On October 24, 1945, the United Nations was created from the ashes of World War II to foster global peace, prosperity and justice. Since then, its scope has expanded to make it a universal organisation focused on issues confronting humanity, such as climate change, sustainable development, human rights, humanitarian and health emergencies, gender equality, governance, food security, and more.
This year, the UN Day on Saturday marks the 70th anniversary of the UN. In Cambodia, the day represents an opportunity to raise awareness of how the UN contributed to building peace and stability, and improved lives of Cambodian people socially and economically. It is also an occasion for the UN to reflect on being “fit for purpose”.
Cambodia became a member of the UN on December 14, 1955, but decades of war prevented full participation, and devastated much of the country’s physical, social and human capital. In 1992 the United Nations Transitional Authority in Cambodia (UNTAC) assumed temporary authority until free elections could be held in 1993 and a new constitution adopted.
Since then, the UN system has resumed full support to both peace and development. Today, over 20 UN entities are directly operating in the Kingdom disbursing collectively more than $80 million per year for national socio-economic development priorities.
Cambodia has made remarkable progress in the 20 years that have passed since the signing of the Paris Peace Accords in ensuring peace and security, rebuilding institutions, establishing a stable macroeconomic environment, and a liberal investment climate. Cambodia has also realised the opportunities of regional and global trade with membership in ASEAN and WTO.
In 2000, Cambodia embraced the Millennium Development Goals (MDGs) to address poverty reduction by 2015, adding a ninth goal on demining. The UN system in Cambodia has framed its support around national goals.
Today, the UN Development Assistance Framework is closely aligned with the government’s rectangular strategy and its national strategic development plan, with a focus on the vulnerable and disadvantaged groups and promotion of gender equality, environmental sustainability and capacity development.
In its commitment to the MDGs, the royal government set among its priorities to reduce child and maternal mortality rates, increase levels of secondary education of girls, and to fill gaps in rural livelihoods investment to support equitable economic growth, energy efficiency and sustainable management of natural resources.
The UN has contributed to meeting these needs and people’s lives have improved. More concerted support of the UN is needed for policies that promote access to information, prevention and response to violence against women and children, improving land tenure security for rural and indigenous people, and citizen’s participation in decision-making.
Eradicating poverty in all its forms and dimensions is an indispensable requirement for the new 2030 Sustainable Development Agenda, adopted last month by more than 160 world leaders at the UN Sustainable Development Summit.
Cambodia has embraced the new Agenda 2030, which will support the national transition from low-income to upper-middle income country, through investment in human resources, diversifying the domestic industry to increase its competitiveness and reducing vulnerability, particularly to climate change, for rural populations.
There is also an urgent need for sufficient investments and a clear commitment to social protection that is focused on the most disadvantaged groups and communities to improve living conditions, promote social justice and ensure better access to quality basic services.
The UN is celebrating its 70th anniversary under the theme “Strong UN. Better World”. With the complex challenges the world faces today, multilateralism and the role of the UN remain essential. “Only when we work together can we overcome shared threats and seize shared opportunities; only at the United Nations can all countries – large and small, rich and poor – and all people have their voices heard. In our rapidly changing world, the United Nations remains humankind’s invaluable instrument of common progress,” says the UN Secretary General, Ban Ki-moon in his message for UN Day.
A strong UN for a better world by 2030 will demand that the UN system promote universality, integration, human rights, equality and data for development as key dimensions of being “fit for purpose”, notably through integrated policy support; bringing together development and humanitarian financing where it makes sense; moving forward the data revolution; taking a more systemic, system-wide approach to assessing risk and promoting resilience; making the UN more consultative with all stakeholders; and increasing resource transparency.
The United Nations system in Cambodia will continue to work with the Royal Government, civil society, the communities and with development partners and the private sector to address the remaining challenges and support positive transformative changes under the new Sustainable Development Goals, to shape a better future for all Cambodian people.
Claire Van der Vaeren, UN Resident Coordinator on behalf of the United Nations system in Cambodia.