Khmernews

Challenges to Advocacy in Cambodia

Posted by khmernews on November 10, 2006

Some national and provincial officials are appointed by their party rather than elected as individuals. For example, provincial governors are appointed by the party that has the majority of parliamentary seats from their province.

Even in direct elections, like the commune council elections, you vote for a party rather than for an individual. This lack of direct election means that officials are less likely to be affected by the criticism of their constituents. The threat of being voted out of office is not personal or direct under party voting methods. Most Government officials do not fully understand that they first represent a constituency of citizens and second a party.  This poses a challenge to those who want to lobby for a cause and hold politicians accountable to their promises and platforms.

The mechanisms of law enforcement are very arbitrary in Cambodia. Laws are not enforced in a systematic way and high levels of corruption mean that money, rather than the law, often determines how the justice system functions. This means that changes in public policy will not necessarily be reflected in changes in people’s lives.

Cambodia’s advocacy sector is still nascent. Most NGOs do not have experience in conducting campaigns nor do they have the capacity to run successful ones. Capacity is particularly weak in areas relating to the government. There is a lack of understanding of where civil society and government intersect making it difficult to know at what level of government should civil society interact with government to address a given problem. NGOs need to make a concerted effort to educate themselves about the Cambodian legal system if they are to achieve their development goals.

Extracted from:
-Advocacy Handbook: A Practical Guide to Increasing Democracy in Cambodia, August 2003, Phnom Penh, Cambodia.

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