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As one of the poorest countries in Asia, Cambodia has been proposed as a new priority country of the Swiss Agency for Development and Cooperation (SDC) in the Federal Council’s Dispatch to Parliament on Switzerland’s international cooperation, which Parliament approved in 2012. About one third of Cambodia’s approximately 14.5 million inhabitants are living below the poverty line. Food insecurity is a constant problem and the effects of economic growth are hardly felt in rural areas where 80% of the country’s population lives, depending essentially on subsistence agriculture.
With its new programme in Cambodia, Switzerland commits itself to a country that has been marked by almost 40 years of insecurity and internal conflict. Up to now, it has been present in Cambodia through contributions to programmes of Swiss NGOs working in the country. In spite of the reforms under way and progress made to date, there are still major challenges to meet in reducing poverty, improving the health and education systems, and the rule of law. Swiss cooperation efforts will focus on the following three priority areas: local government, professional training, developing the agricultural sector and reducing food insecurity.
Furthermore, the SDC will continue to support the health sector through its contribution to the Kantha Bopha Hospitals of Dr Beat Richner, whose aim is to provide Cambodian children with high-quality health care free of charge and to contribute to the Cambodian system for training health care personnel. Switzerland’s annual contribution of CHF 4 million is in addition to the CHF 10 to 12 million per year that Swiss international cooperation plans to commit to Cambodia in the coming years.
The new SDC programme in Cambodia is part of Switzerland’s international cooperation activities in the Mekong region and is the object of a new regional cooperation strategy for 2013-2017. The strategy also covers Laos and Vietnam, two countries where the SDC has been active for some years. Its work in this region targets poor and disadvantaged rural populations with the aim of reducing poverty and inequalities. Switzerland’s commitment is intended to contribute to social harmony and stability in the whole region.