Logo of Phnom Penh Post newspaper Phnom Penh Post - USAID says it's not the forum to pressure change

USAID says it's not the forum to pressure change

USAID says it's not the forum to pressure change

U SAID'S "democracy" project - including its training programs within the

Cambodian justice system

- is likely to escape a hefty funding cut for the next financial year.

However, there would be a "shift in emphasis" within the legal training

area, USAID democracy initiative project manager Ron Briggs said.

USAID committed $6.8 million of its $41 million budget into areas such as Parliamentary

and court training, and human rights and defenders groups "and I think the level

overall will be much the same," Briggs said.

USAID director Joe Goodwin said that though the fiscal year ended on Sept 30, it

was unlikely that USAID's FY96 Cambodia budget would be known for another couple

of months.

"Democracy and governance projects are a priority and this area is generally

one least prone to cuts," he said, though "ball-park" figures had

already been given to individual projects so they could plan for the next year.

Goodwin said that Justice Minister Chem Sgnoun was interested in moving away from

"non-lawyer public defenders" in favor of trained lawyers. USAID funds

a stable of such "non-lawyer public defenders", including the Cambodia

Defenders Project, ADHOC and CADEDAS.

"We can be committed to both... we can't just make a 180 degree change,"

he said.

Goodwin said defenders projects could be sustained "at least as a concept".

When asked how USAID could fund the training of officers working within a judiciary

that was widely criticized as not being independent from the government, USAID Democracy

and Governance Office director Ned Greeley talked of a "really long time"

to "get the system functioning".

Goodwin said: "We feel that there are objectives that can be achieved within

the present activities we are doing."

"In terms of holding off [giving] money till the government puts in place a

set of activities we judge 'correct' or 'perfect' is not something I can see [happening],"

he said.

US Information Service director Frank Huffman said: "Conditioning of aid is

a really false issue because we don't give aid to the government."

"Ask yourself who would it hurt if we stop giving aid to the NGOs... we are

trying to support, shore up and build good judicial practices, human rights, public

defenders and freedom of the press," Huffman said.

Greeley said it was very important "just getting the courts back on their feet"

and that there was a lot of interest in the court training projects from judges and

prosecutors.

Goodwin said the problem of the independence of the judiciary was important "and

needs to be addressed", however it was not in the scope of USAID.

"It's something you raise at ICORC... it's a macro, very serious, overarching

problem. It's not something you make adjustments for at project level," he said.

"It's at ICORC that the United States and the World Bank [and other donors]

express that [sort of] concern."

Greeley and Huffman said that "you can be sure there's dialogue going on [among

the donors]... it's behind the scenes, not on the front pages of a newspaper".

MOST VIEWED

  • NY sisters inspired by Khmer heritage

    Growing up in Brooklyn, New York, Cambodian-American sisters Edo and Eyen Chorm have always felt a deep affinity for their Cambodian heritage and roots. When the pair launched their own EdoEyen namesake jewellery brand in June, 2020, they leaned heavily into designs inspired by ancient Khmer

  • Schools drawn into Manet degree row

    Prime Minister Hun Sen stepped into the Hun Manet-Sam Rainsy war of words over the validity of Manet’s degree from the US Military Academy at West Point, set off by Rainsy’s claims that Manet had received a “second-class degree” or “honorary degree”. Hun

  • Cambodia records first Omicron community case

    The Ministry of Health on January 9 reported 30 new Covid-19 cases, 29 of which were imported and all were confirmed to be the Omicron variant. The ministry also reported 11 recoveries and no new deaths. Earlier on January 9, the ministry also announced that it had detected the Kingdom's

  • The effects of the USD interest rate hike on Cambodian economy

    Experts weigh in on the effect of a potential interest rate expansion by the US Federal Reserve on a highly dollarised Cambodia Anticipation of the US Federal Reserve’s interest rate hike in March is putting developing economies on edge, a recent blog post by

  • PM eyes Myanmar peace troika

    Prime Minister Hun Sen has suggested that ASEAN member states establish a tripartite committee or diplomatic troika consisting of representatives from Cambodia, Brunei and Indonesia that would be tasked with mediating a ceasefire in Myanmar. The premier also requested that Nippon Foundation chairman Yohei Sasakawa

  • Kampot tourism quay ‘90% done’

    Construction on Kampot International Tourism Port – a 4ha quay in Teuk Chhou district about 6km west of Kampot town – has fallen off track, reaching 90 per cent completion, according to a senior Ministry of Tourism official last week. The project is now planned to be finished