23.05.2011 -

UNESCO and Cambodia

Cambodia joined UNESCO on 3 July 1951. Upon membership, the Government proceeded to establish a National Commission. On 5 August 1955, the first Cambodian Delegate to UNESCO, His Royal Highness Prince Norodom Norindeth, presented his credentials to the Organisation. Cambodia soon adhered to the different standard-setting instruments of UNESCO and requested assistance for implementing a number of projects in the UNESCO fields of competence. Since the early 1960s, UNESCO has provided direct technical assistance to Cambodia for the revision and dissemination of school textbooks, the preparation of scientific publications, the preservation of Angkor and the development of media and radio.

Due to the internal political situation, the Cambodian National Commission had to close down in 1975 and all UNESCO operations inside Cambodia were stopped. However, the Organisation continued to advocate at international level for the demilitarisation and preservation of the Angkor site and the other significant national historical monuments.

During the 1980s, UNESCO tried to maintain its links with the Cambodian people. In particular, UNESCO provided assistance for a series of educational projects for refugees along the Thai-Cambodian border. Between 1980 and 1989, UNESCO provided assistance for small-scale education projects, such as early childhood education for refugee children and the development and printing of in-camp teaching materials. These projects were executed by international NGOs. From 1981 to 1989, UNESCO staff carried out a number of technical missions to Cambodia in the framework of the UNESCO-UNICEF Co-operative Programme. 1989 was an important year for UNESCO in Cambodia. His Majesty Preah Bat Samdech Preah Norodom Sihanouk Varman, King of Cambodia (then His Royal Highness Prince Norodom Sihanouk) requested the Organisation to co-ordinate all international assistance for Angkor. In May 1989, UNESCO was able to complete an initial assessment of the safeguarding needs of Angkor.

As the political conditions improved, in 1991 UNESCO resumed its full assistance to Cambodia. In January-February 1991, an Intersectoral Basic Needs - Assessment Mission composed of experts in the areas of basic education, educational planning, educational statistics, cultural heritage and communications was conducted in the country. On 15 January 1991, the UNESCO Liaison Office in Cambodia was officially reopened. The official visit of the UNESCO Director-General in November 1991, Mr. Federico Mayor Zaragoza, led to the reinforcement of co-operation between Cambodia and UNESCO. During the visit of the Director-General, the UNESCO Office was established in Phnom Penh. On 29 November 1991, an Aide-Mémoire of Co-operation was signed between UNESCO and the Supreme National Council of Cambodia (SNC) under which UNESCO was requested, among other things, "to co-ordinate all activities (bilateral and multilateral) related to the safeguarding and development of the site of Angkor".

Since its opening in 1991, the Office has steadily grown in size and in number of activities. Presently, the UNESCO Office in Phnom Penh develops activities in all fields of competence of the Organisation – education, science, culture and communication. It has relations with all national authorities of the country and works in strong partnership with the Royal Government of Cambodia, other UN agencies, development banks and local and international Non-Governmental Organisations. During his official visit to Cambodia on 6-8 December 2000, Mr. Koïchiro Matsuura, Director-General of UNESCO reaffirmed the disposition of the Organisation to continue to assist the Cambodian people in its development efforts during the years to come.

Following the establishment of a new field structure, the Phnom Penh Office is working closely with relevant counterparts at Headquarters and in the field, including Cluster Office in Bangkok and Regional Bureaux in Jakarta, New Delhi and Beijing, for the design and implementation of different projects and activities. Regular communication is also maintained with the Bureau of Field Co-ordination (BFC), at Headquarters, concerning all management and administrative matters.

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