Logo of Phnom Penh Post newspaper Phnom Penh Post - NGOs must adapt new development strategies




NGOs must adapt new development strategies

NGOs must adapt new development strategies

Dear Editor,

Last year marked the 30th anniversary of NGOs in Cambodia, and their contribution was celebrated recently in the Phnom Penh Post’s excellent NGO Sector Review.

In his recent letter to you (“Kingdom’s NGOs need to adopt new strategies”, May 12), Vic Salas called on NGOs to “rethink the ways that they work”.

We strongly agree with Salas. Indeed, for NGOs working to improve the situation of human rights in Cambodia, last year’s milestone – as much as a cause for celebration – serves as an opportunity to take stock and consider how we can develop new approaches to maximise our contribution to Cambodia’s development and democratisation.

Together with the ongoing crackdown on freedom of expression, recent and proposed legislation – including the planned NGO Law – threatens to impede NGOs by imposing worrying restrictions and shrinking the space within which we work.

Meanwhile, the global economic recession is impacting on the funds available to NGOs. In this context, the need for human rights NGOs to self-reflect and develop new approaches is all the more pressing.

Empower rather than lead
In the past, human rights NGOs have often sought to lead rather than empower communities, speaking at, rather than listening to them, and applying a “one size fits all” approach to different local contexts and problems.

This top-down approach creates a relationship of dependency, often fails to address the human rights violations at hand and is unsustainable.

We can truly empower communities by training them on their rights and the ways in which they can claim these rights; by creating the space for them to use this understanding, at public forums for example; by linking them to networks, share experiences and develop joint actions; and by building the capacity of those better placed to empower communities, including HRDs, CBOs and SBOs.

True empowerment will give rise to nuanced local approaches that reflect the needs and priorities of communities. It will help communities understand and demand their rights, and facilitate natural, civic-driven change.

Look at the bigger picture
Intervention to address specific rights violations is often required, but bigger picture analysis of human rights trends and underlying problems is important also. More long-term and wide-ranging approaches will be required if we are to develop a fuller understanding of the problems Cambodia faces and to advocate strongly for their alleviation. There is an urgent need for more thorough research, deeper analysis and the development of new ideas for improving respect for human rights in Cambodia.

Collaborate and be open
We have at times failed to work together and share information, including data on human rights violations. This lack of collaboration is arguably the product of competitiveness, driven by limited and short-term donor funding and perceived self-interest. It only serves to thwart our shared overall aim and weakens us in the face of oppression. We need to specialise and collaborate, developing unique strengths and rights focuses.

In their 30 years’ history, NGOs in Cambodia have been a powerful force for change and progress. However, there is much still to be done.

Human rights NGOs will be a far stronger force for democratisation and the realisation of human rights in Cambodia if we change with the times. It is not easy to drop traditional methods in favour of new approaches, but without this risk there will be no change.

Ou Virak
President, Cambodian Centre for Human Rights

Rupert Abbott
Development director, Cambodian Centre for Human Rights

Send letters to: [email protected] or PO?Box 146, Phnom Penh, Cambodia. The Post reserves the right to edit letters to a shorter length. The views expressed above are solely the author’s and do not reflect any positions taken by The Phnom Penh Post.

MOST VIEWED

  • Hungarian exposes 90 to Covid in Siem Reap

    The Ministry of Health has discovered 90 people who have been exposed directly or indirectly to a Hungarian man infected with Covid-19. They all are required to quarantine at home and the hospital. The ministry is searching for other affected people. Among the 90, one is the

  • PM: West unfair to Cambodia

    Prime Minister Hun Sen released a message celebrating the International Day of Peace on Monday, saying that some major powers and western countries had been systemically cooperating to put political pressure on Cambodia as they did in the 1970s and 1980s. Hun Sen said pressuring

  • ‘Bad news is an investor’s best friend’ – unlocking investment potential in Cambodia

    It is time to shop. Economic woes provide good pickings for investors if they know where to look The poem If, written by English Nobel laureate poet and novelist Rudyard Kipling for his son circa 1895, is widely perceived as fatherly advice for John who would

  • PM requests Russia’s Covid vaccine

    Prime Minister Hun Sen has requested that Russia provide Cambodia with its Covid-19 vaccine after the former announced it planned on mass vaccinating its population next month. The request came on Thursday through the prime minister’s Facebook page as he met with Anatoly Borovik,

  • PM warns of ‘new Cold War’

    Prime Minister Hun Sen said the possibility of a so-called new Cold War has become a significant concern and that all countries have to reject outright, any attempt to allow history to tragically repeat itself. He made the remarks in a speech during 75th Session

  • First ‘mobile kitchen’ in Cambodia enters service

    A catering company recently rolled out Cambodia’s first “mobile kitchen” – a $50,000 container capable of serving up to 200 people at a time. The kitchen is the brainchild of Seng Hok Heng Catering Services. At 4.4m-high, 6.8m-long and 2.4m-wide (expandable to 6.8m), the kitchen is equipped