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Development assistance in Cambodia

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Overview of Australia's aid program to Cambodia

2020-21 bilateral allocation [budget estimate]
$43.4 million
2020-21 total Australian ODA [budget estimate]
$66.1 million
2019-20 total Australian ODA [budget estimate]
$66 million

* COVID-19 Development Response Plans are forthcoming and will be published on this page. Australia’s development efforts are set out in Partnerships for Recovery: Australia’s COVID-19 Development Response.

Cambodia has one of the fastest growing economies in the world, but unequal distribution of economic gains means many Cambodians still struggle to access quality, affordable essential services. We will continue delivering development programs to improve infrastructure, increase farmers' incomes and deliver better quality health and education outcomes. These will also focus on vulnerable people, including women, people with a disability, and the poorest Cambodians. In line with the Foreign Policy White Paper, we will promote sustainable development aimed at reducing poverty and improving gender equitable outcomes, including through strong engagement with the private sector.

Cambodia remains the poorest ASEAN country by GNI per capita (World Bank, 2016), though its rapid economic growth saw it reach lower-middle income status in 2015. Its Human Development Index ranking at 146 out of 189 countries (UNDP, 2018) is commensurate with its GNI per capita.

While poverty continues to fall, the pace has slowed significantly. The UN estimates that 13.5 per cent of Cambodians live below the national poverty line, down from 53 per cent in 2004. However, many Cambodian households, especially in rural areas, remain highly vulnerable to slipping back. About 4.5 million people (approximately 28% of the population) remain near poor and vulnerable to falling back into poverty when exposed to economic and other shocks (World Bank 2018). These households find it difficult to withstand shocks such as serious health events or sudden unemployment. This is exacerbated by limited access to public services, high levels of informal employment and low levels of education and skills.

Australia is a leading bilateral grant donor to Cambodia. In 2018-19, Australia's ODA estimated outcome was $79.7 million. This included an estimated $56.1 million in bilateral funding delivered in Cambodia through DFAT.

Since 2015, Australia's aid investments have been prioritising three key objectives: (1) improving access to infrastructure; (2) increasing agricultural productivity; and (3) better health and education. Consistent with Australia's Foreign Policy White Paper, we will focus across all our programs on supporting increased prosperity and stability, particularly through inclusive participation, governance, women's empowerment and disability. Our support will prioritise innovative approaches to delivering aid which work closely with the private sector to drive growth and poverty reduction, and will contribute to achieving Australia's overall aid for trade target by 2020.

Improving access to essential infrastructure

Improving access to infrastructure is critical to both economic growth and poverty reduction. The centrepiece of Australia's support is the innovative Investing in Infrastructure (3i) program, which is working with the private sector – particularly small to medium enterprises – to expand access to electricity and piped, treated water in local communities. Research commissioned by the program confirms that access to improved electricity and/or piped, treated water carries benefits for women and girls in terms of time and energy savings, and improved safety, hygiene and wellbeing. Given private utilities operate on a 'user-pays' approach, 3i provides financial incentives for these utilities to connect low-income households to services.

Investments for improving access to essential infrastructure in Cambodia

Increasing agricultural productivity and farmer incomes

We are continuing our longstanding support for Cambodia's agricultural sector. The Cambodian Agricultural Value Chain Phase II (CAVAC II) program provides access to modern farming techniques, lifts productivity and crop quality, and improves the incomes of thousands of farmers. CAVAC II also focuses on rice exports through improving seed varieties and developing export markets. CAVAC also works to increase rural women's economic empowerment.

CAVAC is recognised globally as a leading example of aid delivered in collaboration with the private sector.

Investments for increasing agricultural productivity and farmer incomes in Cambodia

Better health and education outcomes

Continuing to strengthen Cambodia's health system is a key priority for our aid program. Poor health increases many Cambodian families' vulnerability to slipping back into poverty. It also holds back economic growth by lowering workforce participation and reducing workers' productivity. We are working to strengthen Cambodia's health financing system to improve the quality of care and its value for money. We also continue to tackle the ongoing challenge of improving access to, and quality of, reproductive, maternal and neonatal health and recently completed a related program that focussed on women working in garment factories and living in remote communities.

Our support to Cambodia's education sector through our long-running Australia Awards Scholarships program has seen more than 800 of Cambodia's most talented people receive scholarships to study in Australia since 1994. Many of these scholars have become leaders in government, the private sector and civil society. The high-profile Australia Awards Scholarships program has helped build a reputation for quality Australian education and strong people-to-people links between our two countries. It remains a core component of Australia's aid program in Cambodia.

Investments for better health outcomes in Cambodia

Investments for better education outcomes in Cambodia

Our results

In 2017-18, the Australian aid program to Cambodia achieved these tangible results:

  • Supporting the continued improvement of the Health Equity Fund (HEF) system, that subsidises health care for the poorest Cambodians. Subsidised health care was offered in 2.62 million cases in 2018.
  • Clearance of 22 km2 of land that was contaminated by landmines and other Explosive Remnants of War, released for productive use including agricultural activity.
  • Support for people with a disability through provision of disability services to 26,243 people (6,795 female).
  • Shelter, counselling, legal aid and peer support services provided to 12,907 women and their families affected by violence during the Ending Violence Against Women program.
  • Facilitating the commitment of new piped, treated water and reliable electricity connections to rural communities that will directly benefit over 670,000 Cambodians (well in excess of targets).
  • Sustainable irrigation provided to 4,121 households through new irrigation schemes which deliver reliable, affordable water throughout the seasons and climatic changes.
  • Reaching 14,287 garment factory workers (approximately 93% women) to promote and support their sexual and reproductive health and rights.
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