Decades after the end of the war, the majority of Cambodians continue to live in poverty while gaps between rich and poor, and urban and rural areas continue to grow. Cambodia's efforts to address the widespread deprivation and inequality have been largely inadequate. Despite a steady increase in GDP per capita, government expenditure on health and education is comparatively low, raising questions about whether the government is dedicating the maximum available resources to realizing economic, social and cultural rights.
Making Human Rights Accountability More Graphic
CESR's fact sheet on Cambodia provides a graphic overview of selected elements of the human rights to health, food, education, housing and water, seeking to highlight areas where government efforts to realize these rights may be inadequate. It was prepared in light of Cambodia's appearance before the UN Committee on Economic, Social and Cultural Rights (CESCR) in May 2009 and the Universal Periodic Review in December 2009.
CESR also contributed to the Universal Periodic Review, run by the Human Rights Council, with its submission on the economic and social rights situation in Cambodia. The Summary of Stakeholders' Information used much of CESR's submission in reporting on the economic and social rights situation in the country. The Draft Report of the Working Group provides a summary of the proceedings of the UPR review process and its conclusions and recommendations.
The 42nd Session of the Committee on Economic, Social and Cultural Rights
CESCR is the body of independent experts that monitors implementation of the International Covenant on Economic, Social and Cultural Rights.
Part of CESCR's 42nd session (May 4-22, 2009 in Geneva) focused on the consideration of the state reports submitted by Cambodia. The discussion of this meeting can be found here. Based on the information provided in the fact sheet, the Committee experts asked the Cambodian government questions about:
- The almost four-fifths of urban Cambodians who live in slums and their housing rights;
- The rising inequality that is accompanying the rising GDP per capita;
- The low tax base and low amount of tax revenues that come from direct income taxes;
- The lack of documentation of land sales at the provincial level, leaving Cambodians vulnerable to land-grabbing and forced evictions.
In light of its consideration of Cambodia's reports, and the subsequent discussion, the Committee adopted its concluding observations. These concluding observations list principal subjects of concern along with suggestions and recommendations to the State party. Some listed concerns that were presented by the fact sheet include:
- "The Committee is deeply concerned that about 36% of the population in the State party lives below the poverty line and are unable to access the WHO standard of caloric intake, and that despite the economic growth in the State party, the national spending on social services such as housing, health and education remains low. The Committee also notes with concern the wide regional disparities in the less developed and economically marginalized provinces, and the significant inequalities in income distribution, especially between urban areas and the rural areas where most of the population live in povery. (art. 11)."
- "The Committee is deeply concerend about the continued delay in the adoption of a national housing policy in the State party, and about the large number of urban dwellers living in slums, without adequate housing. (art. 11)."
- "...The Committee also notes with concern that newborn mortality is still high despite the progress of the State party in addressing infant mortality and mortality of children under five years old. (art. 12)."
Other NGO Reports
Other NGOs have also contributed parallel reports on the Cambodian government's compliance with the International Covenant on Economic, Social and Cultural Rights.
To find out more about how the Committee on Economic, Social and Cultural Rights works, and how you can work with it, see CESR's manual on how to submit reports. There are also various legal avenues available through the UN for holding states to account for their human rights obligations.
Other UN and Relevant Reports
Bridges Across Borders Southeast Asia (BABSEA), the Centre on Housing Rights and Evictions (COHRE) and Jesuit Service Cambodia (JSC), "Untitled: Tenure Insecurity and Inequality in the Cambodian Land Sector", 28 September 2009.
UNDP, "In Cambodia, Women and Children Hit Hardest by Economic Crisis", 8 April 2009.