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State officials ready to hold talks with donors

State officials ready to hold talks with donors

Representatives of donor countries are set to meet today with government officials to discuss the Kingdom’s progress on a set of benchmarks agreed upon in connection with the donation of more than a billion dollars in aid last year.

Held at the Council for the Development of Cambodia in Phnom Penh, the gathering will assess the 20 “Joint Monitoring Indicators” set forth in June at the third Cambodia Development Cooperation Forum, in which donor countries pledged development assistance for the upcoming 18-month period. At that meeting, donors pledged a record US$1.1 billion in aid.

Chith Sam Ath, executive director of NGO Forum, said in an email that the JMIs are “important tools to measure the progress of government commitments”.

The monitoring indicators set forth in June call for improvements in land tenure rights, resource revenue transparency and judicial reform. Other benchmarks relate to issues including demining, education and food security.

Government and donor officials were tight-lipped this week when asked to discuss the meeting.

Sun Chanthol, vice chairman of the Council for the Development of Cambodia, confirmed that the meeting would take place but declined to comment further.

United States Embassy spokesman Mark Wenig called the gathering a “private” meeting, while officials at the World Bank, who are coordinating among development officials attending the meeting, declined to comment.

A brief agenda for the meeting, obtained yesterday by The Post, states that those in attendance will “review progress in implementing the Joint Monitoring Indicators and the agreed actions made at the 3rd CDCF meeting in June 2010”, while also discussing the government’s national social protection strategy and other issues.

Lun Borithy, executive director of the Cooperation Committee for Cambodia, said today’s meeting could be significant if the government is in fact held to account against the JMIs, though he warned that such accountability was often lacking.

“Technically, the donors can say, ‘You haven’t achieved this, so we can hold back money,’” he said. “But there’s been too much of a ‘gentlemen’s club’ – everything has been prepared in advance, [and] when they go in, they talk about everything but the JMI itself.”

“They find it more and more difficult to hold the government accountable to the JMIs.”

Sar Sambath, a permanent member of the Anticorruption Unit, said representatives of “all government ministries” would attend the meeting.

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