Plans, Programmes and Budget

This section captures modalities to incorporate SDGs into national development plans, sectoral plans, and other major initiatives, including by private and non-governmental actors.

The Cambodia Sustainable Development Goals represent the country-level adaptation of the global SDGs. The Rectangular Strategy IV incorporates the three pillars of the 2030 Agenda, namely economic growth, social inclusion and environmental sustainability, albeit with a focus on economic aspects. Reflection of the CSDGs within the National Strategic Development Plan is a major step and the proposed inclusion of SDG targets and indicators within Budget Strategic Plans would distinguish Cambodia as a model for planning to advance the 2030 Agenda.

Cambodia’s Third Health Strategic Plan represents an important example of a sector-specific strategy to advance the SDGs and the 2030 Agenda in the country. The articulation of vision, goals and strategic areas, coupled with prioritized programme-based budgeting and a monitoring and evaluation (M&E) framework, provides a useful model that other sectors could follow.

Key documents and plans that inform Cambodia’s national development planning processes

Cambodia presented its Voluntary National Review (VNR) to the High-Level Political Forum (HLPF) in July 2019. Cambodia’s 2019 VNR provides an in-depth review of the six prioritized SDGs under the theme of “Empowering people and ensuring inclusiveness and equality”: CSDG 4: Quality Education; CSDG 8: Decent Work and Economic Growth; CSDG 10: Reduced Inequalities; CSDG 13: Climate Action; CSDG 16: Peace, Justice and Strong Institutions; and CSDG 17: Partnerships for the Goals.

The VNR reports that Cambodia has performed well to date. For the six priority goals 60 percent of targets were judged ahead/ on track and none were behind; and for the remaining goals, 42 percent were ahead/ on track and 12 percent behind. However, missing data sources remained a key constraint.

Various processes and plans, detailed below, feed into the development of Cambodia’s National Strategic Development Plan 2019–2023 (NSDP). Together, these provide a policy framework to mainstream sustainable development into Cambodia’s national development planning processes.

1.   Rectangular Strategy for Growth, Employment, Equity and Efficiency: Building the Foundation Toward Realizing the Cambodia Vision 2050: Phase IV.

The Cambodian Rectangular Strategy Phase IV is the “Socio-Economic Policy Agenda of the Political Platform of the Royal Government of the Sixth Legislature of the National Assembly” under the umbrella of the constitution of the Kingdom of Cambodia.” This key text was introduced and adopted by the Royal Government of Cambodia in the Sixth Legislature of the National Assembly in September 2018. The Rectangular Strategy is led by Prime Minister Hun Sen and is the political platform of the ruling party. It aims to lay the groundwork for realizing Cambodia’s ambitions through the goals of Cambodia Vision 2050. Major focus areas of the comprehensive Rectangular Strategy IV are linked to the core objectives of Vision 2050, particularly on the theme of increased productivity and competitiveness with the aim of graduating to an upper middle-income country by 2030 and a high-income country by 2050. Governance reform is at the core, consisting of four “angles”: Institutional reform and capacity-building; cleanliness and integrity in public administration; work efficiency; and private sector governance. From the perspective of the 2030 Agenda, these angles highlight the governance aspects required to deliver outcomes on the three dimensions – economic, social and environmental.

Diagram of Rectangular Strategy – Phase IV Source: Royal Government of Cambodia, 2018: Rectangular Strategy Phase IV.

Table depicting four strategic development dimensions of RS IV and corresponding SDGs

The four strategic development dimensions – the rectangles – of the RS IV are the following (listed with their SDG connections):

