The government of Cambodia is working on a set of guidelines for an annual consultation with nongovernmental organizations, a move seen as a positive step toward recognizing civil society’s importance in the country’s development.
Word of the guidelines was made at a just concluded multistakeholder consultation on governance and development effectiveness in Phnom Penh. The dialogue was participated by the government, donor agencies, and local and international NGOs.
The government and aid agencies’ response at the consultation was generally positive, according to Sodany Saing, communications manager at the NGO Cooperation Committee for Cambodia. The government, she said, “acknowledged” the consultative role of civil society in development.
The dialogue, however, was “not a negotiation, but rather an opportunity to test and explore views on specific proposals put forward by the NGO community,” Saing said.
The 103 civil society representatives at the event called on the government to ensure CSO voices are heard at the national and subnational levels. They also appealed to donors to include in development agreements support for CSOs to boost their capacity to respond to the so-called Joint Monitoring Indicators, which are vital in tracking progress on policy action implementations.
Marin Schelzig, senior social sector specialist for the Asian Development Bank, said the financial institution is now working to engage CSOs in a discussion to achieve this, according to Saing.
The event’s organizers, which include CCC, are “pleased” with the consultation’s outcome, Saing told Devex. Next step is the establishment of the terms needed for such partnerships to materialize into concrete actions.
A report in April showed civil society’s role in Cambodia. The report, also published by CCC, noted CSOs in Cambodia spent about $550 milion on development projects in the country in 2011 — close to the amount the government plans to spend in 2012. But challenges, such as coordination and lack of genuine partnership with the government, hinder civil society from “fully maximizing its potential.”
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