The EU has joined hands with three organisations and committed €7.4 million ($8.4 million) to two programmes which will support the government in strengthening social protection systems. This will serve as an immediate response to the disruption caused by Covid-19 and will also support the implementation of government policy framework.

A joint press release on February 21 said the EU Support to Social Protection Reforms programme aims to simultaneously contribute to the response to the pandemic and accelerate the introduction of new policy.

“The National Social Protection Council of Cambodia plays a key role in the programme, alongside stakeholders at national and sub-national levels including the Ministry of Social Affairs, Veterans and Youth Rehabilitation; National Social Security Fund; civil society; and the private sector,” it said.

Bryan Fornari, head of cooperation for the EU delegation, said the EU would work alongside the International Labour Organisation (ILO), UNICEF and Oxfam to support Cambodia in its long-term objectives of broadening the inclusivity of its social protection system, including to workers who are not yet protected.

“Going forward, the EU will be supporting the bridging between social protection, decent jobs and sustainable green growth,” he added.

The press release stated that the Fostering an Inclusive and shock Responsive Social Protection System in Cambodia project (FIRST) was led by Oxfam, working with 11 partners.

“The project aims to increase awareness of and access to social protection schemes, promote participation in social dialogue and enhance social accountability mechanisms. The EU’s grant to Oxfam [€1.8 million] will enable the project to run until 2023,” the press release read.

It said the Advancing Social Protection in Cambodia project was guided by the social protection council and implemented by the ILO and UNICEF. The project had received almost €5.6 million of funding and will run until 2024.

Narith Chan, secretary-general of the council, said the government recognised the significant role that inclusive social protection contributes towards the reduction of poverty and inequality while improving human resource development and stimulating financial stability and economic growth.

“The development of social protection in the Kingdom is steered and coordinated by the council, which also evaluates and monitors accountability and transparency. We are grateful for the support and trust afforded by our development partners who continue to contribute to our country’s social protection growth,” he said.

Sophoan Phean, Oxfam Cambodia director, said the Covid-19 pandemic had significantly increased the awareness of Cambodians of their vulnerability and fuelled the momentum to increase collaboration among different stakeholders supporting the government.

“Oxfam is excited to work with civil society organisations, government agencies and development partners to bring the voices of vulnerable citizens, especially women’s voices, to the forefront, and contribute to a more inclusive, accountable and transparent social protection system,” she added.

Graeme Buckley, ILO country director for Thailand, Cambodia and Laos, said social protection was about reducing and preventing socio-economic vulnerabilities and poverty. The pandemic has highlighted the importance of social protection in promoting resilience and supporting economic recovery.

“The project will contribute to extending social protection to more women, men and their families and increasing the coverage of the social security schemes to uncovered workers towards a more effective, efficient, accountable and sustainable gender-responsive social protection system,” he said.