Meeting Stresses Local Gov’t

Prince Norodom Ranariddh appealed Tuesday to Cambodia’s newly elected commune councils to ignore partisan concerns and work together for local development.

“I hope decentralization and good governance will be supported by the government, civil society and the international community,” the prince said, speaking at the opening of a two-day national symposium on decentralization and de­velopment at the Ministry of Interior.

The symposium includes top government officials, the UN and other international agencies, political parties and NGOs. Lectures and workshops will address the progress of decentralization—the delegation of power and responsibility to local governments—since Cambodia’s first-ever nationwide commune council elections Feb 3.

Co-Minister of Interior Sar Kheng said the effort to bring local government to Cambodia needs more support.

“We don’t have sufficient hu­man resources to implement decentralization,” he said. “I hope this workshop will discuss how we can manage it.”

In a statement, the Sam Rainsy Party complained that its council members have been hampered by a lack of cooperation.

In many communes, the ruling CPP has claimed the old commune office as its property, forcing the new councils to meet in pagodas or private homes, the statement said. And in some councils, CPP commune chiefs have told opposition council members that they have to buy their own chairs.

Before the Feb 3 elections, commune governments were appointed and had few powers of their own. The new system of elected commune councils “has already heralded a new area in local democracy and local governance process in the country,” Dom­inique McAdams, UN Devel­opment Program country representative, told the symposium.

“With the experiences and learning, the communes will increasingly begin to control and steer development initiatives at the local level,” McAdams said. “The process may take time and undergo some hiccups, yet it has started an irreversible dynamic process that is fundamentally different from the centrally oriented and rigidly hierarchic way of doing things” that prevailed before.


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