The UN Special Rapporteur on the situation of human rights in Cambodia Ms. Rhona Smith concluded this afternoon her sixth visit to the Kingdom of Cambodia with some high remarks on the sustainable development goals and human rights in Cambodia.
“I have now completed my sixth visit to the Kingdom of Cambodia in my capacity as United Nations Special Rapporteur on the situation of human rights in Cambodia. I would like to thank the Government for its invitation to visit and the willingness of so many State officials to meet with me and discuss openly human rights and sustainable development in Cambodia. I would also like to record my appreciation of the dedication and hard work of all staff of the Office of the High Commissioner for Human Rights (OHCHR) in Cambodia and in Geneva, who have so ably organised and supported this mission,” Ms. Rhona Smith said at the press conference this afternoon.
“For this mission, I chose to focus on the localisation of the UN Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) and related strategies, in particular SDG 16 on ‘Peace, Justice and Strong Institutions’. Why?” she continued.
“Cambodia is now in a distinct phase of development. Following years of strong economic growth and significant progress in poverty reduction, Cambodia has a vision to graduate as a High Income Country by 2050. To help guide it towards realising this vision, the Government has adopted the Rectangular Strategy Phase IV and is finalising the National Strategic Development Plan and the localisation plan for the Sustainable Development Goals. I encourage the Government to swiftly finalise then publicise this localisation plan,” she added.
During the press conference, she also mentioned about the promotion and protection of human rights by saying that it is a critical element for these strategies and plans and, indeed, for the Vision 2050.
The UN Special Rapporteur also welcomed the recent creation of a Government Working Group under the leadership of the Ministry of Interior, to consult regularly with civil society. “This will be important for the new Working Group to adopt clear and transparent methods of work, to be inclusive with regard to the civil society organisations that it will consult with, to involve them in the setting of meeting agendas, to give them time to prepare for meetings, and to allow them a role in following up on issues raised in the Working Group. She encouraged both sides to build a truly collaborative spirit. Civil society organisations will need to be reassured that they can actively and meaningfully collaborate with the Working Group, without fear of reprisal, including at the local level,” she underlined.
Ms. Rhona Smith said transparent and accountable institutions are necessary to achieve good governance. She welcomed the one-stop service windows at the sub-national level, and in particular the creation of the post of Ombudspersons to receive complaints relating to public services. These are key steps in having more effective and accountable services at the sub-national level. “My discussions with the Minister of Economy and Finance related to performance budgeting and the requirement of line-Ministries to submit clear budget plans for their expenditures were encouraging,” she said.
According to the UN human rights expert, during this mission, she had the privilege of meeting with a number of senior officials, in particular Samdech Kralahom Sar Kheng, Deputy Prime Minister and Minister of Interior, H.E. Aun Pornmoniroth, Deputy Prime Minister and Minister of Economy and Finance, H.E. Chea Sophara, Deputy Prime Minister and Minister of Land Management, Urban Planning and Construction, H.E. Ang Vong Vathana, Minister of Justice, H.E. Khieu Kanharith, Minister of Information, H.E. Say Samal, Minister of Environment, H.E. Veng Sakhon, Minister of Agriculture, Forestry and Fisheries, H.E. Keo Remy, President of the Cambodian Human Rights Committee, H.E. Eat Sophea, Secretary of State at the Ministry of Foreign Affairs and International Cooperation, H.E. Poch Bunnak, Secretary of State at the Ministry of Planning, H.E. Ms. Hang Lina, Director General of the National Institute of Statistics, and H.E. Rith Vuthy, Deputy Secretary-General of the Council for the Development of Cambodia. She also met with a wide range of relevant stakeholders, including representatives of civil society and political parties, the diplomatic community and the UN Country Team.