USAID is reducing funding for anti-human trafficking NGOs in Cambodia over the next 20 months from $4.5 million to $2 million, the US Embassy said.
Embassy spokesman Jeff Daigle wrote in an e-mail that USAID will now focus less directly on combating human trafficking and more on governance issues, anti-corruption, and strengthening the rule of law.
He said the decision was made in Washington, and was related to “budget constraints.”
“The root causes of [human trafficking] are poverty and poverty is linked directly to poor governance,” Daigle wrote in a recent e-mail.
“USAID programs focusing on anti-corruption and more engagement with the judiciary will address these governance problems, and thus, to some extent, trafficking issues,” he said.
Daigle said the funding cut does not indicate that USAID is unhappy with the way its funds have been used.
USAID has no plans to directly fund the Cambodian government to combat trafficking, he added.
USAID referred questions to the US Embassy.
The NGOs who had been set to receive the USAID funding between January 2007 and October 2008 include World Vision Cambodia, Catholic Relief Services, International Justice Mission, Hagar and World Hope.
The Asia Foundation, the organization responsible for distributing the funds, has been tasked with informing the other NGOs that their funding will be reduced or eliminated completely, said Roderick Brazier, Asia Foundation country representative.
An official at IJM said it would no longer be receiving any USAID funds, but still has private donors to fund its work.
“The Asia Foundation funding was great, but it was not needed,” the official said. He declined to reveal how much funding the NGO has previously received from USAID.
Gorzalo Solares, acting country representative for Catholic Relief Services, said his NGO’s proposed anti-trafficking program will now not be going ahead because of the USAID funding cut.
Talmage Payne, CEO of Hagar, said his NGO had been expecting $240,000 from USAID, but pulled out of the Asia Foundation program after hearing funds could be cut.
Payne said it seemed strange that USAID was cutting funds for NGOs, particularly as the US State Department has made such a big issue of human trafficking in Cambodia in recent years.
(Additional reporting by Prak Chan Thul.)