As Cambodia celebrates 72 years of partnership with UNESCO, its positive impact on education and culture within the nation is applauded by both the government and civil society organisations.

This fruitful alliance, established in 1951, has fostered remarkable development in Cambodia, recognised and appreciated by all, officials said.

Ros Soveacha, a spokesman for the Ministry of Education, Youth and Sport, noted on this 72nd anniversary that UNESCO’s support has yielded positive outcomes, particularly in recent collaborations.

“Both UNESCO and other development partners have made significant contributions to improving the quality of education in Cambodia, especially in the context of Covid-19, for which the education ministry would like to express its gratitude,” he affirmed.

Similarly, Long Bonna Sirivath, a spokesman for the Ministry of Culture and Fine Arts, acknowledged the “extensive and vital” cooperation between UNESCO and Cambodia, particularly in cultural projects. He said their expansive impact could not be fully encapsulated in words.

Chhort Bunthong, head of the Culture, Education and Tourist Relations department at the Royal Academy of Cambodia (RAC), highlighted the significance of UNESCO’s technical assistance and skills training.

“Many tangible and intangible Cambodian heritage sites have been inscribed on the UNESCO World Heritage List as the Intangible Cultural Heritage of Humanity [ICH],” he said.

Bunthong further emphasised the value of their partnership with the UN body, citing support in terms of technical resources, expertise and budgeting.

“This cooperation is very important ... it is very valuable for either Cambodia or any country to cooperate with UNESCO,” he added.

Yang Kim Eng, president of the People’s Centre for Development and Peace, underlined how Cambodia’s cultural and educational landscapes have thrived due to UNESCO’s influence.

“Without the participation of UNESCO, some of our Cambodian cultural treasures could not be registered and protected. We have also collected cultural treasures that have been sold and smuggled abroad, statues and so on,” he observed.

Eng also credited UNESCO with the promotion and reform of education standards in Cambodia, enabling them to align with neighbouring countries and developed nations. He envisages this collaboration as crucial for Cambodia’s future progress within the realms of culture and education.

After initially joining UNESCO on July 3, 1951, Cambodia saw its UNESCO office in Phnom Penh reopened in 1991, following a closure due to civil war.

Today, UNESCO Cambodia operates under the UN Development Assistance for Cambodia (UNDAF) 2019-23, striving to enhance education, environment, communication, cultural heritage and freedom of expression. Its ultimate goal is to achieve sustainable development by 2030, thereby promoting world peace and security.