Strategy

Switzerland works to help build inclusive societies in the Mekong region, particularly in Cambodia and Lao People's Democratic Republic (Lao PDR), by promoting equitable and sustainable development and democratic governance. To help support the rural populations, Switzerland carries out activities in local governance and citizen participation, agriculture and food security as well as vocational skills development and employment.

Despite average annual economic growth of 7% since the early 2000s, which has enabled Cambodia and Laos to achieve progress in reducing poverty, inequality is rising and is particularly affecting rural populations who continue to depend on agricultural production for their livelihoods. The COVID-19 pandemic has caused a major socio-economic crisis that is compounding existing challenges and pushing growing numbers of people below the poverty line. The most vulnerable groups, such as women, ethnic minorities and people living in remote areas, are the worst affected by an economic model built on the unsustainable exploitation of natural resources (large-scale agribusiness, hydroelectric mega projects). Cambodia and Lao PDR, still the poorest countries in South East Asia, are striving to meet significant challenges by driving social and environmental development, diversifying the economy and strengthening inclusive growth. Although the agreement setting up the Association of Southeast Asian Nations (ASEAN) economic community entered into force in 2015, the disparities between the development levels of the poorest and more advanced countries in this region remain considerable and need to be reduced before ASEAN can emerge as a unified economic zone.

Switzerland has good, long-standing relations with countries in the Mekong region. In line with its 2018–21 regional cooperation strategy, Switzerland continues to work in Cambodia and Lao PDR while at the same time adopting a collaborative regional approach to address common development challenges with the support of specialised agencies active in the region. In 2016, Switzerland was given the status of ASEAN Sectoral Dialogue Partner, which enables it to work more closely with this major organisation in South East Asia.

Switzerland promotes gender equality, the inclusion of marginalised groups and non-discrimination in its programmes. It also includes climate change adaptation, disaster mitigation and risk reduction. A conflict-sensitive approach is essential, particularly in a post-conflict context such as Cambodia. 

According to an external evaluation  of the current programme for the period 2018–21, the results achieved so far are excellent: the most important development projects have for the most part met their targets and are able to deliver real improvements to people' lives and livelihoods.  The evaluation confirms that governments, civil society and other development partners highly value the SDC as a development partner. Strengths mentioned in the evaluation include the professionalism and technical expertise of the SDC and its partners, Switzerland's political impartiality and role as an honest broker, its flexibility and adaptability, and its ability to engage at regional, national and sub-national levels through long-term commitments. 

The cooperation programme for the Mekong region for the period 2018–21 will be followed by a cooperation programme for 2022–25 focusing on the following priority areas: a) inclusive economic growth, b) sustainable management of natural resources, climate change adaptation and disaster risk reduction, and c) good governance and the rule of law.

SDC Programming in Cambodia

Rice farmers in Kandal province, Cambodia
Rice farmers in Kandal province, Cambodia ©Nathan Horton

About SDC in Cambodia

SDC has supported development projects in the region since 1968. The cooperation office in Phnom Penh in Cambodia opened in 2013, where Switzerland also provides support to the Kantha Bopha hospitals of the Swiss doctor, Beat Richner. The cooperation office also provides consular services to Swiss citizens.

The Lao PDR country office in Vientiane, serves as the SDC coordination office for programming in Lao PDR, as well as regional projects that include Cambodia, Myanmar and Vietnam.

SDC Programming

Switzerland’s overall goal is to contribute to building inclusive societies through equitable and sustainable development and democratic governance. To this end, Switzerland supports Cambodia to strengthen a peaceful society with reduced poverty and sustainable and inclusive growth.

2018-07-Cambodia Country Factsheet (PDF, 920.0 kB)

2018-Cambodia Maps of SDC projects (PDF, 1.1 MB)

Governance and Citizen Participation

Business development meeting where farmers, traders and local authorities discuss the next steps of their business plans in Strung Treng province, Cambodia
Business development meeting where farmers, traders and local authorities discuss the next steps of their business plans in Strung Treng province, Cambodia ©Lars Büchler/SDC

In support of key governance reforms, Switzerland builds the capacities of duty bearers at national and sub-national levels to ensure quality public services that are accessible and affordable to vulnerable children, women and men. Through various platforms, including the Parliamentary Institute of Cambodia, Switzerland contributes to strengthening democratic accountability. In view of the country’s difficult past, it strengthens dialogue platforms for promoting dealing with the past and reconciliation.

