Development Cooperation Forum
to consolidate and accelerate progress in implementing
the national strategic development plan"
PHNOM PENH, June 20th, 2007 — The first meeting of the Cambodia Development Cooperation Forum (CDCF) was held in Phnom Penh 19-20 June 2007. The CDCF, which replaced the Consultative Group format that was co-chaired by the World Bank, was established to complement the introduction of the NSDP. The CDCF is intended to characterise the shift toward more complete Government leadership of the national development agenda while maintaining and strengthening partnerships with the international community and civil society. The CDCF provided an opportunity for high-level dialogue between the Government and its development partners, with the focus for this first meeting placed on assessing progress in implementing the National Strategic Development Plan (NSDP).
The consensus of the meeting was that the first year of the NSDP's implementation had shown encouraging signs of progress, with sustained levels of economic growth and emerging evidence to show that social indicators continue to improve. The picture is not unambiguously positive, however, and the meeting identified the need to work much harder on reducing maternal mortality and school drop-out rates.
Looking ahead it was important for both Government and development partners to work more effectively together to consolidate and replicate progress in the social sectors, to accelerate core reforms within Government and to strengthen governance mechanisms.
The CDCF meeting was chaired by Senior Minister Keat Chhon, Minister of Economy and Finance and First Vice-Chairman of the Council for the Development of Cambodia. The meeting was attended by senior officials from all Ministries and Departments of Government, approximately 25 delegations from the international community including development partners and diplomatic missions, and a representation from civil society and the private sector.
In opening the first CDCF meeting, Senior Minister Keat Chhon noted that Cambodia has now enjoyed nine years of peace and, during this time, economic growth has gone hand-in-hand with poverty reduction. Formidable challenges remain, however, and, declaring that, "the Royal Government considers poverty to be morally unacceptable" the chair identified challenges related to boosting agricultural productivity, continuing efforts for improved governance, accelerating progress in the core reforms and mobilising more resources for national priorities.
The keynote address was delivered by Samdech Hun Sen, Prime Minister of the Royal Government of Cambodia. Welcoming international development partners, civil society representatives and Government colleagues to the meeting, the Prime Minister reflected that the first CDCF was indicative of "the gradual and steadfast strengthening of Cambodia’s capacity, responsibility and ownership of its own development".
The Prime Minister then focused his address on the need to sustain and accelerate progress by moving forward with Government's programmes of reforms. Reflecting on progress made in recent years, the challenges that lay ahead, and taking the opportunity to directly address the concerns of development partners, the Prime Minister assured delegates that "we fully agree with our development partners that the Anti-Corruption Law is a sine qua non for effectively combating corruption and the Royal Government is strongly committed to finalizing this draft law as soon as possible".
The Prime Minister emphasised Government's commitment to promoting equitable management of natural resources and he informed delegates that "agriculture and rural sectors are a top priority." He then requested the Minister of Agriculture, Forestry and Fisheries, together with the Minister of Land Management, Urban Planning and Construction, to conduct a joint review to consider allocating land from the five recently revoked economic land concessions for use as social land concessions.
The Prime Minister also took the opportunity to repeat the remarks he had made previously regarding the management of oil and gas revenues and he asked that, in light of the successful public financial management reform that will ensure the prudent management of oil revenues, efforts be placed on maximising revenues as well as ensuring maximum benefits to all Cambodians.
Similarly the need to re-engage in the area of Public Administration Reform was also emphasised as all participants clearly recognised the value of a professional and motivated public service.
The Prime Minister closed his address by noting that "Implementing reforms does not only require political will, but also considerable human and financial resources" and he therefore expressed his Government's sincere appreciation for the "the solidarity of the international community".
Delegates welcomed the review of progress in the implementation of the NSDP, in particular the impressive macroeconomic performance recorded in recent years that had been sustained throughout 2006. The broadly positive perspective with regard to macroeconomic management required that prudent policies be put in place to safeguard the gains that had been made.
Reminding delegates of the social and economic importance of agriculture and natural resources, the Royal Government reported progress in establishing a legal and policy framework that will guide the strategic use of natural resources, safeguarding the livelihoods and jobs of millions of people. With regard to forest management, Government reaffirmed its commitment to stopping the destruction of the forests and referred to the recent suspension of concessions, the revocation of illegally occupied forest lands, and the clamping down on illegal forest activities. Government representatives also emphasised that access to the forest by local communities would be assured by the relevant provisions of the Forestry Law.
