Wednesday, December 4, 2013

Cambodia Ranked Most Corrupt Country in the Region

VOA Khmer, Khoun Theara
04 December 2013
Cambodia is now ranked as being perceived by investors as Southeast Asia’s most corrupt country, surpassing Laos and Burma on Transparency International’s annual corruption index.

Cambodia ranked 160 of 175 countries in the report, with its index score a mere 20 out of 100. That’s two points lower than last year, marking the first year Cambodia has fared worse than its regional neighbors on the index.

The index is derived from surveys of perceived corruption by investors and others in the private sector concerning the public sector and is undertaken each year by a partnership of seven international institutions, including the World Bank and the World Economic Forum.

“The government should not consider this as a critique, but as a mirror for improvement,” Ok Serei Sopheak, board director for Transparency International Cambodia, told VOA Khmer Tuesday.

The least-corrupt countries worldwide were Denmark, New Zealand and Finland. In the region, Singapore was ranked fifth, Brunei 38th and Malaysia 53rd overall.

Cambodia’s ranking comes despite the passage of an anti-corruption law and a specialized unit to tackle the problem.

“The government needs to enforce the anti-corruption law without exception,” said Preab Kol, executive director of Transparency International Cambodia. “It needs to enhance its auditive and investigating systems to increase accountability. Third, raise awareness in the public to put pressure on and report crimes of corruption. If there is just political rhetoric and threats without any concrete measures, there is no hope for any improvement.”

This year’s lower ranking for Cambodia could be a result of the country’s post-election political crisis, which worries investors and erodes their trust, Preab Kol said.

Neither Om Yentieng, head of the government’s Anti-Corruption Unit, nor Phay Siphan, government spokesman, could be reached for comment Tuesday.

Cambodia consistently scores poorly on the annual global index. And the corruption problem is not lost on its international donors.

Christine Lagarde, head of the International Monetary Fund, who visited Cambodia this week, told a group of students at a local university that Cambodia needs stronger institutions and governance. “It needs a better business climate, based on impartiality and predictability,” she said.

Preab Kol said a decrease in foreign investment in the country could occur if the corruption issue is not addressed.

Sunday, December 1, 2013

Assessment of the Enabling Environment for Civil Society Country Report – Cambodia

Assessment of the  Enabling Environment for Civil Society

Country Report –  Cambodia

Prepared for the Cooperation Committee for Cambodia by Cord Cambodia.
December 2013

Section I: Introduction

This report focuses on the legal, regulatory, and policy environment in which Cambodian civil society organizations (CSOs) operate. The laws and regulations that govern CSOs shape their ability to communicate and associate with others, to engage in peaceful assembly, to seek tax exemptions, to engage in philanthropy, and to access information. These factors, as well as the relationship with government, help to define the nature of civil society’s enabling environment.
The report is part of the Civic Space Initiative program initiated by CIVICUS and the International Centre for Not-for-Profit Law (ICNL), in partnership with ARTICLE19, and the World Movement for Democracy, and with support from the Swedish International Development Agency

The Enabling Environment National Assessment for Cambodia

CCC selected seven dimensions of the enabling environment for this assessment: (1) formation, (2) operation, (3) access to resources, (4) expression, (5) peaceful assembly, (6) government-civil society relations, and (7) CSO cooperation. The research was intended to identify:
1.       Laws, regulations and the policy environment affect the ability of CSO  to function
2.       Key problems, weaknesses and challenges arising from laws and policies
3.       How best to overcome challenges and promote increased democratic space.
A fully enabling environment for civil society would guarantee fundamental human rights that allow people to organise and participate in development, including: Freedom of association and assembly and expression; Legal recognition facilitating the work of CSOs; Freedom of movement, mobility rights and the right to travel: The right to operate free of unwarranted state interference; and a legal framework in which to obtain necessary resources
This report is focused on concerns of Local NGOs (LNGOs) and community-based organisations (CBOs) administered by the Ministry of Interior or the Council of Ministers. (The Ministry of Foreign Affairs and International Cooperation administers international NGOs.)

Section ll: Methodology.

The research team worked in collaboration with CCC and indirectly with CCC’s research advisory panel, to determine appropriate methods for gathering and analysing the required information. The method consisted of a review of documents and interviews with 24 key stakeholders.

