The UN in Cambodia


The United Nations (UN) in Cambodia works for peace, poverty eradication and human rights in the country. The UN is committed to enhancing development effectiveness in support of the priorities, plans and programs of the Royal Government of Cambodia (RGC), civil society and other relevant partners.


History of the UN engagement

The United Nations has a long history of promoting peace and advancing human development in Cambodia. The nature of UN operations has evolved over time in response to the changing needs of the country. From technical cooperation during the earliest days of Cambodia’s independence; to border relief operations, repatriation of refugees, peacekeeping and elections after the 30-year civil war; through to post-conflict reconstruction and nation building; right up to the present-day commitment to achieve the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs).


1950s - Early engagement of the UN in Cambodia


Cambodia became a Member State of the United Nations in 1955. Prior to that in 1951, Cambodia became a member of UNESCO and immediately established its own National Commission. In 1952, UN Assistance to the country began with UNICEF, followed by WHO and UNDP’s predecessor, the Expanded Programme for Technical Assistance which became UNDP in 1965. 


1970s – Suspended operation


As the political situation deteriorated, UN operations suspended during Khmer Rouge Period (1975-1979).


1980s - Emergency humanitarian relief


The United Nations Border Relief Operation (UNBRO) came into existence on January 1, 1982 to provide and coordinate humanitarian assistance to Cambodian displaced persons along the Thai-Cambodian border.


The early 1990’s - Peace-keeping & elections


In January 1990, the five permanent members of the Security Council called for a major United Nations role in bringing peace to Cambodia and announced agreement on the main elements of a political settlement to end the conflict in the country.(1975-1979).


In 1991, the Cambodian parties decided to implement an unlimited ceasefire and to stop receiving military assistance. They signed in Paris the Agreements on the Comprehensive Political Settlement of the Cambodia Conflict -- a peace treaty to end the instability and prepare the country for elections. The United Nations Transitional Authority in Cambodia (March 1992-Sept 1993) was established to ensure implementation of the Agreements.


UNTAC’s mandate ended in September 1993 with the promulgation of the Constitution for the Kingdom of Cambodia and the inauguration of the new, democratically elected, Royal Government of Cambodia.


2000s - Post-conflict and institutional reconstruction


Entering the 21 century, UN efforts moved towards post-conflict reconstruction, national capacity building and strengthening democracy.


Following the UN Secretary-General's reform proposal of July 1997, the first UNDAF, a strategic planning and collaborative programming framework, was signed in 2001. The UNDAF identifies priorities for United Nations action in Cambodia based on the findings of the Common Country Assessment1 (CCA) and on the mandates, experience and comparative advantages of the UN system in Cambodia.


Following the adoption of the Millennium Development Goals (MDGs) at the UN Millennium Submit in 2000, the Royal Government of Cambodia localized the goals by organizing planning exercises in 2002 and 2003 with relevant government institutions and partners to adapt the global MDGs to the context of Cambodia and added its ninth Goal on mine action. Since then, the UN had invested remarkable efforts and contribution towards implementation of the Cambodia Millennium Development Goals (CMDGs). Through combined efforts and partnership, considerable progress was achieved in reaching CMDGs. Five goals have been achieved ahead of schedule, which include Goal 1 of eradicating extreme poverty, Goal 4 of reducing child mortality rate, Goal 5 of improving maternal health, Goal 6 of combating HIV/AIDS, malaria and other communicable diseases, and Goal 8 of forging a global partnership for development. Nevertheless, additional efforts are required to achieve other goals.


Cambodia has embraced the new 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development. Eradicating poverty in all its forms and dimensions is at the core of the new 2030 Agenda, adopted in September 2015 by 193 world leaders at the UN Sustainable Development Summit in New York. The New Agenda consisting of 17 goals and 169 target came into effect on 1 January 2016. The UN in Cambodia continues to support the Royal Government in translating the commitment to the Sustainable Development Goals into local implementation, as the country is expected to localize the 17 Goals, with the addition of mine action, within the context of the national vision, strategies and plans for sustainable development. To this end, the 2030 Sustainable Development Declaration envisages an inclusive process with consultations with all stakeholders including communities and civil society groups, as well as development partners and the private sector.