Cambodia: Villages guide national strategy to provide life essentials
Phnom Penh – In villages throughout Cambodia, local councilors and communities are telling officials how the government can better meet their basic needs, holding public meetings that are proving instrumental for government efforts to raise people’s standards of living.
These meetings are part of a six-year local governance support project sponsored by the United Nations Development Programme (UNDP) and the European Union (EU), finishing in 2011, which has organized forums in all eight regions of Cambodia, including its 23 provinces, the capital and more than 70 districts.
“Strengthening local governance means, looking at the demand and supply sides of accountability mechanisms and improving the ability of officials to be more responsive to local residents’ concerns,” said Patrick Duong, coordinator of the UNDP/EU Cambodia project Strengthening Democratic and Decentralized Local Governance. “These forums offer citizens and local councilors a place to voice their concerns and services needs directly to local and government representatives, and have been essential to strengthening grassroots democracy and improving people’s lives in Cambodia.”
In July 2010, villagers in the southwestern province of Preah Sihanouk made their way through torrential downpours to participate in a community planning meeting, where they brainstormed projects to provide and improve schools, roads, wells and latrines.
“Whatever suggestions or concerns you have, or what kind of development projects you want to see coming to our neighborhood, please just raise your hand and speak freely,” said local council chief Yoan Chhieng at the meeting of about 35 men and women. “As we are currently putting together a community development plan for 2011, we want to hear what the people have to say.”