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UN forum promotes Preah Sihanouk ‘Smart City’

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The Two Golden Lions Roundabout with Chinese-invested construction projects in Sihanoukville’s Commune IV. YOUSOS APDOULRASHIM

UN forum promotes Preah Sihanouk ‘Smart City’

The UN in Cambodia held a virtual conference with Preah Sihanouk provincial officials on February 23 to promote the project Sihanoukville for All: Promoting a Smart, Sustainable, and Inclusive City.

The project was planned in cooperation with the Office of the High Commissioner for Human Rights (OHCHR) and UN-Habitat.

UN Resident Coordinator Pauline Tamesis said the project was born from a meeting between the UN Country team and Preah Sihanouk provincial governor Kuoch Chamroeun that was held in November 2019.

At that time the two sides had discussed a wide range of issues including urbanisation, economic growth and inclusive development.

“Given the rapid development in this coastal province, attention must be given to how the city and the province develop in a smart, inclusive and sustainable way,” Tamesis said.

She said the project design – started in August last year and set to be finished in July this year – is based on the Sustainable Development Agenda 2030 and the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs).

She pointed out that SDG 11 on sustainable cities and communities is the goal most directly related to the building of a smart city.

However, the project would also meet other goals and targets related to hunger, poverty, inequality, health, gender equality, land, water and climate change – all of which must be integrated into any smart city concept, according to Tamesis.

“Linking the smart city project to the SDGs is not enough because the simple fact is that no city can truly be considered “smart” if it ignores the interests of the poor, marginalised, or vulnerable groups and communities,” she said.

She added that the design concept should have input from experts, civil society organisations, social movements and community representatives to ensure that the project is comprehensive and holistic.

Siem Reap, Battambang and Phnom Penh were all selected to join the ASEAN Smart Cities Network, whereas Sihanoukville was not.

Tamesis said this smart city project in Sihanoukville would be a good opportunity for Cambodia to learn more about smart cities and to show ASEAN that Sihanoukville should also be included in any smart cities network.

Preah Sihanouk Provincial Administration spokesman Kheang Phearum said: “Redeveloping Sihanoukville into a smart city is important and in agreement with the government’s development strategy.”

To advance this project, he said the provincial administration had set up a working group with the UN country team, development partners, and civil society organisations.

Phearum said the working group is tasked with determining a plan of action with financing goals and a budget while developing a strategy with priorities identified for short, medium and long-term timeframes.

“And we are preparing documents to be submitted to ASEAN requesting the inclusion of Sihanoukville in the ASEAN Smart Cities Network,” he said.

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