Cambodia is currently a de facto one-party state.
The months following the election were marked by mass demonstrations, and some incidences of violent crackdown by the government.
There are few opportunities for citizens and organisations to hold government to account due to crackdowns and threats of violence by the government, and limited cooperation between civil society and government authorities.
Corruption remains a critical issue in Cambodia, and the lack of access to information legislation is a key institutional barrier to transparency and accountability.
DanChurchAid/Christian Aid partners actively promote an empowered civil society in which men and women can defend and secure their rights and contribute to accountable governance.