A new challenge – Human Rights in Cambodia

The program in Cambodia is a result of several years exploring and building of networks in Cambodia by the Institute, and will be financed by Sida with 43, 3 million SEK for five years. It is carefully designed to find new venues for cooperation and dialogue between various actors in Cambodia, and will initially be tried out for one year in a so called pilot phase.

– We want to see if there is an honest will among partners to improve the situation for human rights in the country before we go full in, says Andreas Ljungholm, Head of Asia Unit at the Institute. We believe our methods and experience from similar political contexts is relevant, and hope to see a strengthened environment for human rights promotion and protection in Cambodia at the end of the programme.

The program has two parts. The largest is cooperation with two universities where the Institute will support the development of human rights curricula, provide training for teachers and students can be supported by stipends. There will also be a string of seminars and support in building systems for research,  publication and academic networks. In the long term there might be room for guest professors and academic exchange.

– Generally the capacity to understand and therefore promote human rights is low in Cambodia, comments Andreas Ljungholm. But our experience is that by educating and supporting the coming generation of lawmakers and bureaucrats at different levels, the understanding and respect for human rights will be enhanced.

The other, smaller part of the program is aimed at government institutions and authorities. The Institute will during the pilot phase implement small scale activities with selected partners, for example the Cambodian Human Rights Committee, in order to further assess the possibilities for broader cooperation. At the same time possibilities for cooperation with other government institutions in Cambodia will be assessed.

In order to closely follow and develop the program and analyze the response to the various components, the Institute will post staff in Phnom Penh already this spring.

– Of course we have to be there ourselves to learn and understand. I see it as a fantastic opportunity to use our experience in a new context, but we must be humble and acknowledge that we don´t know everything yet. We need to learn and adjust to what we see, comments Andreas Ljungholm.

Anette Dahlström at the Swedish Embassy in Phnom Penh is regarding the support to the Institute as part of Sweden´s efforts to enhance the respect for human rights in Cambodia. The Raoul Wallenberg Institute was selected as a partner for Sida because of the Institute´s long term experience to work with promotion and education in human rights in the region.

– We hope to achieve a new level of cooperation and dialogue between civil society and government institutions regarding human rights, says Anette Dahlström. Today the debate about human rights is polarized, which doesn´t benefit democratic development and human rights in Cambodia.

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