Turning to the topic of economic land concessions (ELCs), and elaborating on the remarks of the Prime Minister earlier in the meeting, it was recalled that these concessions were intended to promote agricultural development and private sector investment. Development partners observed critical linkages between natural resource management and the governance sector and they noted that "equitable and sustainable natural resource management can significantly reduce poverty". The Royal Government confirmed that indigenous people's land rights were identified as an important consideration, illustrating the need "to balance national economic development and broader access to land".
Government and development partners agreed that "achieving a balance between economic development and broader access to these resources is a difficult and challenging task". Echoing the Government view communicated in its statements on agriculture, land management, water resources and fisheries, development partners urged Government to increase the focus on these issues, and committed their support to the current reform agenda and to working closely with Government.
In their discussion of human development issues, delegates welcomed the Cambodia Demographic and Health Survey findings that showed reductions in infant and child mortality rates. There was also a marked improvement in the provision of antenatal care and birth attendance, as well as in HIV prevalence but the lack of progress in reducing maternal mortality demonstrates that much more needs to be done. The Royal Government stated that "maternal and child death is not only a tragedy for the individual, the family and the community, but for the whole society". The recent launch of the National Reproductive and Sexual Health Strategy will now form the basis for a combined Government, development partner and NGO response. Dialogue between Government and development partners also resulted in agreement on progress that is required to maintain the effort to address HIV prevalence and the need to provide care and treatment, to increase activities in the rural water and sanitation sector, to implement measures in the education sector to decrease drop out and repetition rates, especially among the disadvantaged children, and to consolidate progress in introducing gender into the policy deliberations of all Government ministries and departments.
The discussion related to governance and reform agreed that progress had been made, including in the passing of legislation on the Penal Procedures Code and the enactment of the Civil Procedures Code. It was also observed that more progress was required, however, in particular with regard to the anti-corruption legislation and continued momentum would be required in the drafting of the fundamental laws and in promoting access to justice. Progress in core reforms had also been relatively mixed, in particular with regard to public administration reform, and it was agreed during the discussion that further dialogue at technical and political levels may be of benefit to all parties.
Participants turned their attention on the second day of the meeting to the financing of the NSDP, measures that could promote the impact of development assistance, and to identifying a set of joint indicators that could be used to inform a mutual assessment of progress. Strategic institutional and policy reforms for 2007 were included in a new set of twenty Joint Monitoring Indicators (JMIs) that were endorsed by the meeting. These indicators relate to the full range of actions that are required to support the implementation of the NSDP, including a new indicator on rural water and sanitation, and include legal and judicial reforms, public financial management, governance, health and education, and support to the development of national infrastructure.
Based on the results presented in the Aid Effectiveness Report 2007, the Royal Government observed that, although development cooperation provided a crucial means of financing the NSDP, it was often fragmented, incoherent and ineffective in developing national capacity. Enhanced aid coordination is a "policy imperative" as some practices associated with the delivery of aid placed undue pressure on scarce Government capacity, making it difficult to assess the impact of aid in supporting national priorities. Agreeing that the Aid Effectiveness Report presents "compelling evidence of the fragmentation of development assistance", development partners expressed support for the government to take the lead in managing a process of sectoral development to deliver a better division of labour and reduced fragmentation and encourage development of program based approach in some sectors as appropriate.
Emphasising the close link between the medium-term sustainable financing of the NSDP and the role of the international community, the chair announced that development partners were no longer asked to 'pledge' funds. Instead they were asked to provide their best estimates of likely resource availability over a three-year time-frame. Development partners then made statements of support that also communicated their expectation that reform programmes would be accelerated. Noting these statements, the chair announced that combined support for 2007 was estimated to be 689 million Dollars. This number includes, for the first time, data from China. In 2008 and 2009 support was expected to be maintained at similar levels.
The chair acknowledged this support and noted that "the NSDP will be fully resourced at least until the end of 2009". Delegates agreed that the challenge now facing Cambodia was to consolidate and replicate progress in the social sectors and to accelerate the implementation of the core reforms and governance related work.
The Forum tentatively agreed that its second CDCF meeting will be held in Phnom Penh in December 2008.