  1.   Human resource development to strengthen the quality of education, especially of science and technology, enhance technical training, enhance public health and nutrition, and improve gender equity and social protection. The SDG linkages are with CSDG 2 (Zero Hunger), CSDG 3 (Good Health and Wellbeing), CSDG 4 (Quality Education), CSDG 5 (Gender Equality) and CSDG 10 (Reduced Inequalities)
  2.   Economic diversification by enhancing logistics and improving the transport, energy and digital connectivity sectors; identifying and developing new growth areas; laying the groundwork for the Fourth Industrial revolution and digital economy; and enhancing the development of the banking and financial sectors. Linkages are with CSDG 7 (Affordable and Clean Energy), CSDG 9 (Industry, Innovation and Infrastructure), and CSDG 11 (Sustainable Cities and Communities).
  3.   Private sector and job development by developing the job market; promoting small and medium enterprises (SME); enhancing conditions for Public–Private Partnerships (PPP); and promoting competition. Linkages are with CSDG 8 (Decent Work and Economic Growth), CSDG 9 (Industry, Innovation and Infrastructure) and CSDG 10 (Reduced Inequalities).
  4.   Inclusive sustainable development by promoting the agriculture sector and rural development; improving the sustainable management of natural resources and culture; strengthening urban planning and management; and improving environmental sustainability and the response to climate change. Linkages are with CSDG 1 (No Poverty), CSDG 2 (Zero Hunger), CSDG 6 (Clean Water and Sanitation), CSDG 11 (Sustainable Cities and Communities), CSDG 12 (Responsible Consumption and Production), CSDG 13 (Climate Action), CSDG 14 (Life Below Water) and CSDG 15 (Life on Land).

The importance of RS IV for Cambodian development is made clear by the mandate that is noted in the document. Like the previous legislature, the Political Platform of the Royal Government of the 6th Legislature of the National Assembly and Rectangular Strategy-Phase 4 will be implemented through the National Strategic Development Plan 2019–2023, which was adopted in early 2019.

This strategic plan translates the RS IV to the operational sphere and identifies in detail sectoral measures and action plans and highlights responsibilities of the ministries-institutions both at national and subnational levels. Positively, some 50 percent of the indicators used in the NSDP’s M&E framework are the same as those included in the CSDGs.

At the same time, the Ministry of Economy and Finance has prepared a Medium-term revenue mobilization strategy 2019–2023. . It envisions being a modern revenue system to support revenue collection to meet development needs and to achieve Cambodia’s Vision 2050 with the objective of modernizing tax and non-tax policy and administration. This Revenue Mobilization Strategy will be the foundation for ensuring effective revenue collection to respond to the spending demand in implementing the Rectangular Strategy-Phase 4 .(Emphasis in original. RGC 2018).

The overarching emphasis of RS IV is to promote economic growth. There are opportunities to consider better inclusion and integration of environmental issues in economic development. Balancing economic progress with environmental protection and human needs is critical to achieving a sustainable future and realizing the SDGs. For example, clean energy development is one among several listed in the “environmental sustainability” strategic area. However, clean energy could be more strongly highlighted in the prominent discussions on economic diversification related to energy, where the focus is on issues of pricing and availability of electricity.

2.   The Cambodian Sustainable Development Goals
The Ministry of Planning led the process to develop the Cambodian Sustainable Development Goals, which are the nationalized SDGs in Cambodia. The framework, which was approved by the Cabinet in November 2018, incorporates all 17 global SDGs and includes an additional goal (CSDG 18) ) related to land mine clearance and the removal of explosive remnants of war (ERW). There are 18 CSDGs, 88 targets and 148 indicators.

By articulating a set of Cambodian SDGs, the Government has made a strong statement of both commitment to and ownership of the country’s development agenda. The CSDGs explicitly commit to continued efforts to address basic needs in continuation of the Millennium Development Goals, namely to reduce poverty (targets 1.2, 1.3 and 1.4), to end hunger and malnutrition, while improving agricultural productivity and sustainability (2.3, 2.4 and 2.5), improving health outcomes (3.1 to 3.8) and education outcomes (4.1, 4.2, 4.3, 4.5 and 4.6), promoting gender equality (5.1 to 5.6), and improving access to water and sanitation (6.1 to 6.4).

The CSDGs are clear in their commitment to infrastructure investment in support of continued economic growth (CSDGs 7, 8 and 9), in line with the priorities of the RS IV. Through the CSDGs, the RGC also expresses its commitment to social and economic equity and to advance social inclusion through CSDG 10(targets 10.1, 10.2 and 10.3). Through CSDG 11 (target 11.6), the Government highlights a commitment to reducing the adverse environmental impact of urbanization. Challenges related to data and limited policy commitment within the local municipalities may have contributed to why the other CSDG 11 targets related to housing, transport, and disaster risk reduction were not included in the CSDGs, since they do figure prominently in the RS IV.

