NGO’s in Cambodia

Since 1992, and the entry of the United Nations Transitional Authority of Cambodia (UNTAC), there has been a large non-governmental organisation (NGO) presence, and there continues to be so.

Cambodia is home to more than 3,000 non-governmental organisations, these NGOs in Cambodia provide a wide range of services to communities across the country. To fulfil their mission statements, these NGOs often require the services of commercial businesses operating in the Kingdom. These NGOs bring to bear significant external funding, with over $1 billion in foreign aid being injected into the economy yearly.

Because of this, significant opportunities exist for businesses who are able to work hand-in-hand with NGOs to further their goals.

Cambodian Non Government Organisations

  • Foreign aid comes in two types: humanitarian and development aid. Each type can be delivered in a variety of ways.
  • Humanitarian aid is often known as emergency aid and is provided in the advent of disaster, conflict or other emergencies. In the case of Cambodia, with disasters such as yearly floods and outbreaks of infectious diseases, it still receives this type of aid on a regular basis.
  • In 2011, Cambodia suffered its worst floods in 25 years with the vast majority of the country being affected. As a result, Care and the World Food Programme, among others, provided emergency provisions including food, tents and in some cases cash, to those in most need.
  • Humanitarian aid isn’t necessarily only restricted to an emergency response either. The Asian Development Bank has been engaged in various reconstruction projects since this flooding, including fixing and strengthening roads, bridges and dykes.
  • Development aid, or long-term aid, is the larger of the two types of aid delivered to Cambodia.
  • Development aid is financial aid given by governments and other agencies to support the economic, environmental, social, and political development of developing countries, such as Cambodia.
  • Development aid can come in a number of forms including official development assistance, earmarked assistance, military aid, technical assistance, grants and commodity import programmes, trade agreements and development loans.
  • Some development aid reflects certain commercial and diplomatic/political interests, developing certain areas for greater investment opportunities, for instance, while some come with no strings attached whatsoever.
  • The areas development aid may affect are wide-reaching and will inevitably have some impact on businesses in the same sector.
  • Positive benefits can be clearly seen in the logistics, healthcare and agriculture sectors throughout Cambodia, and further positive flow-on effects can be witnessed right across the spectrum of Cambodian business interests.
  • There are also organisations such as University Research Co. that are for-profit companies undertaking development projects with grants from governments and other donors.
  • Cambodia received a total aid package of $550 million in 2004, according to government figures. By 2012, that number increased to $1.38 billion. However, according to the World Bank, in 2016 Cambodia received US $729 million in official development assistance.
  • The NIKKEI Asian Review says that by 2018, in total, Cambodia had received $20.68 billion in foreign aid since the early 1990s.
  • China has been behind much of that increase, but other aid comes from international donors like the Japanese, Australians, Americans, Koreans, and Germans, as well as the EU, Asian Development Bank and the UN.
  • Transportation, communications, agriculture and the natural resources sector were the main beneficiaries of this aid.
  • Throughout Cambodia you will find a range of NGOs and organisations that are referred to by various designations including, INGO, IOs, CSO, and CBO.
  • There are significant differences among the NGOs in their missions, who they work with, where they work, and even their budgets. More often than not International NGOS (INGOs), such as WorldVision and Habitat for Humanity have the largest budgets and hire contractors on a regular basis.
  • International Organisations (IOs) are the United Nations and all its agencies including the World Food Programme (WFP), Food and Agriculture Organisation (FAO), UN Development Programme (UNDP), etc.
  • The IO designation also includes organisations such as the World Trade Organisation (WTO), International Labour Organisation (ILO), the International Energy Agency (IEA) and several others.
  • Local NGOs are those organisations based solely in Cambodia. Some are operated by foreigners, others by Cambodians. As with any organisation, they run the gamut of sectors and range in size from a couple of people working out of a house to staff numbers that rival INGOs.
  • Community Based Organisations (CBOs) and Civil Society Organisations (CSOs) are local organisations which are focused on a particular sector of society or a certain area of Cambodia.
  • NGOs work in a wide variety of areas including governance; education (especially in rural communities where access to education is limited); agriculture; infrastructure (often involving helping to build houses or schools in poor communities); health and nutrition, relating to food and water security, sanitation and the prevention of diseases; poverty alleviation, especially through microfinance programmes; and the environment, helping to preserve wildlife, especially those in danger of extinction.
  • It’s hard to interact in the expat community in Cambodia without a few acquaintances being in the not-for-profit world, given the number of foreigners that it continues to employ.
  • NGO jobs are highly sought after and so the market is very competitive with only the well-qualified being considered. Given that Cambodia receives a substantial amount of foreign assistance and has a relatively small tax base, the country is not likely to go without some NGOs for a while. However, some suggest the sector may shrink as the economy continues to strengthen.
  • Should you wish to purchase some property or construct a building, an NGO may become involved in the process as there are unresolved issues with land titling, which often stretch back for decades.
  • NGOs seek to ensure current occupants of land receive adequate payment and are relocated to a site that meets humane standards.
  • That is not to say the NGOs are the cause of the delays in this case, but rather that they are certainly involved in the process.
  • Many NGOs assist in demining efforts across Cambodia, such as the Landmine Relief Fund and Cambodian Self Help Demining (CSHD).
  • The public sector is also involved: The Cambodian Mine Action Centre (CMAC) is Cambodia’s leading demining organisation, working in the key areas of Survey and Land Release, Mine and UXO Clearance, Mine and UXO Risk Education and Training, Research and Development.
  • Depending on their particular activities, NGOs can be an asset or a liability to your business.
  • In many sectors, they might be in direct competition with you, which can be problematic as they have a competitive advantage given that they do not have to worry about earning a profit.
  • Additionally, they typically receive grants and other sources of funding, enabling them to undercut market prices while also offering higher than market wages to employees.
  • Other NGOs, meanwhile, may be beneficial to your business. Some provide training or education for the hospitality industry, for instance, such as Pour un Sourire d’Enfant (PSE) and Friends International.
  • Ecole Paul Dubrule in Siem Reap offers young Cambodians training and qualifications necessary to contribute towards sustainable tourism in Cambodia.
  • Many organisations conduct extensive research programmes, publish large numbers of research papers and make them freely available, providing information that can be utilised by your business as needed.
  • Additionally, some NGOs may be inclined to make use of the goods or services that your company produces (design and printing services for example), creating a market that you may not have previously considered.
  • Two freely available resources provided by NGOs that are useful for businesses are Urban Voice and Open Development.
  • Urban Voice, by the Urban Initiative, is a website that is tracking the development of Phnom Penh including construction, infrastructure and social elements on an easy to use map.
  • The project encourages participation from the public and anyone can provide data on the numerous aspects of development that the site is tracking.
  • For businesses coming to Cambodia, it’s an excellent tool to help determine the best place for an office or operations as you can find out about what’s being built, where power outages occur and which parts of the city have the best infrastructure.
  • Open Development Cambodia is an online hub compiling freely available data in a one-stop-shop. Open Development Cambodia provides the public with up-to-date, accurate information about Cambodia and its economic and social development. Its open data approach guarantees materials and information are available to all users for use and download. ODC hopes that the site and the data will facilitate research and communication between the public, private companies, civil society and governments. \
  • The site includes maps of Special Economic Zones (SEZs), legal development news, natural resource information and more.


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