Today and Thursday, we are promoting the European Development Days – the gathering of European development practitioners and their partners worldwide that fosters engagement and facilitates the implementation of the agenda for greater development effectiveness. On this occasion, we take an opportunity to communicate on the concrete results of European development cooperation efforts in Cambodia, to reflect on cooperation and partnership between the European Union and Cambodia and to consider our shared vision for the future.
One of the enduring principles of the European Union, both between its members and with other countries and regions, is solidarity. Our partnerships aim to bridge the divide between developing countries and Europe through development and economic cooperation, and the promotion of inclusive and sustainable development.
The countries of EU have been long-standing development partners of Cambodia, since the early 1990s. Those partners currently active in Cambodia include the European Union and its member states – the Czech Republic, Finland, France, Germany, Ireland, Italy, Sweden and the United Kingdom.
We are proud to note that the EU with its member states is the biggest donor of official development assistance worldwide, helping people in over 150 countries. In 2013, the EU countries disbursed €130 million ($161.5 million) in support of Cambodia’s development agenda. EU-funded initiatives over the years have benefited millions of Cambodians, from villagers in remote areas gaining access to clean water for the first time to government officials being trained in skills that will benefit the entire nation.
European countries place high importance on promoting good donor practices, such as engaging in joint collaboration and partnerships to foster better development results. It is for this reason that 10 European development partners active in Cambodia – the nine EU partners together with Switzerland – have come together and last week launched the joint European Development Cooperation Strategy for Cambodia 2014-2018. The strategy represents the joint European response to the royal government’s policies and priorities as detailed in the Rectangular Strategy and in the National Strategic Development Plan. The joint strategy has an indicative financial envelope of €1.4 billion, which will be mobilised based on the level of commitment and progress achieved towards meaningful reforms.
This joint strategy shows how European partners in Cambodia plan to work together and in partnership with the government, civil society and other development actors on delivery of their aid. Our partnerships have been delivering results in a number of areas including governance reforms, agriculture and rural development, natural resource management, health, education, research and student mobility.
We recognise, however, that aid is only a catalyst, not a driver, for development. That is why we make every effort to ensure that the strong economic growth achieved in Cambodia is sustainable and inclusive. Our partnership also needs to extend beyond Cambodia to address issues of global concern, such as environment and climate change.
This requires a coordinated action that goes beyond development cooperation – it requires adopting a broader approach that ensures coherence of our policies that affect development. We use a wide range of instruments in policy areas such the environment, trade and the information society to enable synergies and maximum effective use of our resources for promoting development. We are also broadening the EU engagement with the Association of Southeast Asian Nations (ASEAN) and strengthening our mutual trade and investment flows with Cambodia and with the region.
Support to democratic governance is a priority for the EU development cooperation. We consider structured policy and political dialogue on governance issues, based on international human rights and adequate governance frameworks, as an important value and objective in itself. We therefore support better participation of Cambodian citizens in policy dialogue, as part of an overall strengthening of civil society in Cambodia and as an essential precondition for poverty eradication and sustainable development.
We believe in fairness, shared prosperity, freedom for our citizens and peace. This was recognised when the European Union was awarded the Nobel Peace prize for our advancement of peace and reconciliation, democracy and human rights.
In this spirit, the EU support is grounded in a rights-based approach, encompassing all human rights, and the principles of participation, nondiscrimination, accountability and transparency.
Our support to Cambodia, however, is only relevant if it is underpinned by the political will and commitment of the government, which is vital for driving democratic governance and creating an enabling environment for involvement of all relevant domestic actors in building stronger democratic processes.
A great deal has been achieved through our partnership, but much remains to be done. We will therefore continue to cooperate on key development challenges as well as to promote governance and global issues, working together to achieve our common vision of a peaceful, democratic and prosperous future for Cambodian people.
Jean-François Cautain is the ambassador of the European Union to Cambodia.