Logo of Phnom Penh Post newspaper Phnom Penh Post - NGOs begin a new chapter



NGOs begin a new chapter

NGOs begin a new chapter

Cambodia's army of aid workers is facing huge tasks and, according to some forecasts,

changed roles amid lawlessness on Phnom Penh's streets and the departure of UNTAC.

Despite extensive U.N.-initiated programs during the 18-month UNTAC period, non-government

organizations (NGOs) point to a mountain of remaining social, health and infrastructure

problems, a list that shows UNTAC's work may be finished but NGO work has just entered

another chapter of a very long book.

"The further you get into the boondocks [countryside] the more you realize very

little has been done to help rural Cambodians," said Scott Rankin, program manager

of Overseas Service Bureau, highlighting an almost complete lack of infrastructure.

Several areas need urgent attention post-UNTAC according to three NGOs interviewed

last week. These include the constant danger of an estimated six to ten million mines,

the thousands of families still in desperate need of permanent homes, the massive

social problem of re-integrating hundreds of thousands of recently repatriated people

and the country's lamentable health system.

Representatives from World Vision International and Save the Children Fund Australia

(SCFA) also forecast changed roles for NGOs as bilateral money, once channeled through

NGOs during Cambodia's re-emergence from isolation, is allocated directly to the

government and well-established U.N. agencies.

The earlier funding arrangements put NGOs in the unusual position of implementing

large-scale, bilaterally-funded reconstruction and aid projects, a role that some

feel can be relinquished.

"I think NGOs will perhaps move back into what has been the traditional NGO

area . . . working at province, district and community levels," said Sandy Hudd,

program manager of SCFA.

NGOs face these challenges and changes amid Khmer Rouge attacks in the provinces

and open-faced banditry in Phnom Penh.

As recently as last week, a Cambodian Red Cross worker died and another lost a leg

in a Nov. 9 night attack at Sala Visey commune in Kompong Thom province.

The possible cost to Cambodia of such unchecked lawlessness was demonstrated when

two major aid agencies - including UNHCR - said they would pull out of the country

if the security situation continued to worsen.

While expressing serious concerns about the problem and reinforcing calls for government

action, the NGOs spoken to emphasized their commitment to aid work, albeit with tight

security measures.

Rankin says an essential role for NGOs in the post-UNTAC period is to build the self-help

skills of Cambodians, a policy already pursued by the Overseas Service Bureau.

Integral to this, and an area Rankin asserts has been overlooked by NGOs, was in-depth

discussions with Cambodians about their aims and priorities.

Talmage Payne of World Vision International identified three main issues that

his agency believes will fall to NGOs in the wake of UNTAC's departure:

  • De-mining, whether by direct NGO action or NGOs lobbying the government.
  • Re-integrating the 300,000 repatriated refugees from Thailand, many of whom returned

    with almost no family ties or community support. Payne described this as a long-term

    social problem needing a long-term remedy.

  • Resettling an estimated 1,500 families displaced in Oct. alone by continued fighting

    in areas north of Siem Reap and northern Bantay Manatee.

Hudd of SCFA added to the list the appalling child health and education statistics,

with one child in five still not reaching their fifth birthday.

All three NGOs applauded the relatively recent advent of indigenous Cambodian NGOs,

now numbering more than 50, saying that they could play an active and effective role.

Hudd believes it is also important that the government effectively manage aid funding

because of its new status.

"We do see this as the best chance for Cambodia . . . to move forward,"

she said.

MOST VIEWED

  • Phnom Penh placed in two-week lockdown

    The government has decided to place Phnom Penh in lockdown for two weeks, effective April 14 midnight through April 28, as Cambodia continues to grapple with the ongoing community outbreak of Covid-19, which has seen no sign of subsiding. According to a directive signed by Prime Minister

  • Cambodia on the verge of national tragedy, WHO warns

    The World Health Organisation (WHO) in Cambodia warned that the country had reached another critical point amid a sudden, huge surge in community transmission cases and deaths. “We stand on the brink of a national tragedy because of Covid-19. Despite our best efforts, we are

  • Hun Sen: Stay where you are, or else

    Prime Minister Hun Sen warned that the two-week lockdown of Phnom Penh and adjacent Kandal provincial town Takmao could be extended if people are not cooperative by staying home. “Now let me make this clear: stay in your home, village, and district and remain where

  • Businesses in capital told to get travel permit amid lockdown through One Window Service

    The Phnom Penh Municipal Administration has issued guidelines on how to get travel permission for priority groups during the lockdown of Phnom Penh, directing private institutions to apply through the municipality's One Window Service and limit their staff to a mere two per cent. In

  • Vaccination open to foreigners in Cambodia

    The Ministry of Health on April 8 issued an announcement on Covid-19 vaccination for foreigners residing and working in Cambodia, directing the Ministry of Labour and Vocational Training and local authorities to register them. Health minister Mam Bun Heng, who is also head of the inter-ministerial

  • Ministry names types of business permitted amid lockdown

    The Ministry of Labour and Vocational Training singled out 11 types of business that are permitted to operate during the lockdown of Phnom Penh and Takmao town, which run through April 28. Those include (1) food-processing enterprises and slaughterhouses; (2) providers of public services such as firefighting, utility and