In the early years, efforts focused on helping the country tackle the challenges of emerging from years of war: rebuilding infrastructure and communications, increasing agricultural production, relocating displaced persons, and clearing land of millions of land mines.
Over time, EU-Cambodia cooperation has evolved. EU cooperation in Cambodia is designed to support the Royal Government of Cambodia's policies, as reflected in the Royal Government's Rectangular Strategy and the National Strategic Development Plan (NSDP). Poverty alleviation and meeting basic needs remains an overarching priority, which is furthered through initiatives on good governance, democratic participation and decentralization, human rights, rule of law, gender equality, land rights, education, vocational training, health, sanitation, rural development, agriculture, food security, environment and climate change as well as public finance management support and trade-related technical assistance.
EU funding is provided entirely in the form of grants. The European Development Cooperation Strategy for Cambodia 2014-2018 provides the basis for the EU Multi-Annual Indicative Programme (MIP) 2014-2020. The MIP identifies 3 sectors that the EU development cooperation will focus on: 1) Agriculture and natural resource management; 2) Basic education and skills development; and 3) Governance and administration which focuses support for Government reforms particularly on Public Finance Management, Sub-National Democratic Development, and Elections as well as including support for the Extraordinary Chambers in the Court of Cambodia (ECCC).
The MIP 2014-2020 allocates up to €410 million to Cambodia, more than double the financial support provided in the previous 7-year period. While the implementation of the MIP 2014-2020 started in 2015, support under the 2007-2013 MIP is continuing.
In addition to bilateral cooperation, Cambodia benefits from regional cooperation programmes that support ASEAN programmes. In 2014-2020, Cambodian civil society organisations will be able to bid for funds under the civil society organisations (CSO) and local authorities (LA) budgets as well as those under the European Instrument for Democracy and Human Rights (EIDHR).
A new EU blending facility for the Asian region opened in 2011 (Asian Investment Facility – AIF), offering a possibility to top up development projects led by European financing institutions, in partnership with other financing institutions, governments, private sector or other development actors, with an additional EU AIF grant. Projects falling under AIF priorities for Cambodia are eligible for AIF funding.
Since 2014, Cambodia is also eligible for European Investment Bank (EIB) financing. The EIB is the bank of the EU and the largest supra-national borrower and lender in the world. Under the current mandate, the EIB is authorised to lend for financing operations supporting EU cooperation strategies in eligible countries, including in Asia, and complementing other EU programmes.
A key development partner
The EU is Cambodia's biggest development partner in terms of grant aid. EU donors currently active in Cambodia include the Czech Republic, Finland, France, Germany, Hungary, Ireland, Italy, Sweden, Spain, the United Kingdom and the EU Delegation. In 2015, EU Member States and the EU paid out US$ 156 million in support of Cambodia's development agenda (source: database of the Council for the Development of Cambodia .
Road map for more effective development
In 2006, EU donors in Cambodia established the EU Road Map for Increased Aid Effectiveness with the aim of supporting the rapid achievement of the Cambodian Millennium Development Goals, and specifically, sustainable poverty reduction.
In 2012 the EU Delegation and the EU countries present in Cambodia decided to prepare one common strategic document guiding all of their bilateral development engagements with a view to enhancing the coherence and impact of their development assistance. Switzerland also joined the process. The exercise resulted in the European Development Cooperation Strategy for Cambodia 2014-2018 which was developed in full consultation with the Royal Government of Cambodia, other development partners, civil society and the private sector. The first formal progress review took place in 2016.
Sectors of Cooperation
(1) Agriculture/Natural resource management
Agriculture remains the livelihood base of the majority of the population, while poverty is most widespread in rural areas and among people belonging to ethnic minority groups. For the period 2014-2020, the EU has committed €144 million to this sector.
EU support aims at promoting the sustainable development of agriculture, including the promotion of livestock production and aquaculture, and enhancing productivity, modernisation and commercialization. Investment in rural infrastructure focuses on the improvement of living conditions of the poor and vulnerable households. Addressing nutrition and food security is also an integrated component in EU support to the agricultural sector. At the same time, the EU seeks to ensure the sustainable management of natural resources, including forests, coastal areas, the Mekong Basin and the Tonle Sap Basin, which play an essential role in Cambodia's agriculture.
The EU promotes a human rights-based holistic approach to land distribution and supports the Government in speeding up the implementation of land reform and in particular of inclusive land registration and communal land titling for indigenous people as crucial for the future development of Cambodia.
More information on the agriculture sector in Cambodia.
The EU is strongly committed to supporting education in developing countries as it plays an essential role in forging citizenship and democracy as well as reducing poverty. Three decades of conflict left Cambodia without a formal education system, with few teachers and a limited number of functioning schools. As early as 2000, the European Commission and a number of EU countries began to focus on the education sector by building schools, training teachers and helping the Ministry of Education to re-structure. In the early 2000's, the Ministry of Education, Youth and Sports (MoEYS) launched a major overhaul of education, The Education Strategic Plan (ESP). Since 2003, the EU has supported this sector-wide approach through the use of budget support. An important share of EU support to the education sector is provided to the Royal Government of Cambodia through annual transfers to the national treasury in recognition of progress made in education and the management of public funds.
