2020 Civil Society Organisation Sustainability Index
The overall sustainability of the CSO sector in Cambodia slightly deteriorated in 2020, with slight declines in four of the seven dimensions—organizational capacity, financial viability, advocacy, and public image— and a moderate decline in the legal environment. CSOs working on human rights and democracy issues continued to confront significant challenges in the operation and implementation of their programs. Service provision and the infrastructure supporting the sector remained unchanged.
According to the CIVICUS Monitor’s 2020 report, Cambodia’s legal framework continues to be misused to repress civil movements and liberties. Harassment also continued in 2020, targeting media outlets, trade union leaders, and human rights and environmental activists. According to police spokespeople, more than forty people were arrested for spreading pandemic-related “fake news,” and two journalists were sentenced for incitement after reporting on government comments regarding COVID-19 and criticizing the government’s response.
The majority of CSOs focused on service delivery in 2020, while a small number of them worked on human rights, democracy, and the environment. Donors continued to support CSOs working in the health, education, social protection, gender, human rights, democracy, environment, and knowledge sectors. CSOs receiving foreign support—which typically operate at the national level or are international NGOs (INGOs)—generally had sufficient human resources and financial management capacity. There continues to be very limited information on sub-national CSOs.
According to the latest estimates, released in April 2019 by the Phnom Penh governor, approximately 5,523 local NGOs were registered with the Ministry of Interior (MoI), while 419 foreign NGOs had signed memorandums of understanding with the Ministry of Foreign Affairs and International Cooperation (MoFA). According to Cambodia’s Official Development Assistance (ODA) database, only 260 foreign NGOs and 146 local NGOs remain active in Cambodia. However, this estimate is based solely on ODA projects, and accurate information regarding the full NGO landscape in Cambodia remains limited. In October 2020, a proposed NGO census to be carried out by the MoI was cancelled after human rights and advocacy organizations raised concerns that the government would use the information to target staff and activists.
United States Agency for International Development
Bureau for Democracy, Conflict and Humanitarian Assistance
Center of Excellence on Democracy, Human Rights and Governance