The CSDGs also express the RGC’s commitment to environmental sustainability through CSDG 12 , CSDG 13 , CSDG 14 and CSDG 15 . Notable among the targets are those relating to the conservation of freshwater ecosystems that are critical to the livelihoods of millions of Cambodians relying on the Mekong basin system (target 15.1) and a clear commitment to halt deforestation and restore degraded areas (15.2). Through CSDG 13 ,the RGC recognized the need to strengthen resilience and adaptive capacity to climate-related hazards and natural disasters (13.1) and to improve public education and awareness on climate change issues (13.2).

CSDG 16 includes ensuring “responsive, inclusive, participatory and representative decision-making at all levels” and is in line with the Government’s ongoing decentralization efforts. CSDG 17 incorporates a wide range of targets aimed at strengthening means of implementation, in line with the global SDG agenda, including, notably, enhanced access to technology, increased cooperation on trade and capacity- building, and improvements to data collection.

Finally, CSDG 18 addresses the ongoing challenge of landmines in Cambodia. Cambodia has one of largest landmine and explosive remnants of war contaminations in the world. Although 50 percent of Cambodia’s minefields have now been cleared, according to the Halo (Hazardous Area Life-support Organization) Trust, Cambodia has recorded more than 64,000 casualties and 25,000 amputees since 1979: the highest ratio per capita in the world. CSDG 18 commits to continue mine clearance, reducing casualties, and providing support to the victims of landmines and ERW.

The CSDGs are also to be specified within ministry and agency Budget Strategic Plans, providing a direct connection to the public finance management (PFM) system and execution of the budget.

3.    National Strategic Development Plan 2019–2023

The NSDP is Cambodia's five-year national development plan. It coordinates the RGC’s strategies and policies and spending towards attaining the development goals of Cambodia. The NSDP is operationalized from the Rectangular Strategy.

The Ministry of Planning published the Cambodia National Strategic Development Plan (2019–23); it was adopted by legislators and signed off by His Majesty the King in spring 2019. The Cambodia SDG Framework (that was adopted by the government in November 2018) and the RGC Rectangular Strategy IV guided the development of the NSDP. As noted, the NSDP adopts a high proportion of the CSDG targets and indicators within its M&E Framework.

Ministries are yet to incorporate the SDGs into their plans and programmes. Cambodia’s Health Strategic Plan 2016–2020 is so far the only national-level plan that incorporates, to some extent, commitment to the SDGs in the health sector (see below). There is an expectation that ministerial budgets need to be explicit about the SDGs and the CSDG Framework now commits line ministries and agencies to explicitly using CSDG targets as performance indicators within Budget Strategic Plans.

Building the SDGs into a Sector Strategy: Cambodia’s Third Health Strategic Plan, 2016–2020

In May 2016, the RGC Ministry of Health launched the country’s Third Health Strategic Plan (HSP3) covering the period 2016 to 2020. After achieving strong progress in health infrastructure development and health service coverage over the previous decade, the RGC has crafted an ambitious and comprehensive strategic plan that builds on past gains, recognizes remaining and emerging challenges, and seeks to mobilize investment towards four “Health Development Goals”, to:

  1. Improve reproductive health, and reduce maternal, new-born and child mortality and malnutrition among women and youth children.
  2. Reduce morbidity and mortality caused by communicable diseases
  3. Reduce morbidity and mortality caused by non-communicable diseases and other public health problems.
  4. Make the health system more accountable and responsive to the population health needs.

The HSP3 is described as the MoH’s “strategic management tool” to guide the MoH and all health institutions as well as concerned stakeholders to “effectively and efficiently use their available resources to translate health strategies into action.” The HSP3 emphasizes the need for access/coverage, quality, efficiency and equity. The HSP3 highlights the challenge of financial risk protection across socio-economic groups, and explicitly seeks to make progress towards Universal Health Coverage (UHC), in strong alignment with the CSDGs, particularly targets 3.1 and 3.8 . WHO has supported the development of the HSP3 and has aligned its strategic priorities and outcomes based on the HSP3 goals and strategies and the CSDGs.

