2010 Cambodia: An Assessment of the Law Enforcement against Sexual Abuse, Sexual Exploitation & Trafficking of Children (LEASETC) Project
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The Ministry of Interior (MoI) launched the Law Enforcement Against Sexual Exploitation and Trafficking in Children (LEASECT) Project in 2000 as a response to the increasing reports of trafficking and sexual exploitation of children in Cambodia.
The LEASETC project principally aims to improve the capacity of the Cambodian National Police (CNP) to investigate cases of sexual exploitation and trafficking of children, rescue victims of trafficking and sexual exploitation, arrest offenders, search for evidence and prepare cases for prosecution.
The project has been implemented in three phases from years 2000 to 2008 in cooperation with the United Nations Children's Fund (UNICEF), World Vision Cambodia (WVC), International Organisation for Migration (IOM), Save the Children (SCF) Australia, and the United Nations Office for High Commissioner on Human Rights (UNOCHR).
In 2008, a program assessment focusing on Phase Three of the project implementation was conducted to determine the impact, effectiveness, relevance and sustainability of the Project, as well as to forward recommendations as to its future direction and strategies. The assessment touched on project approaches, mechanisms and component activities, partnerships and cooperation, the broader operating context and structural frameworks.
Quantitative and qualitative information were collected in four weeks from 150 respondents through semi‐structured interviews, focus group discussions, site observations in Phnom Penh, Siem Reap, Banteay Meanchey, Kampong Chhnang, Takeo and Kampong Cham. The respondents included children and their families, relevant government ministries, law enforcers, prosecutors, investigating judges and presidents of court, UK and French embassies, IGOs and NGOs. Review of pertinent documents was also undertaken.
The assessment faced time constraints to be able to provide a rigorous analysis, at the same time, the challenge of being able to distil LEASETC’s contribution to the overall impact of various child protection initiatives in the country.
LEASETC’s most significant impact has been stronger protection for child victims of sexual abuse, exploitation, trafficking and domestic violence. Victims are now better identified, treated and served by law enforcement, social affairs and civil society.
Services for child and adult victims have grown dramatically with improved collaboration and increase in victim referrals from law enforcement to social affairs. There is growing recognition of the distinct roles played by law enforcement and social affairs.
LEASETC’s timely training activities have improved the capacities of AHTJP and local law enforcement units to address crimes against children. Nonetheless, law enforcement referrals to court may not necessarily translate into an increase in the percentage of cases prosecuted. Statistics between law enforcement and judicial data appear to be inconsistent and would need to be further investigated.
NGOs have reported a decline in trafficking for sexual exploitation from 2005 to 2008, however conditions that influence vulnerability such as poverty and food insecurity, low education, domestic violence, debt, continue to persist.
LEASETC has supported the development and strengthening of AHTJP department and provincial units, such as the establishment of national and provincial hotlines, child friendly interview rooms and better equipment for provincial stations. The creation of a standardised data base system has improved monitoring, action and the policy environment. There is a strong ownership of the LEASETC project by the Ministry of Interior and relevant law enforcement agencies at various levels. Joint workshops have led to a more robust cooperation between law enforcement and justice, social affairs, health and civil society bodies.
The project lists several trainings and workshops among law enforcers that enhanced their capacities in dealing with child exploitation cases. These included basic and advanced refresher training for local police as well as specialized courses, such as medical forensic examinations and evidence collection.
The LEASETC training manuals and police training handbooks have also been updated.
LEASETC has gained legitimacy, respect and the ability to influence high level government decisions and ground‐level police operations. The international advisor has effectively imparted knowledge and skills to the LEASETC team, who can now carry on important tasks independently or with very minimal supervision. Improvements in forensic examinations and evidence collection system have helped elevate the standards of Cambodian law enforcement practice. There is a growing appreciation of “equal” human rights of all children who come into contact with the law, as well as an increasing recognition of the interconnectedness of child protection issues by law enforcement officers, police trainers and MoI officials.
Participants to LEASETC trainings expressed appreciation that these were conducted by Khmer police trainers who have practical field experiences. The need to further improve on more child‐sensitive treatment (interviewing, imparting information, opinions solicitation) was raised by development partners. LEASETC continued to strengthen the AHTJP Department and Provincial Unit structures and advocated for stronger gender balance across the ranks. AHTJP units were organized in ten provinces and a number of female law enforcement officers have joined AHTJP units, most visibly in Kampong Chhnang. LEASETC has also supported the expansion of a database network and hotline operations to additional provinces. Seven provincial and a Phnom Penh municipal hotlines were set up from 2005 to 2008.
LEASETC has harmonized activities with broader developments ‐‐TIPSE and Domestic Violence laws, Criminal Procedure Code, Prakas on Cooperation and Coordination in the Child Justice Process, Provincial Committees on Trafficking, etc. LEASETC also works effectively with other ministries particularly MoJ, MoSVY and MoH.
