Institutional Architecture

This section captures institutional arrangements for SDG implementation, mechanisms for civil society, private sector, and development partner engagement, and operational details on the architecture.

Cambodia has made important steps in integrating the SDGs into its national planning frameworks, notably by preparing a Cambodia SDG (CSDG) Framework and integrating the CSDGs into the medium-term National Strategic Development Plan (NSDP). Their subsequent inclusion in Budget Strategic Plans (BSPs) signifies a further important milestone.

The General Directorate of Planning within the Ministry of Planning has been appointed as the lead coordinator for nationalizing the SDGs. Through the expected integration of the CSDG framework into the NSDP, line ministries are to share responsibility for implementation particularly through the use of CSDG targets as performance indicators within their Budget Strategic Plans. The roles of other ministries and government bodies in the integration and implementation of the SDGs are still to be further delineated.

The Royal Government of Cambodia works with a number of development partners on the integration of the SDGs but has an opportunity to more fully realize the potential role of other stakeholders, such as civil society and the private sector. While some stakeholders are engaged through existing coordination mechanisms, such as the Technical Working Groups, engagement could be broadened and public awareness raised.

The General Directorate of Planning within the Ministry of Planning (MoP) is the lead entity for localizing the SDGs, as it was for the Millennium Development Goals. The potential role of other government bodies remains to be further delineated. A particular question is the function assigned to other ministries – notably the Ministry of Economy and Finance (MoEF), which has a strategic role in guiding line ministries in the preparation of the three-year Budget Strategic Plans against the medium-term National Strategic Development Plan. It could incorporate some of the principles of the 2030 Agenda as well as “the specification of CSDG targets as outcome measures”, as stated in Cambodia’s SDG Framework (adopted in November 2018).

Within the government, the Supreme National Economic Council (SNEC) or the National Council for Sustainable Development (NCSD) supports cross-sector coordination. The NCSD coordinates on issues such as climate change and green growth. Within the government, the Supreme National Economic Council (SNEC) and the National Council for Sustainable Development (NCSD) support cross-sector coordination. The SNEC is the highest-level body mandated to provide the Prime Minister with technical analysis and recommendations regarding policies and strategies for rapid and sustainable socio-economic development. The NCSD coordinates on issues such as climate change and green growth.

Establishing intersectoral thematic working groups can be an effective way to develop policies and programmes that address the integrated nature of the SDGs. In Cambodia, one of the main liaison mechanisms with external stakeholders is that of Technical Working Groups (TWGs) governed under the Council for the Development of Cambodia (CDC). Discussions with various government and development partner representatives indicated that the TWG architecture is generally sound but challenges remain. For instance, out of the 19 existing TWGs, the TWGs on Rural Water Supply, Sanitation and Hygiene and Public Finance Management are considered strong, with regular meetings and active engagement. However, some other TWGs were less active. The TWGs could be strengthened and play a stronger role in SDG implementation by providing stronger guidelines on their functioning and expectations of outputs.

Key documents guiding development in Cambodia include the Rectangular Strategy IV, the National Strategic Development Plan and the Cambodian SDG Framework. These are explained in detail in Plans and Programmes.

Specific to the SDGs is the CSDG Framework which was formally endorsed by the Royal Government of Cambodia in November 2018. It outlines the country’s contextualized SDG goals, targets and indicators and includes an 18th CSDG: end the negative impact of land mines and explosive remnants of war and promote victim assistance. It was informed by a UNDP Rapid Integrated Assessment (RIA) – which provided an account of the alignment between Cambodia’s national planning documents and the global SDGs – and the SDG Assessment by the UN Statistics Division (UNSD 2017), which looked at the availability of reliable data sources. While the document makes recommendations for further integration of the SDGs, it is not an operational plan. Its immediate purpose was to inform the National Strategic Development Plan (2019–2021), adopted in early 2019.

1.   CSOs and NGOs

There are two umbrella networks for civil society organizations (CSOs) and non-governmental organizations (NGOs), which coordinate overall engagement with the national government. Both the NGO Forum and the Cooperation Committee for Cambodia (CCC) have been working with CSOs and NGOs to engage with government on the CSDGs. To date, the CCC has also submitted consolidated national-level inputs into the preparatory process of Cambodia’s VNR.

