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U.N. Plants Seed for Long-Term Rights Work

U.N. Plants Seed for Long-Term Rights Work

Symposium lays foundation for post-UNTAC support for Khmer Human Rights Groups

The first-ever international symposium on human rights was held in Phnom Penh

last week in a landmark effort by the United Nations Transitional Authority in Cambodia

(UNTAC) to nurture indigenous Cambodian human rights organizations.

Dennis McNamara, UNTAC Human Rights Component director said the process of building

human rights in Cambodia "remains fragile in the extreme."

"It is therefore imperative to us that this symposium starts the process of

formalizing an international and regional support network for Cambodian human rights

activities," McNamara said.

The three-day symposium, held Nov. 30 through Dec. 2, brought together more than

40 human rights activists from around the world, U.N. officials and the leaders of

the four non-profit, human rights organizations that have been established in Cambodia

since the peace accords were signed last year.

Representatives from three of the four political parties who signed the peace accords

were also present. The Khmer Rouge declined to participate.

UNTAC hopes that by bringing together human rights groups from the region to meet

with Khmers working towards similar ends, Cambodian human rights organizations can

benefit from the support and experience of more well-established and well-funded

institutions.

"We need NGOs as operational partners to provide future expertise, networks,

national advocacy and advice, as well as to implement education and training programs,"

McNamara said.

"This is useful for us," said Thun Saray, president of the Cambodian Human

Rights Association (CHRA). "We can share experiences and compare approaches.

"We plan to set up our own network," Saray said when asked how foreign

NGOs could help Cambodian human rights organizations. "But we want additional

support before UNTAC leaves. We need to strengthen, to consolidate our organizations.

We need technical assistance, training, information and financial support. We also

want moral support."

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