The current (fourth) programme- EU-Cambodia Education Sector Reform Partnership (ESRP) 2014-16 was signed in March 2014, extended and increased in December 2015. The total budget of this programme for the period 2014-2017 is €77.3 million. The programme allocates €68.5million to budget support and€7.8million to the phase 2 of the Education Capacity Development Partnership Fund (a multi-donor fund managed by UNICEF)
Within this programme, the EU provides support to the Ministry of Education, Youth and Sport (MoEYS) to achieve the objectives of the Education Strategic Plan in terms of equitable access, quality and efficient management of the sector. This programme is expected to generate significant, sustainable, and nation-wide improvements in education, benefiting in particular the 3 million children in basic education.
More information on the education sector in Cambodia.
(3) Governance and Administration
Public Finance Management
The Public Finance Management Reform Programme is one of the priorities of the Royal Government of Cambodia’s (RGC) “Rectangular Strategy” for growth, employment, equity and efficiency in Cambodia. The programme aims to transform the public financial management system of the RGC toward international standards by 2025. The Reform's main objective is to ensure that public spending is in line with available resources, thus promoting macroeconomic stability. Strengthening Cambodia’s public financial management is an essential component in building confidence among donors to channel more aid through government systems in a coordinated manner.
The EU is committed to progressively increase the use of the RGC’s own systems for channelling support. The European Commission and Sweden (SIDA) pooled €20 million to support implementation of stage 2 of Cambodia’s PFM reform programme for the period 2012- 2016, and a further €30 million for the period 2017-2020. This support will mainly focus on enhancing the capacity of the Ministry of Economy and Finance and other ministries in implementing the Reform
Sub-National Democratic Development
Poverty reduction through sustainable and inclusive economic growth is still a challenging issue in Cambodia. Good governance, as a pre-condition to sustainable economic development, requires participation, enhanced information sharing, accountability, transparency, equality, inclusiveness and the rule of law. Two reforms remain crucial to the development of Cambodia: the Legal and Judicial reform; and the Sub-National Democratic Development (or decentralisation and de-concentration) reform.
The Sub-National Democratic Development (SNDD) reform provides a unique opportunity for increasing civic engagement. Within the governance sector the de-centralisation reform has received to-date the largest bilateral contribution from the EU. The EU has been supporting Cambodia's local governance reform through the 15-million EUR programme "EU Support to Sub-National Democratic Development" alongside contributions from Sweden and Germany. On-going support to de-centralisation and de-concentration builds upon the EU's previous Democratic Decentralised Local Governance project (DDLG) to which the EU contributed €10 million.
Support to the Extraordinary Chambers of the Courts of Cambodia (ECCC)
EU support to good governance, the rule of law and human rights in Cambodia also includes a political and financial commitment to promote international justice and the national reconciliation process in Cambodia. The EU has been supporting the Extraordinary Chambers of the Courts of Cambodia (ECCC) since 2007 with a total contribution of $15.1 million to date. This has been complemented by bilateral contributions from EU Member States worth more than €36 million.
The EU has been providing substantial financial and technical support to the electoral process in Cambodia since its second National Assembly elections in 1998 as part of its global agenda to promote democratic processes in developing countries.
The EU is providing €10 million to support the electoral reform process in Cambodia. This support will include the purchase of voter registration equipment for the National Election Committee, technical support and support to civil society organizations.
Additional areas of intervention
Democracy and Human Rights
Human rights and democratisation issues are at the heart of the EU agenda, as outlined in the EU Action Plan on Human Rights and Democracy (2015). The EU has made human rights a central aspect of its external relations: in the political dialogues it holds with third countries; through its development policy and assistance; and through its action in multilateral fora such as the United Nations.
To implement EU human rights policy, the European Instrument for Democracy and Human Rights (EIDHR) was established in 2006. The EIDHR programme aims to support civil society initiatives and back their contribution to democracy.
Since 2003, the EU Delegation to Cambodia has funded about 72 projects with some 40 national and international NGOs under this programme for a total amount of €19.6 million (approximately $22 million). Those projects have been implemented throughout the country, including in remote areas, and aimed at the promotion of human rights, democracy and rule of law in Cambodia with particular focus on: indigenous people's land rights, elections, women's participation in politics, freedom of expression, independent media, juvenile justice and human trafficking.
In Cambodia the EU has supported various local development and governance projects through the Non-State Actors and Local Authorities (NSA/LA) programme by funding international and local NGOs as well as Local Authorities for a total amount of €14,5 million for 30 projects (7 of them implemented directly by Cambodian Local Authorities) aimed at enhancing the capacity of the local administration in the delivery of services to Cambodian citizens, supporting indigenous people's land security, agriculture and rural development, community livestock, forestry management, vocational training, primary health care and sanitation.
