Government Seeks Greater Child Protection Measures

A lack of well-defined roles for authorities and nongovernmental groups involved in child protection is hampering responses to child abuse, exploitation and neglect, something the government hopes to rectify with a new sub-decree that strengthens existing laws.

The Ministry of Social Affairs is drafting a sub-decree that will set minimum standards and clearly outline the responsibilities of government departments, authorities and NGOs that protect children.

A lack of clear obligations has often led to poor law enforcement, Nhep Sopheap, secretary-general of the Cambodia National Council for Children, the government body tasked with protecting the rights of children, said at a presentation of the draft on Friday.

“We have seen there are gaps in the existing laws for protecting children,” Ms. Sopheap said after the meeting of government and NGO representatives. “This draft could provide more efficiency and make clearer responsibilities” for child welfare workers, she said.

The sub-decree aims to better define procedures to prevent the abuse of children and determine a code of ethics for those implementing them. It also outlines plans to establish a national committee to develop laws, monitor enforcement, initiate child protection training and awareness-raising programs, and investigate reported abuses or complaints.

Cambodia’s child protection system is largely underfunded and un­derstaffed, according to a country briefing published this year by Unicef.

Aimyleen Gabriel, a child protection technical adviser at World Vision, which is participating in the sub-decree drafting process, said the country’s current needs are be­yond the capabilities of government, NGOs and communities.

“Our assessment of the child pro­tection system shows that capacity and resources for implementing policies are weak at all levels,” she said Friday in an email.

“Specific child protection roles of each ministry and agency must be clearly demonstrated with re­sources and staffing being allocated,” she added.

The ministry seeks to com­plete the draft by the end of the year.

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