UNTAC Rehabilitation Director The recent conference in Tokyo on the rehabilitation
and reconstruction of Cambodia was an inspiring event. Many participants went there
thinking the meeting was ill-timed and that the difficulties in implementing the
Paris agreement would cast gloom over the proceedings. Would it not be better to
wait and see, in face of what was happening in Cambodia itself?
Instead there was ringing optimism and faith in the ability of the Cambodians to
overcome their problems and make a fresh start.
Close to U.S. $900 million was pledged for Cambodia's economic recovery. This is
a startling result, considering that the Secretary-General's appeal on behalf of
Cambodia was for less than $U.S. 600 million. Rarely do governments contribute more
than they are asked for.
As UNTAC Special Representative Yasushi Akashi told a post-conference press gathering,
it was one of the most successful fundraising efforts in the history of the United
It was also eloquent testimony to the international commitment to help Cambodia reenter
the community of nations after two decades of political strife and economic stagnation.
The conference established a permanent consortium of donor countries and organizations,
to be presided over by Japan, which will ensure that Cambodia's reconstruction efforts
receive continuing support in the future.
Taken together, and measured by the Cambodian economy, the Tokyo pledges look over-sized
and may create excessive expectations. But we need to be realistic. These financial
resources cover commitments over three to four years and do not represent actual
spending, which usually lags far behind budget appropriations.
In my estimation, disbursements on rehabilitation projects during the UNTAC transitional
period, or until the end of 1993, will be in the order of U.S. $250 million. This
is reasonable when compared to Cambodia's GDP, and will have served the purpose laid
down in the Paris Accords, namely that UNTAC should "initiate the process of
rehabilitation and lay groundwork for future reconstruction."
International support for the rehabilitation effort comes in many forms and through
an impressive array of organizations-governmental and non-governmental. Several countries
plan to bring in their own national agencies to implement the programs they finance;
others channel their assistance through the United Nations system of organizations,
such as UNICEF, the World Food Program and UNDP. Many governments choose NGOs as
vehicles for their contributions.
It is important to understand however that UNTAC itself will not be dispensing the
funds that were pledged in Tokyo, and that it cannot tell donor agencies what it
should or should not do.
So what, then, is UNTAC's role in rehabilitation? It is to coordinate the overall
effort, to ensure that all concerned pull in the same direction and that agreed priorities
are being addressed first.
To begin with, there has to be consensus among all parties, cooperating governments,
and organizations on what the rehabilitation program should consist of. This has
been obtained through the program framework on which the Secretary-General's appeal
was based. Secondly, there has to be continuous review of programs and policy matters
as they evolve. A consultative group of donor representatives has been established
to do this which meets monthly.
Third, comprehensive information is now available through UNTAC on all commitments
and disbursements in specific sectors and programs. This helps donors determine for
themselves where their contributions will be most effective.
The ultimate criterion for effectiveness is of course the extent to which outside
support benefits people in their daily lives. A substantial part of the program is
concerned with maintaining health and educational services at the district and village
levels, with agricultural inputs, safe water supply, etc.
The dilapidated national infrastructure must again be made functional and there must
also be economic stabilization in the near future. Ordinary people will not be helped
if the economy is in a state of havoc.
I believe that generous international support for Cambodia is matched by the faith
that Cambodians have in themselves. As Akashi stated at a recent SNC meeting, the
Cambodian people are on the move. They have a new vision and hope, without which
their creative energies would inevitably lose the vigor they now have.