High-level Talks Between Denmark and Cambodia ‘Productive’

When the Danish delegation – led by the Foreign Ministry’s Head of Department for Asia, Ms. Susan Ulbæk – arrived in Cambodia’s capitol Phnom Penh last week, it was with a two-fold mission. On an upbeat note, Denmark wanted to discuss future Danish aid to Cambodia’s environmental development, and to encourage Cambodia’s progress over the recent years, where major steps have been taken to ensure ownership of the development processes. On the more solemn note, the Danish delegation expressed concerns that events currently unfolding in Cambodia “are a part of a broader trend towards limitation of Cambodian people’s rights through restrictions on freedom of expression, freedom of assembly, and hence loss of choice and pluralism,” as the post-meeting joint press-release summed it up. However, the Cambodian delegation assured their Danish guests that it is committed to human rights and democratisation.

Good Vibes and More Money
But in spite of the voiced Danish concerns of decreasing human rights in Cambodia, both delegations agreed that the meetings on January 11-12 were carried out in “a highly productive and open atmosphere.” Although being one of the world’s poorest countries, Cambodia has made remarkable progress towards achieving the so-called 2015 goals (the UN Millennium Goals). The number of extremely poor children is dropping, more kids are in school, and the population’s health state has generally improved. Denmark has supported Cambodia with financial aid since 1997, and these high-level talks in Phnom Penh came at a time where Denmark is putting together the final details for a new environmental aid programme for the period of 2006-10. This new financial commitment by Denmark will especially focus on good governance in Cambodia’s administration of the country’s natural resources as well as of the fight against poverty in the rural districts. In 2006 alone, Denmark is planning to spend approximately 12 million USD for the Natural Resource Management – while the Danish support for promotion of human rights and good governance will amount to 1,7 million USD in 2006.

In addition to meeting with the Cambodian government, Ms. Susan Ulbæk and the Danish delegation also met with representatives of the Cambodian civil society.

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