According to the Development Cooperation and Partnerships Report by the Council for Development of Cambodia (CDC) in 2018, 80 percent of total NGO funds focused on health, education, community welfare and rural development sectors. Cambodia’s civil society has received support from international donors. For example, the European Union (EU) provided NGOs and international NGOs (INGOs) over EUR 8.2 million in January 2016 and USAID launched a $US9 million, five-year Cambodian Civil Society Strengthening project in July 2016. Funding for CSOs and NGOs from international donors is likely to decrease with the country’s foreseen graduation out of Least Developed Country status.

There are over 400 NGOs in Cambodia which engage in activities in line with the SDGs. A 2015 analysis of Cambodia’s preparedness for implementing the SDGs, commissioned by the CDC, found that NGOs could play a larger role within the TWGs. While space for civil society to engage in the TWGs has increased since, civil society engagement still remains limited in most sectors including at the subnational and local levels.

In the future, civil society engagement could potentially be strengthened by the decentralization process, which does include a strategy for social accountability at the subnational level, including open data on budgets and performance of councils, and civil society monitoring of primary school and health centres.

2.   Private sector

There has been little engagement of the private sector in the SDGs specifically or in the TWGs to date. Private sector representatives who were interviewed do view the government to be pro-business and proactive in listening to and engaging with the private sector.

The CSDG Framework indicates that the Ministry of Planning, with the support of development partners, will encourage engagement with businesses and private sector representatives to monitor and encourage their contribution to achieve the CSDGs and link them to corporate social responsibility and corporate citizenship. There are opportunities to develop specific plans to deliver on this, especially where UN agencies and the ADB have existing interventions and partnerships.

3.   Academia and research institutes

Academia and research institutes in certain cases hold strategic positions within the system that can guide decision-making. For instance, the NCSD has Memoranda of Understanding (MoUs) with various universities and academia for research purposes. Externally funded research institutes such as the Cambodia Development Resource Institute (CDRI), which is under the patronage of the Prime Minister, have also indicated good working relationships with its governmental and non-governmental stakeholders in carrying out their activities and embarking on SDG-framed research.

Development partners in Cambodia include UN Agencies, Multilateral Development Banks (MDBs), the European Commission and other multilateral donors. According to the 2018 Development Cooperation and Partnerships Report by the CDC, since 2014, the cumulative Official Development Assistance (ODA) disbursement has contributed US$6.42 billion out of the US$7.59 billion NSDP resource needs. ODA to the energy, agriculture and transportation sectors exceeded the funds required, but sectors such as education were “severely undersupported”. As further elaborated in Cambodia’s Development Finance Assessment Section 3 on financing, ODA is in steep decline as a percentage of Gross Domestic Product (GDP). Moreover, ODA is changing in composition from grants to loans, with loans themselves also becoming less concessional. Development partners are now placing more focus on technical support, such as on strengthening education quality and access. MDBs are also scaling up support for social sector investments and recognize the importance of knowledge and technical assistance work in this context.

While many development partner strategies are not specific to the SDGs, their project impacts are closely aligned. There is opportunity for development partners to explore linkages with the SDGs more specifically within their own programming to support Cambodia to accelerate progress towards the CSDGs. In Cambodia, some SDG-specific initiatives by development partners include the UNSDG Leadership Lab , which is a prototype platform for developing national leadership and innovation capabilities for delivering the SDGs, as well as the UNDP SDG Accelerator Lab, which aims to look at how to accelerate progress towards the SDGs.

The CSDG Framework has proposed the following processes, though major organizational changes have yet to be made:

  1. CSDG targets and indicators will be specified within ministry and agency BSPs, and form part of the performance budgeting regime (to be led by MoEF). This is expected to take place in three phases: 2019, 2020 and 2021.
  2. Identification of the agencies responsible for oversight and conducting activities to achieve the CSDG targets that are indicated in Schedule II of the CSDG Framework, which specifies the responsible agency, sources of data, cycle of data (periodicity), definitions, and the method/basis of calculation.

Local administrations have not yet been involved in explicit SDG planning or implementation. A CCC analysis of Cambodia’s preparedness for implementing the CSDGs suggests that “relevant SDGs could be mainstreamed into the decentralization and de-concentration policies (led by the National Committee for Sub-National Democratic Development), so that the sub-national authorities could operate in ways contributing to the overall realization of SDGs.”