Respect Human Rights to achieve Sustainable Developmentby Shruthi Venkatesh November 14 2018, 11:39 am Estimated Reading Time: 2 mins, 31 secs
An UN human rights expert urged the Cambodian Government to work more closely with civil society groups, and said the best way for the country to achieve a durable peace and sustainable development was to put human rights at the forefront of policymaking.
“Good governance requires strong and open institutions that function according to human rights principles,” said Rhona Smith, the Special Rapporteur on the situation of human rights in Cambodia at the end of an 11-day visit to the country. “That means access to information, transparency, public participation in decision-making, the accountability of office-bearers and civil servants and access to justice, supported by a free press and a vibrant, free and innovative civil society.”
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Smith noted the relevance of SDG16, that the UN Sustainable Development Goal focused on inclusive institutions, transparency and access to justice, explaining that it “provides a vehicle” to weave human rights into the country’s development strategy framework.
Smith stressed the need for greater public participation in legal and policy decisions after a widely-criticized general election in July, where many press reports said, that the election was flawed by the banning of opposition, allegations of corruption and illegitimacy. She further appreciates government’s recent efforts to develop mechanisms to enhance public participation in law and policy decisions. She also welcomed that the Minister of Interior repealed the October 2017 instruction which had greatly restricted civil society organisations from conducting their activities, and urged the Government to “ensure the proper implementation of this new instruction at all levels”. She further stated that civil society organisations still faced considerable burdens in complying with Cambodia’s restrictive laws.
Smith noted that steps by the Ministry of Economy and Finance to introduce performance budgeting were encouraging but stressed more efforts were needed, particularly in the judicial sector. “I call on the Ministry of Justice and judicial institutions to be more transparent in relation to their operations, to take more steps to combat corruption and to strengthen judicial independence and impartiality.”
During her visit, she also visited Kampong Chhnang province where people living in floating villages are being relocated to permanent land sites. The special rapporteur still urged the Government to improve the ways in which it addresses the complex issues of land rights, through more transparency, fairness and by ensuring a holistic approach. Only then, no one will be left behind.
Smith concluded with a reminder that respecting human rights plays a vital role in achieving sustainable development. “If Cambodia is to continue on its path of sustainable economic growth, it needs Government that reflects the will of the people, institutions that respond to people’s rights, and people with the necessary skills, voice and access to services to participate actively in development and society,” she said. “The Constitution, human rights standards and SDGs provide the means to do so.”