Through this project NGOs and CSOs advocate for a more pro-poor national five-year plan, the National Strategic Development Plan (NSDP), with clear accountability mechanisms.
The project encourages the Royal Government of Cambodia and development partners to provide more space for meaningful consultation with NGOs/CSOs in national planning processes.
NGO Forum has played a significant role in facilitating NGOs to discuss priority development issues with government, multilateral development banks, and development partners.
NGO Forum is often the first port of call for development partners, consultants and government officials wanting NGO policy inputs. NGO Forum maintains good relations with NGOs and sectoral groups, including lead sector NGOs outside its formal membership, to coordinate multi-sectoral NGO inputs to development policy.
However, there are challenges in getting the voices of civil society heard.
Limited NGO/CSO capacity, lack of government openness to engage NGOs
The government set up 19 government-development partner Technical Working Groups (TWGs) to coordinate donor aid and support reform processes. NGO Forum found that while NGOs have seats in 16 of the 19 TWGs, some lacked the capacity to interact in policy dialogue and some failed to effectively represent their sector.
In 2009, the government decided to prepare an NSDP Update to align the terms of the NSDP with the government’s political mandate and to reflect the context of a global economic downturn. For the Update, the government required all line ministries/agencies to provide inputs through their designated working group or through consultation with TWGs.
The participation of NGOs and CSOs in the NSDP Update drafting process was difficult, according to the NGO Forum’s paper: NGO Position Paper on Cambodia’s Development in 2009–2010:
- Timelines were short and some NGOs could not easily identify or get access to the government officials responsible for drafting their section for the NSDP Update.
- Only few TWGs (Health, Education and Land) met to discuss inputs into the draft. Some NGOs had to submit proposals in writing and most received no feedback.
There was no engagement with civil society beyond the NGOs and no discussion between government and disadvantaged groups. The national workshop to discuss the final draft NSDP Update was cancelled.
Lack of prioritization
The results of an exercise commissioned by NGO Forum, Rapid Assessment of Policy Announcements in the NSDP Update 2009-2013, found that NSDP Update policy priorities are clear and backed by data in some sectors, but less clear in others. The research found that each of the 24 sectoral polices and reform programmes was listed as a priority. Better-focused priorities were required on sectors more responsive to the needs of poor and vulnerable groups as the primary goal of the NSDP, with the aim of reducing poverty as fast as possible.
The document Accountability and Managing for Results (NGO Forum, 2008) suggested that the NSDP 2006–2010 monitoring and evaluation framework was very weak. Of 43 indicators, more than 30 were outcome and impact indicators not very helpful for government to control the necessary inputs and intermediate outputs that are crucial to achieve the desired long-term outcomes and impacts. The current NSDP does not have a policy matrix, a useful tool for monitoring policy announcements in the NSDP.
The same 2008 document shows that although the National Assembly approved the NSDP 2006, it does not play an important role in monitoring its implementation, nor does it hold government accountable. The Assembly did not engage in the formulation process of the NSDP Update. In January 2010, the National Assembly had no mechanisms in place to do its own independent monitoring of the NSDP Update.
Advocacy on the development policies of multilateral banks was a major focus of NGO Forum from the time development aid was restored in the early 1990s. In 1997, a Working Group on the Asian Development Bank was formed. This later became a Working Group on Development Banks, which focused on policies of the ADB, World Bank, International Monetary Fund and other development actors. During these years, this group became known as the Development Issues Forum. The Forum helped NGOs contribute to the NSDP and helped them prepare reports for government and development partners in the annual Cambodia Development Cooperation Forum (CDCF).
Between each CDCF meeting 2007–2010, there were meetings of the Government Development Partner Coordination Committee (GDCC) to monitor implementation of JMIs at the TWG level. NGO Forum coordinated and produced the NGO Statements (Reports) on Monitoring CDCF’s Indicators for submission to the meetings. Representatives from NGO Forum, CCC and MEDiCAM participated in both CDCF and GDCC.
Throughout 2009–2011, NGO Forum coordinated sectoral NGO inputs into the first draft NSDP Update. According to the Rapid Assessment of NGO Inputs/Comments on the first draft NSDP Update, only 65 among 375 specific comments provided in the 14 sectoral inputs were incorporated into the final version of the NSDP Update.
In 2010, NGO Forum with CCC and MEDiCAM facilitated NGOs working across 25 sectors to monitor the implementation of the NSDP Update and CDCF’s Joint Monitoring Indicators. Their monitoring reports were compiled into the NGO Position Papers on Cambodia’s Development in 2009–2010, which served as basis for formulating an NGO Joint Statement to 3rd CDCF and inputs to the government and development partners’ dialogue at 3rd CDCF. (The CDCF meeting is the successor of the Consultative Group meeting, which is the highest-level aid coordination mechanism in Cambodia.) A representative of the government and development partners remarked in the CDCF meeting that the position paper was a useful and constructive document.