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Despite moderate progress, most SDG targets addressed

Kazi Mahmood / Khmer Times Share:
UNDP 2016

Cambodia started the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs), otherwise known as the Global Goals, with the aim of driving more action into critically important areas in the country.

The country has set targets for 109 SDGs out of a total of 169 goals identified under the programme.

The “Asean-China-UNDP Symposium on Localising the SDGs and Realising Poverty Eradication” will be held in Siem Reap on Monday.

The two-day event will focus on the implementation of the SDGs in Asean in the context of complementarities between the Asean Vision 2025 and the SDGs.

For the purpose of this symposium, SDG localisation is defined as follows:

Strengthening enabling environment for policy coherence and cohesion between the national and local levels on SDGs.

Translating SDGs into priorities that are relevant, applicable and attainable at the local level.

Enhancing partnerships for cooperation, financing, and implementation of SDG-related initiatives.

The United Nations replaced the Millennium Development Goals (MDGs) in 2015 after realising that they were not sufficient to address the necessary changes needed in countries like Cambodia.

The 2030 ‘Sustainable Development Agenda’ is promoted as more participatory and equitable than the MDGs. Cambodia aligned its SDGs with its local development strategies, basing them on the National Strategic Development Plan (NSDP) 2014–2018.

The SDGs is generally known as a universal call to action to end poverty, protect the planet and ensure that all people enjoy peace and prosperity.

Cambodia assembled representatives from each government ministry and development partners as well as participating UN agencies to review the targets and indicators of each SDGs. The aim was to adapt them to the country’s unique set of needs.

Considering the breadth of issues set by the SDG targets, Cambodia has achieved a considerable lot, particularly in addressing poverty.

The country’s commitment to reach these goals won recognition from the European Council on Tourism and Trade.

The agency appointed Prime Minister Hun Sen as a global ambassador for tourism and sustainable development goals last December.

With continuous efforts, the country is likely to move on from ‘least developed country’ status within a decade, but it will need to diversify its sources of funding to achieve its SDG goals.

Out of the 169 SDG targets in Cambodia, 60 are not being considered for various reasons. 43 cannot be assessed from existing policies in the country, four are regarded as “not applicable” to Cambodia and 13 are not being considered due to lack of information on external policies and institutions.

The government said it will not outline new strategies for achieving the SDGs until the National Strategic Development Plan (NSPD) 2019–2022 is established.

Of the 109 SDG targets set by Cambodia, 85 (78 percent) are already being addressed by national strategic planning processes and policies. Seventeen targets have been partially addressed, while seven have not been tackled at all so far.

The planners are using the NSDP as a barometer to measure the success or failure of the targets. They found that gaps in existing policies occur for several reasons, with the main one being a lack of ambition in existing government policies.

Ministry of Planning 2015

In some cases, there are no adequate policies to explain how the targets will be achieved, while in others, they do not address the needs of vulnerable groups such as women, children, people living with disabilities or ethnic minorities in meeting the SDGs.

According to a World Bank assessment from 2015, Cambodia is the sixth fastest growing economy in the world. This economic progress has helped reduce the country’s monetary poverty rate from 53.2 percent in 2004 to 13.5 percent in 2014.

The Gini Coefficient Index – a measure of the degree of inequality in the distribution of family income in a country – also decreased over the period 2004-2014 (see figure 2).

Last year, the country received $1.35 billion in overall Official Development Assistance (ODA), representing an increase from 2016.

However, the overall trend from 2014 to 2018 saw a fall in ODA, with an increasing proportion of loans and a decreasing proportion of grants.

With Moody’s Investors Service warning of foreign donors and agencies threatening to pull their funding, the country will probably have to either reconsider some of its goals or seek additional sources of funding.

It may have to consider soft loans by multilateral banks and loans obtainable through preferential trade relationships. It might also have to grant China an even larger share of influence in the wellbeing of its economy.

China is already Cambodia’s primary source of ODA, which is a cause for concern for some analysts. They think the current trade war waged by the United States against China may impact countries that depend heavily on Chinese investment.

China may continue to have the potential to significantly change how Cambodia approaches its SDG targets, but Cambodia will have to meet the conditions set by Beijing.

One way to diversify the sources of funding will be to rely on public-private partnerships. This may become Cambodia’s main strategy to access resources for necessary infrastructure development.

The government has already approved a policy on public-private partnerships that seeks to facilitate such agreements.

The country’s progress under the SDG programme is so far seen as moderate, with experts calling for more action in issues like nutrition, sanitation and addressing domestic violence.

These are the necessary areas the country has to address in order to reach its SDGs, a recently released Unicef report stated.

According to the report, Cambodia is ranked 86th out of 146 countries. The report also estimated that about 2.2 million Cambodian children live in poverty.

The report said that infant poverty in the Kingdom (38.4 percent) is slightly higher than the worldwide average of 37 percent.

While the country is “on track” when it comes to the reduction of child mortality rates and HIV infections among the younger generations, it is still behind in areas like health standards and girls’ rights.

The “Asean-China-UNDP Symposium on Localising the SDGs and Realising Poverty Eradication”, which will be held in Siem Reap on August 20-21, will provide an opportunity to directly engage with and understand the challenges faced by local communities.

It will also analyse what that means for localising and achieving the SDGs.

There will be parallel group discussions held in a local community, with the following themes: gender mainstreaming, disaster risk reduction and sustainable livelihood for local farmers and entrepreneurs.

A workshop on capacity building for the local workforce and officers, and the launch of an UNDP report on SDGs will also be among the highlights of the event.

There will also be an introductory session that will highlight the importance of localising the SDGs as a means to eradicating poverty in Asean and the need to innovate, use system-thinking, build multi-stakeholder partnerships and encourage innovative financing.

There will be several roundtable discussions on the many issues facing the implementation of the SDGs in Cambodia and in Asean.

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