With progress in a number of key areas stalled since last year, Prime Minister
Hun Sen urged donors to take a broad view of progress in Cambodia in his speech
to Cambodia's annual donors meeting June 20.
Some of the estimated 2,000 members of the Congress of the Poor who marched to the National Assembly on the eve of the donors conference. They called on donors to take more account of their needs.
The Consultative Group (CG)
meeting, which is set to close with donor pledges today, June 21, heard from
government and donor representatives on issues including poverty reduction,
decentralization, and forestry and fisheries reform, with legal reform and
governance emerging as the key issues.
Hun Sen pointed to the distance
Cambodia had traveled in the previous decade and emphasized his theme by
informing delegates that the meeting was being held in the building which had
once housed the United Nations Transitional Authority of Cambodia.
"prevalence of peace, political stability and understanding, democratic
principles and practices taking firm roots," were among the last decade's
achievements highlighted by the Prime Minister.
He told reporters after
the meeting he was hopeful donor countries would provide the full amount the
government had requested in overseas development assistance.
government requested $1.45 billion over the next three years or $485 million per
year. By way of comparison donors pledged more than $5 billion between 1992 and
2001, and disbursed $3.68 billion.
Observers at the meeting predicted the
government would comfortably receive the amount it has requested, and could
receive more, possibly close to last year's $560 million.
Hun Sen moved
to reassure donors about the government's commitment to a Khmer Rouge tribunal,
but stressed it would be held on Cambodia's terms.
"I have always
maintained that any solution has to be Cambodian in nature while certainly
conforming to accepted international norms," he told the meeting. "We can ill
afford to leave our destiny in the hands of others.
negotiations are ongoing behind the scenes and have been constructive," he said.
He did not elaborate on the meetings but Kyodo News Agency reported a senior
Japanese official saying that Japan was playing a role in mediating discussions
between the Cambodian government and the UN.
At last year's meeting in
Tokyo, donors had urged the government to press ahead with the KR tribunal.
This year donors were sympathetic to the government, with several
expressing regret over the impasse in negotiations with the UN and telling the
meeting they were hopeful talks with the UN would soon resume.
and donors had agreed at the Tokyo meeting on ten areas where progress would be
monitored over the year to June 2002. The European Union's assessment of those
benchmark's rated only the land law "done".
The EU assessed both the
anti-corruption law and the action plan on legal and judicial reform as "not
done". The EU recorded "great frustration" and "disappointment" at the lack of
The United Kingdom's statement referred to "overall
disappointing progress" over the action points agreed last year, and said the UK
needed "to see that Government is doing its part".
For the other seven
areas, including forestry, civil service reform, passing the investment law, and
launching demobilization, the government received a mixture of limited praise
and donor frustration. For example the EU commended the government on improving
disbursements to social sectors but noted that only one-third of health sector
salaries were paid in the first half of this year.
highlighted as a key issue in the US statement which anticipated a
re-examination of restrictions on US aid imposed after the 1997 factional
fighting. That re-examination is conditional on the 2003 national elections
providing a safe environment for candidates, equal access to the broadcast media
and effective controls on election abuses.
Hun Sen, in his speech, called
the 1998 elections the "miracle of the Mekong" and the recent commune elections
"another miracle" in which "people voted without fear or favor, unfettered by
extraneous considerations ... [and] ... a clear and unambiguous reflection of
the true will of the people".
Others at the meeting were less fulsome in
their praise of February's local elections with most donors recognizing progress
but pointing out serious deficiencies.
The EU statement highlighted
"serious concerns" related to "several incidents that tarnished the pre-election
period" and called on the government to revise the electoral law and ensure the
neutrality of the National Election Committee before next year's general
Hun Sen acknowledged that corruption in the government and
judiciary was an impediment to economic growth and sustainable development. To
address corruption, he said, the government was committed to finalizing the
draft anti-corruption law before the end of June 2003.
On June 13 the
United States' General Accounting Office highlighted the lack of progress on
Cambodia's anti-corruption law in a report to Congress. Despite considering the
anti-corruption law for the past seven years it has not yet been passed into
law, the report stated.
That assessment was backed by the Swedish
statement to the CG meeting which described corruption as "rampant" and said
that transparency and accountability were "key words in our
"Corruption not only squanders national financial and
natural resources. It also contributes to poverty and may seriously undermine
human rights. Corruption and the lack of rule of law have undoubtedly
contributed to the drastic decrease in foreign investment over the past years,"
read the statement, which was made available to the press.
representative to the meeting, Sok Sam Oeun, characterized proceedings as
"There is progress, but how much is another issue," he said
adding that the government had made useful proposals on legal and judicial
reform but needed a "concrete plan" to put them into effect.