Cambodia's population numbers 15.8 million people and around 75% of them reside in rural areas. 20% are between the ages of 15 and 24, and more than 30% of Cambodians are under the age of 30, making the population one of the youngest in South East Asia.
Cambodia has achieved outstanding socio-economic progress in the last ten years, being one of the top performers in meeting the Millennium Development Goals. Remarkable poverty reduction and enhanced human development have been achieved. However, almost 50% of the population remain highly vulnerable, high levels of malnutrition persist, and progress is needed to maintain sustainable socio-economic growth and to further reduce vulnerability and poverty.
The EU has been a major development partner of Cambodia since the early 1990s. We have funded initiatives in sectors such as education, agriculture, public financial management and trade-related assistance, which have benefited millions of Cambodians.
The EU is committed to make aid more effective and to strengthen Cambodia’s leadership of its national development process. The current EU development budget for Cambodia for the 2014-2020 period is approximately €500 million (including thematic and regional funding), more than double the amount provided during the previous 7-year cycle. In addition to bilateral cooperation, Cambodia benefits from EU regional cooperation programmes in support of ASEAN.
The EU partners with the Royal Government of Cambodia, civil society organisations and the private sector, to help the country achieve its ambitions to reduce poverty, maintain its equitable and sustainable growth, and enhance good governance, democracy and the rule of law. This commitment is laid out in the Joint European Development Cooperation Strategy 2014-2019, in which the EU and 10 other European development partners (namely Belgium, Czech Republic, Finland, France, Germany, Ireland, Italy, Sweden, Switzerland and the United Kingdom) agree on a unified development strategy and a division of labour across sectors in Cambodia.
There are 3 sectors where the EU focuses its bilateral assistance:
- agriculture and natural resource management
- education and skills development
- good governance and administration.
The EU supports education in Cambodia through the “Education and Skills for Competitiveness” programme. The objective is to develop high-quality human resources, by improving the relevance and effectiveness of the upper secondary education system, as well as skills and competitiveness of men and women working in the industrial sector. The EU-Cambodia Education Sector Reform Partnership 2018-2021 is a financial and technical support programme to the Royal Government of Cambodia, to help it implement its own Education Strategic Plans. The programme pays particular attention to inclusive and equitable high-quality education, with a focus on Early Childhood Education and Basic Education.
The EU supports the Public Finance Management Sector, aiming to enhance the effective use of resources and align expenditures with national priorities, in order to improve the Government’s service delivery and spur economic growth. Moreover, recognising the added value of local authorities and greater civic participation in governance and development, the EU supports the ongoing decentralisation and deconcentration reform, which promotes bottom-up decision-making, empowers local communities and enhance accountability mechanisms.
The EU is expanding its involvement in the Fisheries Sector, with new programmes being added to current ones. Targeting both capture fisheries and aquaculture, the programmes aim to strengthen management, conservation, and control systems. They also support the development of trade and market access for fishing communities, thus improving their livelihood, to ensure more sustainable, climate-resilient and inclusive growth in Cambodia's freshwater and marine fisheries.
Public Finance Management has significantly improved thanks to policy reforms, which have allowed the Cambodian government to strengthen its provision of public services to citizens. The results of such reforms include: higher domestic revenue mobilisation, higher budget transparency, and more efficient public services.
Education and learning opportunities among Cambodians have increased, therefore strengthening the country's human capital. The country is now close to ensuring universal access to primary education. Every year, more and more students complete primary education and move on to lower-secondary. Dropout rates have reduced and gender equality has been achieved at all levels.
The state of Cambodian agriculture and livestock has improved. Production has increased and become more diversified, and local geographical indications are emerging. Farmers and livestock herders are more skilled and enjoy better market access for their products, which results in higher income.
The livelihood of Cambodian fishing communities, both inland and coastal has also improved. They now enjoy better food security and healthier nutrition. There are more opportunities for fishermen to access the market to sell their products. Processes of environmental degradation among fishing communities have been reduced or halted, making growth in the fisheries sector more sustainable.
The capacity of the Royal Government of Cambodia to address climate change has been strengthened. Awareness about climate change and its consequences for the country has increased among government officials, the private sector and the general population, and the Government has taken important action in adapting Cambodia to climate change.