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The View from UNTAC

UNTAC Rehabilitation Director The recent conference in Tokyo on the rehabilitation

and reconstruction of Cambodia was an inspiring event. Many participants went there

thinking the meeting was ill-timed and that the difficulties in implementing the

Paris agreement would cast gloom over the proceedings. Would it not be better to

wait and see, in face of what was happening in Cambodia itself?

Instead there was ringing optimism and faith in the ability of the Cambodians to

overcome their problems and make a fresh start.

Close to U.S. $900 million was pledged for Cambodia's economic recovery. This is

a startling result, considering that the Secretary-General's appeal on behalf of

Cambodia was for less than $U.S. 600 million. Rarely do governments contribute more

than they are asked for.

As UNTAC Special Representative Yasushi Akashi told a post-conference press gathering,

it was one of the most successful fundraising efforts in the history of the United

Nations.

It was also eloquent testimony to the international commitment to help Cambodia reenter

the community of nations after two decades of political strife and economic stagnation.

The conference established a permanent consortium of donor countries and organizations,

to be presided over by Japan, which will ensure that Cambodia's reconstruction efforts

receive continuing support in the future.

Taken together, and measured by the Cambodian economy, the Tokyo pledges look over-sized

and may create excessive expectations. But we need to be realistic. These financial

resources cover commitments over three to four years and do not represent actual

spending, which usually lags far behind budget appropriations.

In my estimation, disbursements on rehabilitation projects during the UNTAC transitional

period, or until the end of 1993, will be in the order of U.S. $250 million. This

is reasonable when compared to Cambodia's GDP, and will have served the purpose laid

down in the Paris Accords, namely that UNTAC should "initiate the process of

rehabilitation and lay groundwork for future reconstruction."

International support for the rehabilitation effort comes in many forms and through

an impressive array of organizations-governmental and non-governmental. Several countries

plan to bring in their own national agencies to implement the programs they finance;

others channel their assistance through the United Nations system of organizations,

such as UNICEF, the World Food Program and UNDP. Many governments choose NGOs as

vehicles for their contributions.

It is important to understand however that UNTAC itself will not be dispensing the

funds that were pledged in Tokyo, and that it cannot tell donor agencies what it

should or should not do.

So what, then, is UNTAC's role in rehabilitation? It is to coordinate the overall

effort, to ensure that all concerned pull in the same direction and that agreed priorities

are being addressed first.

To begin with, there has to be consensus among all parties, cooperating governments,

and organizations on what the rehabilitation program should consist of. This has

been obtained through the program framework on which the Secretary-General's appeal

was based. Secondly, there has to be continuous review of programs and policy matters

as they evolve. A consultative group of donor representatives has been established

to do this which meets monthly.

Third, comprehensive information is now available through UNTAC on all commitments

and disbursements in specific sectors and programs. This helps donors determine for

themselves where their contributions will be most effective.

The ultimate criterion for effectiveness is of course the extent to which outside

support benefits people in their daily lives. A substantial part of the program is

concerned with maintaining health and educational services at the district and village

levels, with agricultural inputs, safe water supply, etc.

The dilapidated national infrastructure must again be made functional and there must

also be economic stabilization in the near future. Ordinary people will not be helped

if the economy is in a state of havoc.

I believe that generous international support for Cambodia is matched by the faith

that Cambodians have in themselves. As Akashi stated at a recent SNC meeting, the

Cambodian people are on the move. They have a new vision and hope, without which

their creative energies would inevitably lose the vigor they now have.

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