Section III: Formation of Civil Society Organisations

The right to form and register a civil society organisation is guaranteed in the Constitution of Cambodia and currently here are around 1,350 active NGOs and associations.  The government has power  to deny registration. A proposed new law on NGOs and associations (LANGO) may simplify the legal provisions for registration. But many CSOs fear changes may be used to shrink democratic space.
Key challenges to the formation of civil society organisations in Cambodia are:
  • Lack of clarity in the Civil Code for Cambodia and complicated registration requirements
  • Excessive government discretion in determining eligibility for registration
  • Requirement to pay ‘facilitation fees’, that is, bribes to government officials in order to secure assistance for the registration process
  • Apparent absence of a mechanism of appeal for failed attempts at registration
  • Uncertainty and suspicion from civil society actors regarding pending changes to legal provisions determining formation requirements, and especially regarding the possibility that new legal provisions will be used to restrict freedoms

Section IV: Operation of Civil Society Organisations

Laws governing CSOs include the Civil Code on Cambodia 2007, the Law on Taxation 2004, the Penal Code 2009, the Peaceful Demonstrations Law 2009, and the Anti-corruption Law 2010. CSOs that promote human rights have been threatened and suspended by government. Many worry the proposed new LANGO law   will increase the government interference and control of CSOs
Key challenges in relation to the operation of civil society organisations in Cambodia are:
  • Low compliance with existing legal provisions by civil society organisations
  • Onerous and confusing reporting obligations
  • Poor understanding and/or improper implementation of existing legal provisions by government officials
  • Requirement to make unofficial payments to government staff to facilitate operations
  • Absence of, and inconsistent, repercussions for failure to comply with legal obligations
  • Occasional harassment of some CSOs  involved in human rights work
  • Absence of an appeal  mechanism in the event of deregistration, suspension or dissolution
  • Fear in relation to the potential misuse of the proposed new law on NGOs and associations

Section V: Access to Resources

RGC seems not to acknowledge CSOs as important strategic partners.
Key challenges for Cambodian civil society organisations to access resources are:
        Increasing competition to access foreign funds
        Increasing donor concern with the financial sustainability of projects and shifting donor priorities (away from Cambodia)
        Low organisational capacity in fundraising
        Perceived pressure to generate independent income
        Potential for some social enterprise development to displace the core work of civil society
        Absence of a partnership agreement between government and civil society
        Near absence of local philanthropy, except in relation to religious and political donations

Section VI: Expression

The press in Cambodia has been deemed ‘not free’ and crackdowns on free speech have been increasing since 2012.
Key challenges in relation to expression in Cambodia are:
  • Lack of independence of most local media, especially TV and Khmer-language newspapers
  • The adoption of a new draft anti-cyber law may restrict freedom of speech/ expression
  • Intimidation of some individuals who express opinions contrary to the government
  • Potential for a new law on NGOs and associations to restrict freedom of expression

Section VII: Peaceful Assembly

Article 41 of the Constitution of Cambodia states that citizens shall have freedom of expression, press, publication and assembly but in some instances, government has arbitrarily restricted freedom of movement and assembly, refused to give permission for peaceful protests, and police have disrupted  meetings, and threatened communities that engage with NGOs.
Key challenges in relation to peaceful assembly in Cambodia are:
  • Apparently arbitrary denials of requests to assemble/demonstrate
  • Fear of repercussion against organisers and participants in peaceful assemblies
  • Disturbance of peaceful assemblies by authorities
  • Occasional escalation to violence of otherwise peaceful demonstrations
  • Lack of transparency in investigative processes into police or other authorities implicated in perpetrating violence against participants in peaceful assembly
  • Absence of repercussions towards those who perpetrate violence against participants, despite photographic and video evidence of such.

Section VIII: Government and Civil Society Relations

The role of civil society in Cambodia’s development is substantially overlooked. One interviewee says “It is rare that national governments are as uncommitted to partnership with CSOs as is the case in Cambodia”.
Key challenges for the relationship between government and civil society include:
        Ongoing lack of trust, especially between the government and those civil society organisations that are active in promoting democracy and human rights
        Insufficient opportunities for dialogue and for government and civil society to provide meaningful input and feedback to each other, especially at national level
        Failure to provide adequate space and time for civil society contributions to Technical Working Groups and other comparable consultative mechanisms
        Lack of clarity about a proposed annual forum between government and civil society
        Failure to ascribe a clear role to civil society in Cambodia’s Rectangular Strategy
        Limited capacity for cooperation on the part of both government and civil society
        Lack of interest in cooperation

Section IX: Civil Society Cooperation and Coalition

Coalitions of civil society organisations may be increasing but  depth of cooperation is low.
Key challenges in relation to civil society cooperation and coalitions are:
        Lack of trust among NGOs
        Shallow cooperation, mostly addressing technical issues
        Inadequate mechanisms for the evaluation of umbrella group performance
        Inadequate mechanisms for receiving and addressing complaints from members

        Poor cross-sectoral cooperation