|Cambodia: Why are we there?|
Whilst Cambodia has seen strong economic growth in the last few years, it is still below average in terms of development in the region of Asia. 28% of the population live on less than $1.25 a day.
The 1975 merciless Khmer Rouge regime under Pol Pot emptied cities of their populations as a curtain of silence fell across Cambodia. Then the invasion in the 1980’s of the Vietnamese forces resulted in close to three million people either dying or ‘disappearing’ and left a legacy of trauma and grief. 70% of the population is under the age of 30 with little capability of dealing with the traumas which still reverberate today. It is estimated that 25% of adults are suffering from mental illness.
How is this affecting people today?
Over the years schools, hospitals and homes have been rebuilt, but rebuilding shattered lives and relationships is more difficult. There is little trust between communities and the state - underlying tensions remain unresolved.
Land disputes remain prevalent in Cambodia. Privatisation of environmental conservation areas continues to increase as protected areas are granted to agri-business companies. Farming, particularly of rice, is the main occupation but with ineffective government or laws, land and livelihoods are being taken from people often with little or no compensation.
There is huge social injustice and extreme poverty countrywide, with the rich powerful elites in many cases seemingly immune to the voices of the poor. Domestic violence, sexual abuse and trafficking is widespread. UNAIDS, the Joint United Nations Programme on HIV and AIDS estimated in 2009 that there were 63,000 people living with HIV in Cambodia.
Cambodia is highly vulnerable to climate change. A large proportion of its population is dependent on climate-sensitive livelihood sectors such as agriculture and fisheries, industries which are ‘climate sensitive’ because they are impacted by the availability of natural resources.
The capacity of local organisations needs to be built up. There are challenging issues for Cord to work on: peace building, education, the means of earning a living, as well as dealing with HIV and AIDS, equality and protecting the environment. Capacity development is about enhancing learning rather than transferring knowledge, and puts a great emphasis on ownership.
For more up to date information visit UNDP profile for Cambodia.