Letter to Swedish PM Ulf Kristersson from Cambodian organizations
The decision to phase out aid will have devastating and immediate consequences for civil society in Cambodia. Human rights organizations, organizations that work for trade union rights and against corruption, as well as grassroots organizations that fight against land grabbing, will all have to cut back on their activities, the Cambodian organizations write.
people who protest and defend their rights are subjected to threats and violence
Increasingly authoritarian country
Aid is needed more than ever. Cambodia has moved in an increasingly authoritarian direction and violations of civil liberties have steadily increased. Trade union leaders and opposition politicians have been imprisoned, media houses and radio stations have been shut down, people who protest and defend their rights are subjected to threats and violence.
The decision is a hard hit for civil society
Since 2020, Swedish aid to Cambodia has focused on strengthening respect for human rights, supporting democracy and the rule of law, that treats all citizens equally before the law. Sida's development cooperation in the country has only been carried out in cooperation with civil society organisations and other non-state actors, such as the UN High Commissioner for Human Rights and UNESCO. The government's appropriation letter to Sida, which came just before Christmas, states that aid to Cambodia will be completely withdrawn after 2024.
The decision to phase out support to Cambodia will affect over 30 organizations and multilateral institutions and harm tens of thousands of Cambodians, who have seen Sweden as a reliable partner in the promotion of human rights, democracy, equality, the strengthening of young people and the rule of law, the organizations write in their letter.
The organisations also point out that the decision is not in line with Sweden's new goal of increasing the synergy between development cooperation and trade.
Contrary to synergies with trade
The organisations also point out that the decision is not in line with Sweden's new goal of increasing the synergy between development cooperation and trade. For example, H&M has a large production in Cambodia with a large export value. Sweden should instead be actively involved in ensuring that international labour law and trade union rights are respected in the country.
In a situation in Cambodia where democratic principles and rights are increasingly threatened, it should be crucial to continue to support civil society in its important role as counterforces. These organisations are needed to monitor the increasing threats against human rights and environmental defenders in the absence of a credible and independent judiciary in the country.
Request to not withdraw the development aid
The organisations conclude the letter with a request to Ulf Kristersson:
As the head of the Swedish government and supporter of international cooperation among democrats, we call on you to reconsider the decision to suspend Sida’s funding for Cambodian civil society organisations at the end of 2024 or give us a realistic and longer timeframe to replace Swedish funding to reduce serious consequences and harm to the Cambodians we serve.
Other recent articles
In January, ForumCiv in Kenya joined a collective of feminist movements, human rights activists, concerned citizens, and civil society organizations in the country for an End Femicide march.
Eastern Partnership: civil society approaches to reshaping the future of Eastern Europe and South Caucasus
The Eastern Partnership (EaP) was formed in 2009 to strengthen EU ties with six eastern neighbour countries. Today, it faces several questions about its continued relevance and significance as a...
Small holder farmers are often among those who live in absolute poverty and often live in places where climate change effects are severe. ForumCiv accompanied Vi Agroforestry to meet some of the...