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Cambodia is rising out of a history marred by conflict and unrest. For the past two decades Cambodia has experienced rapid economic growth. However, despite strong growth, poverty remains a fundamental issue for the country with a majority of the population living on less than $2 a day.
Along its path to overcoming poverty, Cambodia faces a wide range of challenges. The country is heavily dependent on overseas development assistance with foreign aid amounting to about half of the government’s annual budget. Foreign assistance has been shifted remarkably to the new ‘eastern’ donors, China in particular, with the caveat of business and political opportunity rather than Human Rights conditionality. Engaging eastern investment in the interest of the poor and vulnerable will require new strategies. In 2015 western assistance has commenced withdrawing.
The main drivers of the economy, agriculture, the garment industry, tourism and construction have provided increasing revenues for the country. For the youngest population in Southeast Asia – 70% of Cambodian population of 15 million is younger than 30 years of age – the productive skills and adequate employment remain problematic. Millions of young working people have migrated for work to other countries.
The majority of Cambodians live in the countryside with 85% of the population largely dependent on small-scale agriculture, fishery and forestry for their livelihoods.
With Cambodia now firmly in the tourism and development spotlight, careful planning and regulation of these activities will be important to avoid negative impact to the environment and the natural resources on which many people depend.
Oxfam in Cambodia
Oxfam has been working in Cambodia for 35 years and we are committed to ensuring that this culturally rich and inspiring country works its way out of poverty.
Presently, Cambodia has seen a lot of progress including progress in a civil society that is now much stronger. The national election in 2013 clearly shows that Cambodian people are increasingly aware of their rights and they hold government, political party, civil society organization, private sectors and donors accountable through different forms of advocacy like petition writing and peaceful protests.
Oxfam was among the first group of NGO’s to provide aid to Cambodia after the collapse of the Khmer Rouge in 1979. Over the years, we have teamed with local partners, community groups and government across all 24 provinces and the capital. We work with partners on the promotion and protection of human rights, women’s economic empowerment, active citizenship, building community micro-finance institutions, responsible management of natural resources, disaster risk reduction and adaptation to climate change.
To respond to the new demands of Cambodian people in the changing society, the country strategy of Oxfam in Cambodia from 2015-2020 is working on:
- Voices for Change: including women’s leadership, Gender Based Violence, support to democracy building, youth as actors of change, the rights of workers, and Civil Society space.
- Resilience: focusing on vulnerable small-scale (female) farmers in selected areas, to better prepare and enable them to cope with climate change and natural disasters, especially floods and droughts.
- Natural Resource Governance: supporting women and men to realize their rights to take control of and gain benefits from Cambodia’s natural resources (land, water, extractives, forest and fishery) and secure sustainable livelihoods.