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Partnership Department

Cambodian NGOs first emerged in 1992 and their numbers grew rapidly after the 1993 national elections. With this emerging civil society scene still in its early phases, CIDSE began funding CNGOs in 1993 and formally established a partnership programme in 1994. From 1993 to 1997, CIDSE assisted 32–40 CNGOs with small amounts of funds. In 1997 there was a shift to concentrate on fewer (20) CNGOs, with a greater emphasis on building the institutional capacity of partner organisations. From 1997 to 2000, systems were developed for selecting partners and planning and monitoring their capacity development.

The two key recommendations of the Partnership Department’s (PD) external evaluation in 2000 were more emphasis on upgrading partners’ programmes and organisational management skills, and a more targeted approach for capacity-building interventions to meet the specific needs of different partners. These approaches showed that the PD’s commitment to its mission of improving the capacity of partner organisations both programmatically and organisationally, by providing a series of reflection workshops (values clarification and internalisation, development paradigms and good programme practices, fund-raising, advocacy and collaboration with commune councils); conducting monitoring visits and evaluations; and encouraging partner organisations to develop and apply their capacity-building and project implementation plans. In addition, several small partner organisations started to develop strategic planning and improve the roles and functioning of their boards.

Currently partnership programme supports and works with 18 partner organizations (six community based organizations, two agricultural cooperatives and 10 Cambodian Non-governmental organizations) in seven provinces of Battambang, Bantheay Meanchey, Porsat, Svay Rieng, Kandal, Ratanakiri and Preah Vihear. The key elements of the programme include food security, advocacy and commune council, gender mainstreaming, domestic violence prevention, and instittutional capacity building. In addition, the programme has continued to cooperate closely with the Integrated Community Development programme on the phasing out of CBOs and ACs in Kampot province.

Situational Analysis

The government of Cambodia has developed and has started to implement its Rectangular Strategy as an integrated structure of interlocking rectangles—good governance, capacity building and human resources development, promoting sustainable environmental management and use of natural resources, private sector development, enhancement of agriculture and further rehabilitation and construction of physical infrastructure. This strategy gives NGOs more space and the opportunity to play more critical roles in committing support and contributions to the development of the country.

With this opportunity and as a major NGO, DPA and the Partnership Department will continue their commitment to target beneficiaries. DPA and PD will seek appropriate ways to fulfil the mission for the period 2006–08.

The strategy development process in which CIDSE/DPA spent almost a year studying and reflecting on the real practices and the real situation of the country led the organisation to take two approaches to ensure programme quality and more response to the needs of target beneficiaries—community-organising and rights-based approaches.

However, Cambodian NGOs still face several challenges. The first is that they seem to have limited policies, manuals and procedures of the sort required by the Code of Ethical Principles and Minimum Standards for NGOs in Cambodia. The second is decentralisation and local governance.

The idea of a board is still new in Cambodia, and not many Cambodians have an understanding of what a board is meant to do. Its role is not only approving policies, but also advising. Sometimes boards have good skills, but they are too busy with their work and difficult to contact. Because NGO registration is under the control of the Ministry of the Interior, CNGOs need to have a board. Donors also demand boards.{mospagebreak}

Sustainability is still a crucial issue among Cambodian NGOs. Often they receive funds from just one donor. Also, they tend to depend on one person, a director. Staff capacity is also limited, especially in small and grass-roots NGOs. At present, there are 200 international NGOs registered with the Ministry of Foreign Affairs. There are 915 CNGOs registered with the Ministry of the Interior, but only about 350 CNGOs are still actively working in the country.

Decentralisation and people’s participation in commune administration are still relatively weak. The functioning of commune council planning and budget committees (PBC) are weak: only a little more than half of Cambodians are aware of the PBC members from their village, and a third of the councillors indicate that only a few of the PBC members perform their jobs well. In addition, commune councillors do not have face-to-face interaction with their constituents. Another issue is partisan politics: nearly a third of councillors (30 percent) believe that party orders come before public interest. People also see corruption, nepotism and partiality as important problems in commune councillors’ conflict mediation.

More critically, recently the Ministry of the Interior issued Guideline to Support Commune Councils No. 010, which contradicts the principle of decentralisation and affects the efforts and plans of NGOs to work in collaboration with councils. The guideline requires all missions of commune councils, both inside and outside the country, to obtain advance permission from the provincial governor.

In the past three years, CIDSE/DPA has supported the Good Governance Practice project of the Coordinating Committee for Cambodia (CCC) in developing the Code of Ethical Principles and Minimum Standards for NGOs in Cambodia. The draft code has been completed and has been sent to CNGOs, government officials, INGOs and donors for consultation.

The support provided by the PD consists of developing systematic strategic plans with the partners, along with an advocacy strategy, and coaching them on organisational and programme management that suits their plans and strategies. PD’s strategic planning (2003–05) provided guidance on enhancing partners’ capacities and fostering constructive relationships with stakeholders. Monitoring visits, coaching, assessments of partners’ capacity, a series of reflection workshops, the analysing of partners’ narrative reports and evaluation contributed to improved performance and achievements by partner organisations.
The PD considers that the empowerment of individuals can increase their commitment to action, build partner staff capacity and provide organisational guidance and strategic planning to improve programme practices. A series of reflection workshops with partner organisations, especially about values internalisation and fund-raising, increased the competence in institutional and programme management of most of them.

However, DPA partner organisations need ongoing and sustained support beyond funding to enable them to realise and apply organisational values, development approaches and improved programme practices. Even with frequent capacity building, there is a need for close and ongoing monitoring to ensure the application of what is learned. Practical tools such as capacity building plans and capacity assessment systems are the basis for monitoring progress and suggesting alternative actions.

DPA partner organisations need not only practical tools to improve their work, but also a focus on networking, cooperation and collaboration with stakeholders to achieve their missions and improve the living standards of the poor and marginalised.

The PD continues to address the funding situation of each partner, encouraging them to access other funding sources in order to free them from dependency on a single donor, to use funds transparently and to ensure that community revolving funds are placed in and managed by the community.

Community-based organisations formed in DPA’s target areas are presently too young to take over full responsibility for programme management. Their capacity and institutional development are still limited and need support from larger organisations or funding agencies for capacity building. Similarly, other small CNGOs have emerged at the grass roots and are seeking capacity-building support from funding agencies.

The prospective for the PD in 2006–08 is to work with and through partner CNGOs and CBOs to strengthen their capacity to contribute to development in the target areas. The PD will also facilitate partner CNGOs and CBOs adopting CO and RB approaches.

As well, the selection of new partners will provide options for expanding PD’s work by focusing on small and medium-sized CNGOs that funding agencies can not reach and which are not able to access funding agencies, especially funding agencies abroad.

The PD will continue to collaborate closely with the Integrated Community Development Department in developing transitional phases for one commune of the Ratanakkiri programme to form a CBO, and with the Development Education and Advocacy Unit to respond more effectively to issues affecting the lives of villagers in the target communities of CNGO partners.