Gaps and Lessons Learned
LEASETC remains an informal structure which has not been fully integrated into the Ministry of Interior, that lacks clear linkages to the Cambodian National Police Academy, as well as annual MoI budgetary allocations. Challenges to date include an informal structure, unclear mandate, activitybased planning, unarticulated terms of reference, limited capacity and experience, dual roles within the MoI, lack of a formal monitoring and evaluation system, time, resource and institutional constraints. There are indications that ‘extra judicial settlements’ and ‘victim offender reconciliations” remain as common practices.
Training and capacity building has to be systematized with better targeted participants and with consideration for their roles, responsibilities and learning needs. Reach to provincial and district levels have been minimal.
The hotline mandate and operational capacities should be reviewed particularly at the national level, and internal protocols developed to ensure that urgent phone calls are urgently handled. Database reporting mechanisms were not fully optimized, utilised or monitored and were inconsistently used.
For instance, some officers enter cases only if these were referred to court whereas others will enter data for arrest cases as well. Crime prevention should go beyond information dissemination. There is a general misunderstanding among law enforcement respondents on what “causes” (and hence prevents) crimes against children, as well as the linkages between trafficking, exploitation and broader child protection violation. The range of factors (poverty, family breakdown, substance abuse, etc) that render children vulnerable should be considered in prevention measures. A holistic strategy that also addresses the demand side including intermediaries such as labour recruitment, accreditation and licensing agencies, is absent.
Practices in forensics should be improved to ensure the effective and efficient functioning of the system that has already been introduced and the compliance with standard protocols. Uneven levels of cooperation and partnerships between AHTJP, other government entities and NGOs should be addressed. The donor/IGO/NGO resources are fragmented across numerous ministries (and departments within ministries) with different aid modalities and requirements hamper coordination and collaboration.
Withdrawal of financial and technical support from donors at this point in time is untenable. However, it is critical that MoI carve out more significant budgetary allocations for LEASETC in the next phase. A progressive cost sharing model can be developed leading to a point wherein MoI can assume full responsibility and accountability for the project.
Cambodia’s recent history in child trafficking and protection signals significant levels of aid fragmentation, ever‐shifting changes and rapid turnovers in policy and programmes. The time is ripe for the Royal Government of Cambodia to assume leadership, ownership and oversight in a sectorwide response to justice and child protection issues.
1. Vision Setting
Through a participatory process, MoI and stakeholders (both rights holders and duty bearers), collectively define the long term vision for promoting justice and realising children’s rights to protection in Cambodia. The Vision Statement, spanning through ten years, will not be limited by the mandates and/or priorities of the government and development organizations. It will visualise a justice system model that integrates children’s issues and a comprehensive sector‐wide approach to child protection, including the strengthening of national child protection system that will address concerns beyond law enforcement. It will take into account the roles of different players (government, donors, NGO partners) but most of all ensure that the voices and concerns of the child victims and their families are heard and mirrored in policy and practice.
2. Developing a Common Understanding
Stakeholders support a shared sector wide policy and strategy, including:
• Medium term budget in support of the sector‐wide strategic framework;
• Government leadership in a sustained partnership including policy directions, technicalsupport and aid coordination;
• Shared processes and approaches for the implementation and management of the sector‐wide strategy and plan of action
3. LEASETC Paradigm Shift
An "evolving” LEASETC serves as a coordination mechanism to facilitate the sector wide approach to justice. This will require a formalised structure, a Strategic Plan formulated in a participatory process, engagements with the broader development community, and a transition strategy including a “weaning process” from its traditional donors.
4. From LEASETC to LEAP
• The new program will be called Law Enforcement Advancing Protections (LEAP) for Crime Victims;
• Retain current principal LEASETC team members during the transitional period;
• Where applicable, the new LEAP unit should build on existing mechanisms such as the hotlines, data bases, medical forensic evidence forms, AJHTP indicators, etc;
• Recruit an international consultant for one year to develop MoI capacities to manage, monitor and review LEAP activities;
• MoI, MoJ, MoSALVY to develop a common strategic plan for training and capacity building with well defined content, audience and methodology;
•Develop and implement a standardised law enforcement training curriculum on basic criminal skills and specialised skills related to crime against children;
• Institutionalise a monitoring and evaluation system that will ensure the relevance and quality delivery of program activities, better targeting of participants and avoid duplication;
• Improve coordination among partners through effective coordination mechanisms such as regular meetings, consultation of training needs assessments, peer reviews of training curriculum, databank of training materials, shared annual training plan.
• Standardize intake criteria and process for program personnel, as well as promotion practices particularly of AHTJP;
• Reinforce the capacity of AHTJP police to collect forensic evidence;
• Explore the need to create a unit that will support other judicial services in criminal investigation.
LEAP will facilitate the coordination and management of capacity development in addressing child protection issues. It is designed as a program fully‐owned by MoI supported by international and national organizations. Such external support will be principally in terms of equipment, financial support and technical advice.
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