Logo of Phnom Penh Post newspaper Phnom Penh Post - Donor forums fail on reforms

Donor forums fail on reforms

Donor forums fail on reforms

Twice-yearly ‘ritual' fails to hold govt accountable, say rights groups.

LOCAL and international rights groups continue to question the effectiveness of the country's periodic government-donor meetings following last week's Government Donor Coordination Committee (GDCC) forum, labelling them "discussions of ritual, stripped bare of meaningful content".

In a consensus statement presented at the meeting, foreign donors urged  "prompt passage of the remaining four fundamental laws and the Anti-corruption Law" and requested that the government "share the draft [law] before it moves forward".

The statement also included a request to "speed up" processes guaranteeing land rights and "inquired" about the status of the government's pledged access to information policy.

On Thursday, an anti-corruption coalition comprising 40 NGOs urged the government to implement anti-corruption legislation, which has been on the reform agenda since 2001.

"Civil society and millions of Cambodians eagerly await the approval of the law," the Coalition of Civil Society Organisations Against Corruption said in a statement Thursday.

But rights activists say donors have consistently failed to hold the government accountable in achieving reform targets.

"The donor-government aid meetings have become an annual pilgrimage at which the donors admonish the government for not making progress on basic governance and corruption measures, yet continue to pledge more and more of taxpayers' money," Eleanor Nichol, a campaigner for international anti-corruption group Global Witness, said by email Thursday.

Nichol said Global Witness has consistently called on donors to link the disbursal of non-humanitarian aid to basic improvements in the governance of the country's natural resources and other state assets.

Brad Adams, Asia director of Human Rights Watch, said that donors and NGOs who are prepared to push hard for reform are undercut by others who lack principles, just want to have good relations with the government or simply don't care enough to make an effort.

Gradual reform

But donors and government officials cited progress on key reforms, with Minister of Information Khieu Kanharith saying the passage of the Anti-corruption Law required extensive preparation and research, and that it would be held back until the passage of a new penal code.

US embassy spokesman John Johnson described last week's meeting as "productive", adding that it served to highlight some of the progress that Cambodia has made, particularly in relation to the policy reforms that have been put forward in response to the global economic crisis.

"We urge the government to act on reforming corruption and governance with the same urgency which was applied to the economy," Johnson said by email.

Chhith Sam Ath, executive director of NGO Forum, told the Post that progress towards good governance and land reforms had been clearly lagging despite the huge amount of attention these topics had received during past meetings.

"The meetings are not essential in achieving reform targets," he said.

"The recent meeting focused for a large part on issues that are outside the government's reform agenda. As a result, the government's reform efforts, especially on land, legal and judicial reform, were not part of the discussion."

ADDITIONAL REPORTING BY MAY KUNMAKARA

MOST VIEWED

  • Phnom Penh authorities ban march for Human Rights Day

    Phnom Penh authorities have banned a planned march as local NGOs and workers’ unions gear up to celebrate the 70th anniversary of the signing of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights on Monday, with a youth group leader saying they would march nonetheless. The UN

  • Government deports 235 Chinese scammers

    THE Immigration Department of the Ministry of Interior on Thursday deported 235 Chinese nationals, 35 of whom were female, via the Phnom Penh International Airport for their part in a Voice over Internet Protocol (VoIP) online money extortion scam. The deportees were arrested on November 26 over the

  • Phnom Penh’s Jet’s Container Night Market shuts down

    The famous Jet’s Container Night Market in central Phnom Penh has shut down due to the high cost of the land rental, company representatives claim. Jet’s Container Night Market is the largest such market in Phnom Penh. It operated for just over two

  • International buyers snap up new locally produced watch

    A Cambodian entrepreneur has launched a stylish high-end watch, hoping to promote the Khmer creative talent and increase demand for the Kingdom’s products abroad. Designer Seth Pitu launched his brand PU a mere 60 days ago, and hopes to combine traditional Khmer art with sleek