Since international NGO ActionAid started operations in Cambodia in 1999, it has worked to further human rights and defeat poverty. Photograph by Mengkheang Tan.

When ActionAid International’s Cambodia (AAIC’s) programme started in 1999, its focus was to identify groups from various provinces across the country, strengthen their capacity and link them with networks and movements within the Kingdom and the Southeast Asia region.

In July 2004, AAIC’s country office opened and, since then, has evolved into a strategic long-term partnership with different people’s groups and NGOs across the country.

Today, the organisation works with 12 local agencies.

Its Cambodia country programme is strategic in its geographical coverage, taking in difficult terrains and the most poor and excluded communities.

AICC is working with Ratanakkiri to secure land rights to indigenous communities, Battambang and Pursat, where the work focuses on securing fishery and rights to poor fisher communities.

In Banteay Meanchey province, the programme focuses on asserting basic rights and ensuring human security to marginalised communities living on the Thai border, and in realising a life with dignity for the positive people, particularly children and women.

In Siem Riep, it is engaged in effective resettlement of itinerant communities living in former Khmer Rouge heartlands.

And, in addition, the urban programme in Phnom Penh focuses on housing rights, such as protection and security against eviction, and livelihood rights, rights over basic amenities, good governance and healthy environment management.

The urban programme also focuses on providing security through state accountability to female victims of domestic violence, desertion and widows, street and working children, positive people and the uncared-for elderly.

AAIC’s approach includes:

Actions by poor and excluded: AAIC involves poor people in the core of its work. It works “with” the poor rather than “for” the poor. People-centred advocacy work that provides space for people to voice their frustrations and hopes forms part of its central work. It is in promoting and encouraging actions by the people that the organisation sees its rights-based approach coming to realisation.

Partnerships and alliances: AAIC is one of the players in the fight against poverty and injustice. It recognises the strength of organisations and networks – operating at all levels – with similar visions and approaches in creating synergy towards making a lasting impact.

Long-term commitment: AAIC designs its work for the long term, beyond project-mode. It works with and strengthens partner organisations, while programmes address the root causes of people’s poverty.

Working with the government: AAIC believes that by working with the government, it can ensure the sustainability of its programmes and bridge the gap between local authorities and communities.

Critical analysis and awareness: AAIC encourages communities to critically analyse the root causes of their problems and to increase their awareness of issues relevant to their lives. It is in strengthening and harnessing the critical agency of the people persistently and consistently that the organisation sees the possibility of addressing root causes beyond the symptoms of poverty and injustice.

Creating knowledge and evidence through research: AAIC supports new initiatives, pilot projects and action research in an effort to document lessons learned, creating knowledge-based advocacy and policy influencing initiatives.

Organising and mobilising: AAIC uses various methods and tools in organising and mobilising communities that lead to them standing up for their own rights and to claiming their rights.

Some of the main areas it works in include disasters and emergencies, with Cambodia considered one of the world’s most vulnerable countries when it comes to natural disaster – floods and droughts have affected thousands of Cambodians in the last few years.

Food rights is another area. By 2018, smallholder farmers, artisan fisherfolk, women and children in the 75 communities where it works will have improved food security and control over their livelihoods. Within the same timescale, it has set a target that 90 percent of children aged six to 15 in the communities it works will equally enjoy their right to quality public education.

Also by 2018, 8,000 women in urban areas and 70 percent of women in rural communities where it works will be empowered to challenge gender-based violence and gender inequality in all aspects of their lives.

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