Remarks by Polly Dunford, Mission Director, USAID Cambodia, The National Launch of My Open Commune

Wednesday, February 8, 2017
Remarks by Polly Dunford, Mission Director, USAID Cambodia, The National Launch of My Open Commune
Remarks by Polly Dunford, Mission Director, USAID Cambodia, The National Launch of My Open Commune
USAID/Michael Gebremedhin

(as prepared for delivery)

 

  • His Excellency H.E. Sak Setha, Secretary of State of the Ministry of Interior
  • Distinguished guests, ladies and gentlemen.

It is my pleasure to be here today at the official launch of My Open Commune.

As Cambodia continues down its path of democracy, the relationship between elected representatives and their constituents has become increasingly important Cambodian citizens now have a better understanding of the roles and responsibilities of their elected representatives at the national and local levels. This is especially true as the country continues to emerge as a democracy and seeks to achieve more effective, accountable and responsive governance. As part of the roadmap towards strengthening democracy and good governance, elected officials at all levels need more opportunities to regularly engage with their constituents and to have open discussions on the pressing issues that affect daily lives. This interaction between elected officials and their constituents underscores the democratic principles of fostering greater accountability and transparency between the government and its citizens.   

For this reason, the USAID project, Cambodia Democratic Reforms, is supporting a series of public forums know as My Open Commune. These forums are designed to increase the numbers of informed and engaged citizens and to encourage constructive exchanges between citizens and their local officials. My Open Commune will allow citizens the chance to express their views and advocate for reforms from their local elected officials while allowing elected officials and specially commune councilors to interact directly with their constituents. The My Open Commune format is similar to that of a town hall meeting where the general public is welcome to attend. In particular, I hope women and youth will participate in to help ensure their views are shared with their elected officials.

Throughout the life of the Cambodia Democratic Reforms project, the U.S. government hopes to connect as many citizens as possible with their local elected officials, particularly as the country prepares for 2017 local and 2018 national elections. This opportunity for frank exchanges builds on the efforts by the Royal Government of Cambodia and, in particular, the Ministry of Interior, to de-concentrate decision making responsibility to sub-national government authorities. We are hopeful that this collaboration with the Ministry of Interior, the provincial governors and as well as our partners, the National Democratic Institute (NDI) and the Cambodian Civil Society Partnership (CCSP), will usher in a new era of increased constructive dialogue between citizens and government. This exchange promotes trust, shared responsibility and accountability of government to its citizens. 

My Open Commune also serves as an example of how Civil Society Organizations (CSOs) can work with government and citizens together in a constructive manner. We are hopeful this effort proves to be sustainable for many years to come. Once elected officials, CSOs and citizens make constructive dialogue such as My Open Commune a part of their day-to-day lives, government can better respond to the needs of its constituents and citizens can become active, engaged and equally committed to the government’s development agenda.

Today, citizens are willing to express themselves and feel they increasingly have the space to address their concerns. As the world witnesses a political transition in the United States, citizens in my country still continue to be able to openly express their opinions and views in a constructive and peaceful matter to their public officials. This further strengthens our democracy during both the best of times and the worst of times.

On behalf of the U.S. government, we are pleased to support My Open Commune forums that will convene in six provinces (Battambang, Kampong Chhnang, Banteaymeanchey, Siem Reap, Kampong Thom, Kampong Cham). In total we expect to reach 180 communes (30 communes per province) over the next couple of years. My Open Commune will be broadcasted on radio, social media, and through community outreach. Through various mediums, we are hopeful many citizens in Cambodia will further their engagement and civic participation in local and national elections.

Again, I would like to express my great appreciation to the Ministry of Interior for their collaboration and support of My Open Commune. I would also like to thank the National Democratic Institute who is implementing our Cambodia Democratic Reforms project and for organizing this important event. Thank you and I wish you all great success.

Phnom Penh
Issuing Country 

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