Domain Project Factsheets:
2018-03-Support to the Parliment in Cambodia Phase 2 (PDF, 1.0 MB)

2018-04-Support for Regional Economic Development in Cambodia (PDF, 482.8 kB)

2019-05-Support for Sub-National Democratic Development In Cambodia Phase 2 (PDF, 763.0 kB)

Agriculture and Food Security

Horticulture farmer in Preah Vihear province, Cambodia
Horticulture farmer in Preah Vihear province, Cambodia ©SDC/Sareth Chea

In order to improve rural livelihoods, Switzerland contributes to revitalising the agriculture sector and advancing food security in line with national priorities. It promotes diversified crop production and facilitate value chains and market linkages. Furthermore, Switzerland  strengthens sustainable and equitable access to and control over community land and production means. Switzerland also continues to support mine clearance.

Domain Project Factsheets:
2018-01-Partnership for Forestry and Fishery Phase 2 (PDF, 1.2 MB)

2018-01-Cambodian Horticulture Project Advancing Income and Nutrion Phase 2 (PDF, 1.6 MB)

2018-12-The Center for People and Forests (PDF, 1.1 MB)

2020-01-Mine Clearance in Cambodia (PDF, 1.1 MB)

Skills Development and Employment

Motorbike repair training in Preah Vihear province, Cambodia
Motorbike repair training in Preah Vihear province, Cambodia ©Giuseppe Salerno

Switzerland’s work ensures that TVET curricula meet domestic and regional market demands; it puts a specific emphasis on improving the reputation of TVET in the population. It promotes and facilitates equitable access to quality skills development programmes and youth employment, including affirmative action for disadvantaged groups such as school-dropouts. Consistent with the national TVET policy, Switzerland supports improved governance and operation of TVET systems, including broad ownership by government and private sector stakeholders.

Domain Project Factsheets:
2018-03-Support for Skill Develepment in Cambodia (PDF, 618.5 kB)

2018-03-UN Joint Programme on Youth Employment (PDF, 467.8 kB)

2018-03-Poverty Reduction through Safe Migration, Skill Development and Enhanced Job Placement in Cambodia, Lao PDR, Myanmar and Thailand. (PDF, 495.6 kB)

Support to Maternal and Child Health

The Kantha Bopha pediatric hospitals were established in 1992 on the initiative of the Swiss medical doctor, Beat Richner. They make a major contribution to the improvement of the health of children and to public health generally in Cambodia. SDC began supporting five Kantha Bopha hospitals in 1994. Since then, the Kantha Bopha hospitals have treated more than one million children requiring hospitalization and more than 10 million children as outpatients.

SDC’s contribution to the Kantha Bopha hospitals is one of the largest financial contributions of SDC worldwide to a bilateral project, totalling almost CHF 40 million since 1994. In the context of health financing, SDC engages technically and in policy dialogue to ensure (financial) sustainability of the Kantha Bopha hospitals.

2019-03-Support to Kantha Bopha Hospitals in Cambodia (PDF, 532.2 kB)

Resources Allocation

Fish market in Kratie, Cambodia
Fish market in Kratie, Cambodia ©Nathan Horton

SDC Actual disbursements in Cambodia

2013-2017:     CHF 58.77 million

Projected disbursements in Cambodia

2018-2021: CHF 50 million

Planned allocations by country (in million CHF)

 

2018

2019

2020

2021

Total

% Total

Mekong Region

8

8

8

8

32

22%

Cambodia

12.5

12.5

12.5

12.5

50

34%

Lao PDR

16

16

16

16

64

44%

Total

36.5

36.5

36.5

36.5

146

100%

 

Planned allocations by thematic domain (in million CHF)

Domains

2018

2019

2020

2021

Total

% Total

Governance, citizen participation and health

14

14

14

14

56

38%

Agriculture and food security

12.5

12.5

12.5

12.5

50

34%

Skills development and employment

10

10

10

10

40

27%

Total

36.5

36.5

36.5

36.5

146

100%