UNDP strengthens local governments in Cambodia

19 Oct 2009

UNDP efforts to strengthen local governments in Cambodia has resulted in the rapid and streamlined construction of a number of much-needed infrastructure projects like roads, schools and bridges in the country’s remote, rural areas.

Because the initiative, undertaken in partnership with the Government and the European Commission, supports decentralization reform in order to give more decision-making power to local administrations, local governments are better able to respond to the needs of the local people that they serve. Crucial services can now be delivered more quickly and effectively without the direct involvement of the central government.

Collecting water for cooking and drinking used to be a daunting task for many villagers in Samlot, a remote district in Cambodia’s north-western province of Battambang. Few of the villagers could afford their own wells, and the majority of them had to walk long distances to a stream to get water.

This is changing though, after the UNDP initiative led to the building of over 100 hand-pump wells across the region, improving access to clean drinking water for thousands of villagers in this remote corner of Cambodia.

“There is a stream but it is about one kilometer away,” said Kri Seng Hok, 44, a corn farmer who lives in Samlot. “If we had not gotten this well, we would definitely continue to face extreme difficulty in getting water.”

The programme has also resulted in the construction of more than 70 kilometres of roads, 10 school buildings, two women’s vocational training centres, eight concrete bridges and 114 culverts, while help drain water from roads and pathways. Roads are especially crucial as they provide people access to essential services such as hospitals, schools and the marketplace, where people can conduct business and buy what they need.

According to Tieu Chou Long, a Battambang provincial official, local residents are now forming community groups with the aim of maintaining the new infrastructure projects into the future.

“We are on the path of decentralization reform, which includes the building up of knowledge of village and commune officials so that they can draw up their own plans for development,” he said. “Such skills serve as a great advantage for the good execution of projects.”