Linkages of the CCS strategic priorities with SDGs and HSP3 goals
Source: Cambodia-WHO Country Cooperation Strategy (2016–2020).

HSP3 outlines plans to mobilize adequate financial resources, inform fiscal allocation, and guide development assistance in the Cambodian health sector. HSP3 strategies will be implemented via incorporation into the national planning and budgeting processes using the national planning and budgeting instruments i.e. a three-year rolling Public Investment Programme and Budget Strategic Plan and the health sector Annual Operational Plan and associated budget.

The five-year cost of HSP3 is estimated at US$3,317 million, increasing annually from US$592 million in 2016 to US$753 million in 2020. However, even with Cambodia’s ambitious growth projections, it is likely that only two thirds of the budget will be filled through Government fiscal allocations. The balance of $1.1 billion over five years will need to come from development partners. This shortfall will likely hinder implementation and slow progress towards UHC and the health-related CSDGs, with important implications for economic growth. Alternatively, the RGC may consider additional ways to reallocate funds from other sectors. Notwithstanding the RGC’s progress and strategic commitment to the health sector, it should be noted that government health expenditure as a share of GDP was 1.1 percent in 2014, which was lower than spending in most low- and middle-income countries in the region. This represents less than 20 percent of the cost of health care, the bulk of which came from out-of-pocket expenses.

To date, there is no evidence that subnational SDG plans have been developed. There is an opportunity to take practical steps to advance the SDGs at the subnational level. The Ministry of Planning, with the support of UNDP, has carried out the Summary Assessment of Subnational Data and Systems for CSDG Roll-Out. The assessment identified some of the key issues faced in rolling out the CSDGs to the subnational level. These include:

  1.   The CSDGs are viewed as complex. The commune and district levels are concerned that they would not have a clear understanding of the 18 goals and 148 indicators.
  2.  Challenges in data availability and good quality data at the village and commune levels.
  3.   Challenges in coordination, cooperation or data availability from other sectors and provincial departments during the planning process at the provincial level.
  4.   Challenges for the Provincial Department of Planning in terms of data management as available data are often not shared.

Regional strategies do not seem to be prominent in current thinking on opportunities to achieve the SDGs, although relevant regional bodies including ASEAN have developed SDG blueprints. There is an opportunity to consider how subregional programmes could play a more concrete role in advancing SDG attainment in Cambodia.

Similar to other countries, NGOs, philanthropists and the private sector have yet to be fully engaged in the SDGs and are not yet undertaking major action or executing large-scale projects to specifically advance SDGs. Noting that mobilizing the “whole of society” for the SDGs represents a major and long-term undertaking, this provides an opportunity for innovation and leadership that development partners may consider supporting.

To date, international development partners have yet to initiate large-scale projects and programmes specifically to advance the SDGs in the country. However, discussion suggested significant interest on the part of bilateral and multilateral development partners to support the RGC in advancing the 2030 Agenda and the SDGs.

The CRDB/CDC has requested all technical working groups to review and revise their Joint Monitoring Indicator output in 2017–2018. This is to be carried out in sequence with the NSDP review and the SDG localization process to move forward, and for ongoing sector policy reviews to be completed.

The ongoing efforts on decentralization, led by the National Committee for Sub-National Democratic Development (NCDD), present a possible avenue for local-level institutions to be directly involved in the planning and implementation of the SDGs. Development partners, including the ADB, supporting the decentralization efforts of NCDD may be well-placed to include capacity-strengthening assistance that is specifically aimed at SDG localization.

The CSDG Framework commits line ministries and agencies to explicitly using CSDG targets as performance indicators within Budget Strategic Plans (BSPs) . As previously noted, the CSDGs provided some 50 percent of the indicators in the NSDP Framework. The final shape of the ministerial BSPs will become evident during 2019 when the budget formulation process will be undertaken.