Venerable Representative of the Methodist Church
Ladies and Gentlemen
I am extremely pleased to attend the Official Opening of the COSI (Community Outreach Services Immanuel) Children’s Village at Boeng Anchanh Village, Tuol Prich Commune, Angsnoul District, Kandal Province. On behalf of the Royal Government of Cambodia (RGC), let me begin by thanking the Methodist Church in Singapore and the Methodist Center in Cambodia for their commitment and efforts to establish this COSI Immanuel Children Village to provide good care of Cambodian orphans and abandoned children in particular, and to improve the status of the children in the world, in general.
Decades of wars and internal strife had been devastating, leaving behind innumerable legacy. About 36% of Cambodian population lives below poverty lines. A relatively large proportion of the population is female-headed household and their experience of poverty has had consequences such as intergenerational transfer of poverty to children, especially girls. Some children have become street children living in Phnom Penh and other urban areas, due to breaking relationships in the families and poverty. The Royal Government of Cambodia is conscious about its obligation to help make our beloved country a better place for children – a place where every child can grow to adulthood in health, peace and dignity.
To this end, the Royal Government has been giving high priority to strengthening peace for the country and implementing poverty reduction strategy and promoting social development. In these efforts, we should put children and women first in the government’s social development program. Each adult has the obligation to be part of the large-scaled and multi-faceted campaign to promote the cause of the children, such as care for every child, fight HIV/AIDS, stop harming and exploiting children, listen to their opinions, educate every child, protect children from war, protect the environment for children – and fight poverty by investing in children.
We clearly understand that children are the bearers of our common future, the pillar and the uniting force for our nation. However, Cambodia has just fully enjoyed its real peace in 1998. In addition, the devastation left behind by the war is innumerable, which requires tremendous amount of investments that is beyond our resource capacity. Therefore, the Royal Government of Cambodia opens its door to welcome foreign direct investments, official development aids and other assistance from international organizations and religious ones including the Methodist Churches as well.
I am, therefore, very pleased to see the presence of the Methodist Churches from Singapore and the United Kingdom of England in Cambodia, who are now cooperating with the Methodist Center in Cambodia to assist Cambodian orphans by providing them with food and shelter; spiritual, physical, moral, educational and vocational training; in order for them to become a responsible citizen in the future with high moral, dignity and ambition to success in their study which is an important step to get a more advanced study or additional training. This, also, would help the children learn to love each other that would induce them to help and save other poor children.
Moreover, the delivery of basic health services to orphans and abandoned children as well as to people living here would be complementary to the government’s effort in improving health status of the Cambodian people and joint hand with the government in implementing the global goals for children’s development. Those include reduction of under-5 child mortality rates, reduction of maternal mortality rates, reduction of severe and moderate malnutrition among under-5 children, increased access to safe drinking water, better access to basic education, reduction of the adult illiteracy rate, with emphasis on female literacy, and protection of children in especially difficult circumstances. I strongly believe that Cambodian people will remember with deep gratitude your noble accomplishments. This kind effort would help strengthen the fabric of Cambodian society, which forms a firm foundation for the development of Cambodia. The benefits of investment in health, education and the stability of children will result in a healthy, highly educated and productive citizen, and such investments will be repaid many times over. In this sense, investments in health and education of children are investments in the future of Cambodia and are crucial for poverty reduction. Therefore, the COSI Children Village will offer the chance to 120 Cambodian children to realize their social and economic rights helping them to fully utilize their abilities and potential, and providing them with a means to improve their “equity” status.
In the future, these children will actively contribute to rebuilding of the nation. Therefore, the RGC during the second term of office considers strengthening the capability and the health of the people as the most important issue in response to the government agenda in poverty reduction and the implementation of reform programs in all fields. In this sense, the RGC has set out a new policy agenda on social development whose objectives are to:
- provide basic health services to all people, especially those who are actively involved in the community lives; improve equity and accessibility to basic health and education services with good quality and efficiency; specifically target women, children, elderly and disabled people; and
- introduce decentralization of financial and administrative functions and encourage public participation in order to strengthen democracy and develop their villages.
To respond effectively to the above policy statements, we know what needs to be done – and nothing speaks louder than financial commitments. Considerable efforts have been deployed by the RGC to increase investments in this sector by increasing budget allocations for health and education, and by mobilizing foreign aid and encouraging contribution from the society to the sectors. During the last four years budget disbursement for education increased just less than threefold, while the disbursement for health increased more than threefold from 1998 to 2001. For the next four years, the RGC plans to double the allocations in its effort to implement the Poverty Targeted Program to meet the needs of people living in rural and remote areas by directly providing them food security.
Much more need to be done. But, I am optimistic that the joint effort in mobilizing the government’s resources as well as the NGO’s, religious and international organizations’ ones would ensure the success of our important mission in saving orphans and abandoned children. My wife and I also contribute our own funds to help the orphans to live properly, receive health care and education, and become a good citizen in the society. In this sense, I appeal and encourage the national and international community to work together and promote the safe the children campaign by providing more care for the children for the bright future of Cambodia and Cambodians.
In conclusion, I would like to extent my best wishes to your venerable members of the Methodist Churches, your Excellencies, Ladies and Gentlemen, success in the struggle for the cause of Cambodian orphans and poor children. I thank you all for your kind attention.