The people of Cambodia face intense pressure as restrictions on freedom of expression, independent media and political opposition have limited the space for civic and political engagement. IFES is partnering with civil society organizations (CSOs) and organizations of persons with disabilities (OPDs) through regional programming to support the right to inclusive civic and political participation for marginalized communities. Since 1998, IFES has supported Cambodian institutions and CSOs to participate in civic space and strengthen electoral frameworks and processes. Currently, IFES is supporting OPDs in Cambodia through its regional General Election Network for Disability Access (AGENDA) programming, working with CSOs focused on anti-corruption under IFES’ Anti-Corruption Coalition for Transparency (ACT) program and empowering civil society to counter disinformation and hate speech through its Strengthening Resilient and Inclusive Digital Media Literacy in Southeast Asia program. These region-wide programs work to provide opportunities for cross-border networks and support systems as well as enable sharing of information and lessons learned for project implementation. IFES’ engagement with CSOs in Cambodia remains rooted in supporting the right to inclusive civic participation particularly for marginalized communities.
Before the July 2018 national parliamentary elections, IFES worked with Cambodia’s National Election Committee (NEC) to provide technical guidance and build the NEC’s capacity to manage the electoral process. IFES support to the NEC during this period included training on electronic data management and analysis to enhance the integrity of the voter list; building the NEC’s skills and capacity on data collection and monitoring and evaluation practices; improving the NEC’s capacity and knowledge of effective voter education strategies; and strengthening the electoral dispute resolution process in Cambodia, which observers had consistently highlighted as opaque and complicated. For local commune council elections in July 2017, IFES also worked in coordination with the NEC and the Cambodia Disabled People’s Organization (CDPO) to conduct Election Day monitoring of the accessibility of polling stations to voters with disabilities and develop recommendations to improve accessibility of the election process.
IFES support to the NEC was ended in November 2017; however, IFES continued to work with civil society partners in Cambodia to strengthen women’s leadership and promote the rights and inclusion of persons with disabilities. IFES worked with local partner Vicheasthan Bomreu Neak samrabsamroul Karngea akphiwat (VBNK) to develop and implement a tailored She Leads women’s leadership curriculum to enhance women’s leadership skills for conducting civic engagement activities in their communities on a diverse set of thematic topics. This included networking opportunities through social media and the development of a customized mobile app to reinforce program learning and promote sustainable impacts of the program. IFES also worked with the CDPO during this time to support development of a policy platform upholding the rights of persons with disabilities. CDPO developed this policy platform through a series of national and regional workshops that included nearly 200 representatives of CSOs and organizations of persons with disabilities, political party representatives and government officials. This process leveraged the Association of Southeast Asian Nations Enabling Masterplan 2025 on Mainstreaming the Rights of Persons with Disabilities to raise awareness of commitments to the rights of persons with disabilities and provide stakeholders with a valuable tool for advocacy with the Cambodian government on disability inclusion.