The situation in Cambodia
Cambodia has ratified a majority of the key human rights conventions. In practice, there are several shortcomings regarding the implementation of and compliance with human rights in accordance with international standards.
Gender equality is a priority in Cambodia's own development strategy. Legislation and policies have been adopted to strengthen the respect for women's rights and the UN Convention on the Elimination of All Forms of Discrimination against Women (CEDAW) has been ratified. However, prevailing patriarchal structures, norms and limited access to justice constitute continuing barriers for women and girls to fully enjoy their rights. For example, gender-based violence in the home is common and to some extent socially accepted as it is often seen as an internal family affair rather than a crime.
Recent political developments have also brought significant challenges related to civil and political rights, rule of law and freedom of expression. In many respects, the situation for civil society to operate has deteriorated, in particular the situation for individual organizations focusing on democracy and human rights. However, Cambodia continues to have a strong civil society, and human rights defenders play an invaluable role in the work of drawing attention to and giving voice to those individuals and groups whose rights are being violated.
The Swedish development aid in human rights aims at creating a stronger respect for, protection of, and compliance with human rights, as well as creating stronger conditions for an equal society with a focus on women´s and girls' full enjoyment of human rights.
The Swedish support
Swedish assistance in the area of human rights entails mainly support to and through UN agencies and civil society. Cooperation with civil society in Cambodia increases the domestic expertise and capacity to engage in advocacy for better laws and policies and to provide legal aid to poor and vulnerable groups. The support is also used to raise awareness of rights and access to legal advice.
Since 2008 Sweden has a bilateral dialogue with Cambodia on human rights. The dialogue takes place every two years in Sweden and Cambodia respectively. In 2019, the dialogue was carried out in Stockholm, focusing on the right to information, LGBTQI, gender equality, labor law and the Universal Peer Review (UPR) that Cambodia was subjected to in 2019.
Examples of ongoing projects
The Office of the United Nations High Commissioner for Human Rights (OHCHR) in Cambodia
Support to OHCHR aims to improve respect, protection and compliance with human rights in Cambodia. Through observation and reporting OHCHR make the human rights situation in country visible. OHCHR strive to improve the protection for human rights defenders, and to ensure that domestic legislations are in line with international human rights standards. Technical assistance and capacity-building support is provided to state institutions for them to be able to operate in accordance with human rights standards. OHCHR at the same time works closely together with civil society to improve the knowledge of human rights and inform about the different tools and mechanisms that exist to demand these. Furthermore, OHCHR works against discrimination and to strengthen rule of law. The support is meant to favour marginalised groups such as indigenous people, LGBTQI people, women human rights defenders, land rights activists and natural resource activists.
The Raoul Wallenberg Institute (RWI)’s Human Rights Capacity Development Programme
The support aims to strengthen environment for human rights promotion and protection in Cambodia. To achieve this goal, RWI has established an office in Cambodia and collaborated with numerous key relevant institutions that have the capacity and mandate to make a positive impact on human rights situation in Cambodia on the academic, policy and implementation level. RWI works with institutions that train and educate the next generation of decision-makers in Cambodia. RWI has partnership with two Cambodian universities, Pannasastra University of Cambodia (PUC) and Royal University of Law and Economics (RULE)’s Center for the Study of Humanitarian Law (CSHL).
RWI supports the development of a neutral academic platform which can contribute to better informed debates, increased cooperation and coordination between government institutions and civil society organisations and provide inputs to policy development. RWI also contributes to providing inputs into the bilateral human rights dialogue between Sweden and Cambodia.