The NGO Forum on Cambodia

Aid Effectiveness Project

The project works with cooperating NGOs/CSOs to promote aid transparency and alignment to priority sectors for the benefit of poor and vulnerable groups in Cambodia.

It encourages the Royal Government of Cambodia (RGC) and development partners (DPs) to create a more open, enabling environment to allow NGOs/CSOs greater participation in aid coordination.

It promotes discussion on the progress of development cooperation around transparency, efficiency and effectiveness, TWG mechanisms, JMI formulation, Paris Declaration Indicators, the Accra Agenda for Action, and other development effectiveness initiatives.

Challenges to aid effectiveness

Cambodia continues to depend on the aid relationships with development partners including UN & multilateral partners, EU partners, Australia, New Zealand, Canada, Switzerland, USA, China, Japan, Republic of Korea, and other bilateral partners. Their roles in providing grants, concessional loans, and technical assistance can influence development results in Cambodia. 

There are challenges to aid effectiveness, however, including:

  • Aid harmonization and alignment to Cambodia’s development priorities.
  • Information sharing is still poor, with CSOs asking for improvements from the RGC and DPs.
  • Capacity of NGOs in engaging with the government trends downward, given not enough data and no meaningful representation. Most comments and feedback from CSOs appear to be ignored during the discussion without constructive reasons.

Limited accountability and transparency

There is limited democratic governance of aid, and not yet an enabling environment for NGOs/CSOs and citizens to hold RGC and DPs accountable for the effective and efficient use of aid.

Action Aid’s Cambodia case study (2007) suggested that DPs were not being held accountable. There is no mechanism that allows citizens to understand the role of DPs and to hold both RGC and DPs accountable for the results of the use of aid. The project advocates for a mechanism to allow the Cambodian public in general and aid beneficiaries in particular to directly hold RGC and DPs accountable.

The Cambodia chapter of Accountability and Managing for Results suggests that DPs should act as facilitators and architects of country governance systems by empowering CSOs to take an active role in the government-development partner Technical Working Groups (TWGs), Government-Development Partner Coordination Committee (GDCC) and Cambodia Development Cooperation Forum (CDCF), while the government should engage CSOs as key partners.

Although the government provides some space for NGOs’ representation in the TWG meetings, they have limited opportunities generally for participation. This was confirmed by the project research report on Assessment of NGO Participation and Representation in TWGs (2010), CCC Report on Enabling Environment for CSOs in Cambodia (2011), and Project Report on Transparency of Aid Information: Consistency between ODA Database and PIP (2011). The conclusion was that there are no significant opportunities for Cambodian citizens, NGOs/CSOs, the National Assembly, media and other stakeholders to hold RGC and DPs to account for effective and efficient use of aid, and there are limited transparent releases of aid information.

The role of NGOs in TWGs is improving in principle through the adoption of revised Guidelines on the Role and Functioning of TWGs. The guidelines recognize a role for NGOs in policy dialogue and strategic discussion because of their rich working experiences with local communities. NGOs have equal status to full members such as government and development partner representatives in the TWG.
However, NGOs question the government’s and development partners’ commitment to enforce this guideline and put it into the terms of reference of each TWG. 

Capacity limits of NGOs

NGOs/CSOs themselves have limited capacity in keeping up to date on aid effectiveness issues.
Some sector NGOs lack commitment to advocate on aid effectiveness, due partly to a poor understanding of their roles in TWG. Action Aid’s 2007 case study found that while NGOs have seats in 14 of the 18 (now 19) TWGs, some do not have strong capacity and cannot effectively interact in policy dialogue, while others fail to properly represent their sector. The study suggests that NGOs need to build their own capacity and improve coordination to be more effective. This limited capacity and ability to be representative was confirmed by the report Assessment of NGO Representation and Participation in TWGs, commissioned by the NGO Forum for the Economic Institute of Cambodia in 2010.

Project background

In 2007, the Development Issues Programme, liaising with the Trade and Economic Development Network, started working on aid effectiveness issues. The first Aid Effectiveness Forum was held in Phnom Penh in March 2007. DFID, World Bank, JICA, USAID, and ADB discussed their work. The organizing NGOs (Women's Agenda for Change, Action Aid, Samakum Teang Tnaut, NGO Forum, NPA, World Vision and NGO Education Partnership) concluded that aid effectiveness work should be continued.
Since 2008, NGO Forum has advocated for development effectiveness through promoting dialogue among government, NGOs/CSOs, and development partners. Achievements include a commitment made by the government and development partners to accept NGO representatives as full members in TWGs and include them in capacity building sessions available at the TWGs.

In mid 2011, NGO Forum participated in the second CSO global assembly on the international framework for CSO development effectiveness. CRDB/CDC invited representatives from NGO Forum, CCC, and MEDiCAM to participate in the TWG retreat and cross TWG meeting on ‘Promoting use of country systems’ in Siem Reap in April/May 2011.

However, NGOs still have concerns on the limited democratic governance of aid.

Aid effectiveness