Building a Sustainable, Inclusive and Resilient Cambodia

Khmer Times, 27 April 2020

“Reforming at home and making friends abroad based on the spirit of independence” has become the mainstream foreign policy strategy of Cambodia. Foreign policy is an extension of domestic politics. In addition to the foreign policy objectives stated in the Constitution, another critical objective of foreign policy is to create opportunities for the local people to develop their community. To be able to maintain her independence and continue to prosper as a resilient and strong nation, Cambodia needs to have a strong society. This is in line with the vision of Prime Minister Hun Sen in promoting a people-centric development approach and it also helps Cambodia achieve the UN Sustainable Development Goals 2030 as it is central to eliminating poverty, augmenting shared prosperity and leaving no one behind.

The general strategic interventions to realise a sustainable, inclusive and resilient Cambodia (SIRC) are: (a) strengthen social infrastructure, (b) promote a value-based and compassion-driven leadership, and (c) develop innovative solutions to the address inherent and emerging national and international issues. These interventions aim to enhance leadership and institutional capacity and promote ethical/moral imperative/values, which are critical to addressing social and environmental issues. In this regard, social innovation plays a central role.

Social innovation promotes novel solutions to address social needs and problems such as inequality, environment, water and sanitation, health, education, unemployment, urbanisation, and ageing population. It aims to seek sustainable and innovative solutions through collaborations across the public, private, and social sectors. Social innovation contributes to building a stable, resilient, inclusive, and sustainable society by leveraging on the resources and capabilities of public, private, and social sectors. Cambodia needs to invest more in science, technology and innovation in order to strengthen resilience, inclusion and sustainability in an integrated manner.

Inclusive Society

Exclusion by ethnicity, gender, geography or other identity can be a source of grievance, a driver of conflict and an underlying structural obstacle to progress. Since exclusion can cause conflict and instability, inclusive development approach is even more crucial for building and sustaining peace and security. Inclusive approaches can take diverse forms, including efforts to increase participation among different communities and strengthen the representation of the marginalised groups. Inclusive approaches may similarly encompass initiatives that seek to diversify representation within the same sector at multilevel (international, national and local).

To build an inclusive society, we need to provide fair and equal opportunities for all, regardless their backgrounds (race, gender, physical ability, socio-economic status, generation, and geography) so that they can realise their full potential in life. The intervention measure is to create conditions and environment to motivate and enable full and active participation of every member of the society in social and economic development.

Intervention policies might include organising frequent open dialogues among different stakeholders on certain specific issue of common concern and interest, promoting inter-faith dialogues, developing capacity building program and cost-effective support system for the vulnerable groups (such as people with disabilities, women and children), ethnic minority groups, and discriminated groups (such as people with HIV/AIDS).

Resilient Society

The term ‘resilience’ in the UN General Assembly Resolution 71/276 describes “the ability of a system, community or society exposed to hazards to resist, absorb, accommodate, adapt to, transform and recover from the effects of a hazard in a timely and efficient manner, including through the preservation and restoration of its essential basic structures and functions through risk management.”

Resilient society is the capacity of the society potentially exposed to crises, disasters, or hazards to adapt, to anticipate risk, limit impact, and bounce back rapidly through survival, adaptability, and evolution strategies. The intervention measures include building disaster/risk-resilient communities and societies by developing a coping strategy in three phases namely disaster/risk prevention, response, and recovery. Enhancing social capacity to deal with hazards is vital in promoting a resilient society. The Covid-19 pandemic outbreak is a case in point reflecting on the level of resilience of Cambodian society. We need to promote risk-informed, evidence-based decision making.

Intervention policies might include developing capacity building program and knowledge sharing platform on disaster risk prevention and mitigation to national and local community leaders. Developing a whole-of-government approach or even a whole-of-nation approach in responding to large-scale disaster such as Covid-19 pandemic. Public-private-people partnership (PPPP) is vital to formulating and implementing policy.

Sustainable Society

Sustainable society is a society that ensures the health and vitality of human life, culture, and nature, for present and future generations. It is a society in which each human being has the opportunity to develop within a well-balanced society and in harmony with its surroundings. The intervention measure is to protect the environment, conserve heritages, embrace cultural diversity, and improve human wellbeing.

Intervention policies should aim to provide novel solutions to protect the environment, enhance human environmental interactions, and conserve cultural and historical heritage. We need to promote science-based risk knowledge, technology and innovation and to strengthen the science-policy interface on sustainable development. Cambodia should start introducing and promoting policy dialogues on “stakeholder capitalism”- referring to a system in which corporations aim to serve the interests of their stakeholders including customers, suppliers, employees, local communities and shareholders.

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