Trade and Private Sector Development
All of the trade-related assistance (TRA) that the EU provides to Cambodia forms part of the EU’s commitment under the Enhanced Integrated Framework (EIF), the global TRA programme for LDCs. Cambodia is benefiting from this fund to build trade capacity and promote the diversification and expansion of new export sectors (silk, fisheries). The EU is the largest donor of trade-related assistance in Cambodia. The successful Trade Development Support Programme (€11.65 channelled through a Multi-Donor Trust Fund with the EU as the main contributor) responds specifically to the needs of the Ministry of Commerce and other line ministries in trade policy formulation, regulation, trade facilitation, and capacity building. The Programme has contributed to key regulatory reforms, as well as a very ambitious programme for automating trade facilitation.
Future EU trade-related assistance will be provided through regional programme funds and will focus on strengthening Cambodia's regional integration, by ensuring Cambodia's commitments to ASEAN and WTO, and further improving trade facilitation.
Food Security and Nutrition
Cambodia has a high malnutrition rate, ranking 60 out of 104 countries on the global hunger index (2015).
EU support is currently provided under global programmes such FIRST and INFORMED. The EU-FIRST programme facilitates policy dialogue around food, nutrition security and sustainable agriculture. The EU-INFORMED (2016-2018) programme is supporting the Council for Agriculture and Rural Development to conduct the Integrated Food security Classification (IPC) assessment which will update Cambodia's food security website and assist Cambodia to use IPC products for decision-making. The EU concentrates its resources on food security in the fisheries sector by supporting poverty reduction in most vulnerable households.
Climate Change and the Environment
Cambodia is one of the more disaster-prone countries in the South East Asia region, subject to flooding and drought on a seasonal basis. Rising temperatures are likely to increase the variability of rainfall patterns and intensity of weather events. The most vulnerable provinces in Cambodia are Ratanakiri and Mondulkiri which have the highest concentration of indigenous people whose livelihoods are highly dependent on natural resources.
In 2007, the EU created a Global Climate Change Alliance with developing countries hardest hit by climate change. The overall objective of this alliance is to help developing countries increase their capacities to cope with the effects of climate change. It is also designed to ensure that the voice of developing countries is better heard in climate change negotiations.
The Cambodia Climate Change Alliance (CCCA) is an alliance between the Government, the EU Delegation, Danida and Sida with technical support from UNDP and UNEP. The CCCA is a comprehensive and innovative approach to addressing climate change and disaster risk reduction in Cambodia. On the one hand it aims at creating conditions in the form of capacity development and institutional strengthening to prepare for and mitigate climate change risks, and on the other to directly help vulnerable communities by enhancing their resilience to climate change and other natural hazards.
The EU is the largest contributor with €2,205,817. Through the CCCA the EU is co-financing 8 grants including for Climate Change Adaptation for Livelihoods of Rural Women and Climate Adaptive Livelihoods of Agriculture Community.
In parallel, the EU Delegation supports a range of smaller scale projects promoting the role of civil society, for example in the forestry sector. These projects aim at promoting more sustainable management of forests through a wide range of activities such as Community Forest Management and Livelihood Improvement (CFMLI) and protecting sustainable biodiversity in the Eastern Plains. The total value of such projects reached approximately € 2.4 million at the end of 2015.
Finally, the EU Delegation also coordinates closely with Cambodia on FLEGT (Forest Law Enforcement, Governance and Trade). Cambodia has expressed an initial interest to be more engaged in FLEGT dialogue.
The EU believes that gender equality is essential for growth and poverty reduction. Women suffer disproportionately from poverty and its related ills, such as malnutrition, poor health and illiteracy. In Cambodia, through non-government organisations, the EU supports the Gender Strategic Plan 2014-2018 (Neary Rattanak IV) which focuses on economic growth and economic empowerment; access to social services and protection; and issues including women in public decision making and politics; and gender and climate change, green growth and disaster risk management.
The EU Gender Action Plan (GAP) for Cambodia 2016-2020 stresses the need for the full realisation of equal enjoyment of all human rights and fundamental freedoms and the achievement of gender equality and the empowerment of women and girls. The objectives of the GAP retained as priorities for Cambodia draw from the priorities of the Royal Government of Cambodia's Gender Strategic Plan - Neary Rattanak 4.
The EU has supported 11 gender related projects in Cambodia with total funds of €4.5 million over the last 7 years. The main activities of these projects include empowerment of women through grassroots activism; gender sensitive approach and general understanding on gender issues; enhancing livelihoods for girls through advocacy, training and empowerment; addressing and awareness raising on violence against women; improving food security for households; support to female commune councillors; and justice for women in conflict with the law.
Promoting the inclusion of People with Disabilities
People with disabilities represent 1.4% of the Cambodian population. EU development cooperation is committed to ensuring full and equal inclusion of persons with disabilities and their families in EU initiatives for developing countries. The EU has supported seven disability related projects for a total budget of €4.6 million (equal USD 6.1 million) since 2007. The projects have been implemented by non-governmental organizations.