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NGOs Voice Views on Rehabilitation

The following is excerpted from a statement delivered by a delegation representing Non-governmental Organizations

(NGOs) working in Cambodia at the Ministerial Conference on the Rehabilitation and Reconstruction of Cambodia,

held in Tokyo, Japan from June 20-22.

While the NGOs support the Declaration on the Rehabilitation and Reconstruction of Cambodia contained in the Paris

Peace Accords and the Secretary General's resulting appeal, we do wish to signal some concerns regarding initial

trends in the rehabilitation phase:

  1. The ceasefire has been slow to take hold. Peace is an absolute pre-requisite to rehabilitation and reconstruction.

    At this junction the implementation of Phase II and therefore the entire peace agreement is in jeopardy due to

    the non-compliance and obstructive tactics of the Khmer Rouge.
    UNTAC and the international community must find effective measures to ensure implementation of the ceasefire and

    the beginning of the rehabilitation effort. Internationally supported rehabilitation, reconstruction, and development

    work needs to begin now. Not to do so would play directly into the political strategy of the Khmer Rouge to destabilize

    the country by blocking rehabilitation assistance to the majority of the people of Cambodia.

  2. In their public pronouncements, UNTAC staff have been emphasizing the importance of maintaining the timetable

    for the U.N. operation in the country out of concern for finances and the overall credibility of the operation.

    But the welfare and basic rights of the Cambodian people must be the basis of decisions. NGOs are especially concerned

    that the repatriation process be implemented with adequate care for the reintegration and long-term self-sufficiency

    of the returnees.

  3. As regards sovereignty, private investors, especially from neighboring Asian countries, have moved rapidly

    to snap up Cambodian assets and sign long-term agreements in the absence of effective regulation in the public

    interest of such investments.
    Further, at least some of the assistance contemplated for Cambodia in the rehabilitation phase is in the form of

    loans which might force Cambodia prematurely into an export-led development strategy to generate foreign currency

    to meet these new and existing hard currency obligations. UNTAC, in collaboration with the SNC, needs to examine

    both existing and future commitments to private investors and to multilateral lending institutions in the light

    of Cambodia's weak regulatory structure and economic position. The NGOs urge that caution be exercised in making

    such commitments.

  4. As regards respect for local capacity, the early trend in the rehabilitation phase is to move to establish

    parallel structures to deliver needed assistance to the people of Cambodia. While we acknowledge that larger infrastructure

    projects may have to be turnkey projects, we still think it is essential that as much assistance as possible, and

    especially assistance in the agriculture and social service sectors, as well as any work at village level, be implemented

    in a way which builds in training and the development of local capacity. This can only be done by working in partnership

    with Cambodian counterparts.

  5. As regards balance, donors have largely directed contributions in the rehabilitation phases so far to the four

    northwestern provinces (Battambang, Pursat, Siem Reap, Banteay Mean Chey) and within these provinces have directed

    assistance especially to locations with populations of returnees from the border camps.

While there are significant needs in these provinces and while the returnee program needs to be supported, such

assistance should be supplemented by programs reaching poor communities elsewhere in the country. This is especially

true now that it appears that the four northwestern provinces will be unable to absorb all the returnees who wish

to settle there due to mined agricultural land.

Thus, donors need to support programs in traditionally impoverished provinces such as Takeo, Kompong Speu, and

Svay Rieng. In addition, donors should not ignore the resettlement and basic needs of the internally displaced.

Their numbers are not only significant in Battambang, Banteay Mean Chey, and Siem Reap, but in Kompong Speu, Kompong

Thom, and Kampot as well.

Implicit in the principle of respect for local capacity is the importance of support to civil administration. UNTAC

has an ambitious mandate to supervise the civil administrations currently functioning in Cambodia. But not even

UNTAC can field enough personnel to actually provide health care, education, agricultural extension, and other

services to the Cambodian people.

The NGO community therefore feels that it is essential that the SNC, UNTAC, and the donor countries find a formula

which will allow the Secretary General's appeal for the budget support to be fully funded now. Such assistance,

closely monitored and targeted especially to the services which help meet the basic needs of the population, will

create a humanitarian environment which will actually contribute to the creation of a sense of normalcy conducive

both to the rehabilitation process and the conduct of the elections.

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