Germany’s international development organization, the GesellschaftfürInternationale Zusamenarbeit (GIZ), plays an active role in promoting reconciliation, social justice, sustainability, and good governance in Cambodia.
Germany’s reunited nation understood the importance of democracy and the fragility of peace. German chancellor Helmut Kohl’s government sought to promote tolerance, reconcile differences, and forge a better future for the unified nation. These principles were seen as defining Germany’s developmental mission in the developing world.
GIZ began its mission to support social development and economic growth in Cambodia in 1994. It operates as a standalone organisation on behalf of the German Federal Ministry for Economic Cooperation and Development. Decades after the Khmer Rouge regime fell, Cambodia still struggled to heal the scars of its painful past, not least the loss of so many of the intellectuals the country so needed for its reconstruction. GIZ cultivated a strong relationship with the newly established Cambodian government, built on the core elements of mutual trust, consultation, and a shared investment in Cambodia’s future.
GIZ’s work in Cambodia aims to respond to the needs of Cambodian people, helping them recover from years of political strife and poverty. GIZ’s Phnom Penh office employs 160 Khmer nationals and 50 foreign staff. Their current programs focus on health and social security, and rural development. Within these two domains, GIZ runs a broad spectrum of initiatives that include work on food security, sustainable infrastructure, governance and democracy, and rural and social development.
One of GIZ’s current projects is Economic Growth, Falling Poverty, a program that recognizes the vulnerability of those who live just above the poverty line and are at risk of losing financial security. The initiative supports the rural poor through the facilitation of sustainable business and employment opportunities. The creation of new jobs and strengthening of established industries empowers communities to increase their income and create a network of economic infrastructure, reducing poverty in some of Cambodia’s most vulnerable communities.
GIZ also addresses maternal and infant mortality, through its Improving Maternal-Child Health program. The project improves the quality of emergency medical care for mothers and children. The program provides resources for training, coaching, and mentoring health care staff so they are equipped to deal with childbirth emergencies and have the knowledge to diagnose disabilities and illnesses in infants.
A 2008 white paper expresses Germany’s commitment to effect positive change at a global scale. “More and more people are recognising that development policy is not only important for the developing countries but is beneficial for us as well. Equitable globalisation, worldwide stability and peace are in everyone’s interests.
“People want to know what contribution their government is making to eradicating poverty and injustice in the world. They are asking whether they will still be able to live in peace and security in future, and they are urging their government to shape the ongoing process of economic globalisation in a way which benefits humankind as a whole.”
Since securing a permanent office based in Phnom Penh in 2001, GIZ’s has helped Cambodia improve its governance, promoting accountable, efficient, and transparent administrative systems. GIZ’s support in the domain of economic development has helped lower the poverty rate in Cambodia from 53 percent in 2004, to well below 20 percent in recent years. GIZ has helped reduce infant mortality and fostered gender-responsiveness in the judiciary. It’s also improved the security of land rights in rural communities.
German diplomats believe that investing in developing countries means investing in the future strength of their own nation, too.
Fostering international relations goes beyond securing alliances with countries at the forefront of the global market.
It means looking ahead to a future where nations who receive Germany’s support now will one day become allies and trading partners of the leading European nation.