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LESSONS:

Cambodia: Commune Council Development Project

sector: Public Sector Management | country: Cambodia

Country context is important in project design and implementation. The Commune Council Development Project has shown that a successful program has to recognize the social, political, administrative, and historical context of the country. In this case, Cambodia was just beginning its post-conflict stage, challenged by various problems such as lack of basic physical resources at the commune level and absence of administrative capacities of elected council officials. The design and implementation of the project took into consideration these local contexts.

Consultation and dialogue with stakeholders is important where partnerships are expected to deepen the process of decentralization and democratization. The project was among the first ADB-funded projects that supported the construction of commune offices. ADB did not normally fund such activities but in this case supported it based on consultation with the concerned officials. A similar observation can be made for ADB’s support for civil registration. A variety of partnerships have been initiated under the project: (a) between and among the national government offices (Ministry of Interior- Department of Local Administration and Ministry of Land Management, Urban Planning, and Construction) with the project technical cell playing a key role; (b) between the national government (specifically the Ministry of Interior) and the subnational levels, such as the provinces, districts, and communes, with the national government providing the decentralization and deconcentration framework and the communes operationalizing and localizing these, taking into consideration the specific context of the commune; (c) emerging partnerships between the government and nongovernment organizations and civil society organizations, specifically in information and public awareness, including the civil registration with the use of mobile teams by the Ministry of Interior; and (d) between the government and development partners.

Decentralization is a continuing process that can provide the enabling framework of the democracy. The project experience has shown that decentralization can usefully begin with developing basic capacities (human and physical). Capacity development is, however, a continuous process.

Tapping the experience of other organizations and the private sector maximizes the process of citizen engagement. Teachers, community-based volunteers, monks, and even hospitals were tapped to influence more people to register. Also, the use of a private bank for disbursement for the construction of council offices proved efficient.

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