UNICEF launches situation analysis of child rights in Cambodia
Phnom Penh, 30 March: An analysis on the situation of Cambodian children and their rights was disseminated today at an event hosted by UNICEF in Phnom Penh. Representatives from government, civil society, development partners, and private sector attended the event to hear the results of the analysis, which highlighted areas of progress across Cambodia in the past decades towards fully realising children’s rights as well as the ongoing challenges and areas for improvement. A highlight of the event was also the panel discussion where four young people were given the opportunity to share their thoughts on the issues they face in Cambodia today.
Guided by the UN Convention on the Rights of the Child (UNCRC), key human rights principles and the sustainable development goals (SDGs), the independent analysis assessed key areas such as: the right to a healthy environment; to participate in decision-making; to health and nutrition; to water, sanitation and hygiene; to education; to protection from harm and to an adequate standard of living and social protection.
It acknowledged that while the Royal Government of Cambodia (RGC) has made key advancements in its efforts to improve children’s lives in Cambodia in the past decade, noting that the country is ahead of its target for 30 per cent of the SDGs, almost 18 per cent of Cambodians still live below the poverty line, and almost half of Cambodia’s population aged 0-17 years falls within the definition of multidimensionally poor.
“Over the last decade, Cambodia has led important progress in the lives of their children,” said Will Parks, UNICEF Representative to Cambodia. “I want to congratulate Cambodia, yet we must also recognise the continued challenges that threaten to slow progress towards fully realising children’s rights. These challenges we must face head-on until each and every child has all their rights respected and fulfilled. Looking at the major progress achieved, Cambodia has proven it is possible to envision a future where all children have access to the healthcare, nutrition, protection and education they need, deserve and are entitled to. UNICEF will work hand-in-hand with the Royal Government of Cambodia to make this vision a reality.”
The analysis also built on the findings from the UN Child Rights Committee’s June 2022 assessment of Cambodia’s progress in implementing the UNCRC, which concluded that while various legislative, institutional and policy measures are in place to enshrine the right’s of the child in law, there are still major gaps that need filling, and implementation and enforcement mechanisms need to be strengthened.
Some highlights of the findings include:
- Children’s enrolment rates in schools increased at all levels in 2021: reaching more than 60 per cent for early childhood education, 92 per cent for primary, and 47 per cent for lower secondary schools. However, school completion rates are still very low: 81 per cent, 49 per cent and 26 per cent for primary, lower secondary and upper secondary education, respectively;
- In the past three years, around 7 per cent more people gained access to clean water, sanitation, and hygiene services. In 2023, however, 22 per cent of the population still has no access to adequate water services and 24 per cent has no access to adequate sanitation services;
- Cambodia has invested heavily in social protection since the COVID-19 pandemic. In 2019, around 280,000 children were reached through child-focused cash transfer programmes, and in 2022 this figure grew to almost 700,000. Over 240,000 children were reached through the home-grown school feeding programme;
- A new draft law on child protection is at the final stages of consideration. Thousands of children remain at risk and violence is still a major challenge, with more than 3 million children aged 1-14 years experiencing violent physical or psychological discipline at home.
The analysis drew on government data, secondary sources, semi-structured interviews, focus group discussions and consultations with young people in Cambodia. The consultations were an important part of the data-gathering process and were an opportunity to ask young people themselves about the range of challenges that impact their health, education and well-being, what solutions they propose and how young Cambodians can be empowered to participate in conversations that impact their future. Almost 1,500 young people were reached through three in-person discussions in three provinces as well as a cross-country U-Report poll.
Four of these young participants were invited to the workshop to participate in a panel discussion to reflect on the consultation process and continue the conversation of children’s rights in Cambodia.
“We really appreciate UNICEF for giving us the opportunity to contribute to the analysis as it is about us, our concerns and rights,” said Sor Sophorn Chakriya, who was part of an adolescent and youth reference group in Phnom Penh. “The consultation allowed us to make our voices heard on issues affecting children and adolescents, including barriers to education, violence against children, online abuse and child marriage,” she added. Kay Sokhay, another youth representative from the Kuy ethnic minority in Ratanakiri province, said, “children want to see more child-friendly policies, support for education, more protection from violence and abuse, trainings for their parents and teachers to practise positive discipline, and more chances to participate in social activities.”
The findings from the analysis will also shape UNICEF Cambodia’s country programme and the broader UN Cooperation Framework for the next five years (2024-2028) and help to further align UNICEF’s strategic approach with the RGC’s vision for the country to reach upper-middle income status by 2030 and high income status by 2050. The event underscored the need for major transformational shifts in areas such as learning, social protection, primary health care and universal health coverage, as well as to strengthen engagement with partners including civil society organisations, private sector, marginalised communities, and young people in order to make progress towards SDG targets in the upcoming years.
More information about the analysis on the situation of Cambodian children can be downloaded here.
UNICEF promotes the rights and wellbeing of every child, in everything we do. Together with our partners, we work in 190 countries and territories to translate that commitment into practical action, focusing special effort on reaching the most vulnerable and excluded children, to the benefit of all children, everywhere.
For more information about UNICEF and its work for children, visit www.unicef.org.