Access to Information and Good Governance

21 October 2012 - In the morning of October 19th, the National League of Communes/ Sangkats in collaboration with the Open Institute organized a forum on “Female Commune/Sangkat Councilors and Access to Information”. The forum welcomed 28 participants (17 females, 11 males) which included commune/sangkat councilors, ministry representatives, and NGO staff members. The forum's objectives were to provide an opportunity for the female commune/sangkat councilors to share their experiences and challenges on accessing information related to their work, and to identify strategies to promote a greater access to information for female commune/sangkat councilors.
Madam Chim Manavy, Executive Director of the Open Institute commenced the forum by stating that the people have a legal right to access information managed by the government related to the public services and/or private sectors. Access to information is crucial to uphold good governance and democracy practices, to encourage public participation, and to promote economic development, human rights protection, freedom of information,transparency and so on.
Moreover, she emphasized that having access to information is protected by the international human right ratified by Article 19, Resolution 59(I) of the 1946 United Nations General Assembly. The Kingdom of Cambodia's law and constitution also protect people’s rights, especially the right to access information as well as the right to freedom of expression. Article 31 of the Constitution of the Kingdom of Cambodia stated that “ The Kingdom of Cambodia shall recognize and respect human rights as stipulated in the United Nations Charter, the Universal Declaration of Human Rights, the covenants and conventions related to human rights, women' and children' rights.”  Article 41 of the Constitution stated that “Khmer citizens shall have freedom of expression, press, publication and assembly. No one shall exercise this right to infringe upon the rights of others, to affect the good traditions of the society, to violate public law and order and national security. The regime of the media shall be determined by law.”
Despite the progress, women still address the entrenched barriers to their political participation. These include, social and cultural norm, traditional stereotype, lack of support/trust from family, friends and colleagues, lack of  training and education opportunities, lack of political knowledge and the limited amount of appropriate and confidence skills. In comparison to men, the majority of Cambodian women have little opportunity to access information and, more  importantly, lack the understanding of their right to have access to and to disclose information freely. These barriers affect the daily work of women, such as female commune council/sangkat members who work closely in the public sector. It is a big challenge for them to fulfill their duty as they are holders and owners of public information.
A representative of the DFGG project from the Ministry of Interior, Mr. Chheav Nak, shared some information related to the state of available access to information and good governance. Mr. Chheav Nak said that providing and accessing information in Cambodia includes means such as  the radio, TV, newspaper, telephone, fax, face-to-face meetings, IEC materials, websites and facebook. Access to information enables transparency. In the social sector, it contributes to building trust and confidence, as well as national and social harmonization. In the economic sector, it prevents and reduces corruption and exploitation, while stimulating  the economy. In the political sector, it promotes popularity and trust, and gains support to further protect democracy and human rights. In relation to good governance, it promotes participation, accountability, equality, and effective response such as providing good quality public services, and enforcing the law and rules of the law.
Good governance means having public participation, transparency, accountability, response from the government, equality, equity, efficacy and efficiency, principles, law, rules of law and agreement. The relationship between having access to information and good governance is that by having the information, one has  power. This indicates that providing information is providing power. With access to more information, the participation becomes more active, there is more transparency, accountability, and understanding to make a decision appropriately and effectively. Furthermore, enabling access to information also increases cooperation in a positive way between partners and stakeholders, especially those in the private sector and  the media. Therefore, protecting the right of access to information and the law on access to information, is the crucial mean and essential need to enforce a better local governance and enhance good governance and social accountability.
Mr. Voeuk Samoeurn, Chief of Sangkat Dangkor, also shared the experiences about the strategies and types of information the sangkat promotes to the people in their commune/sangkat. Sangkat Dangkor disseminates information  that is first, relevant to its geographical  area, and second, relevant to the scope that the Sangkat covers. In order to promote more information to the citizens about  the work related to the councilors, the government, and the law, Sangkat Dangkor organized a first community meeting.  During the meeting, the citizens were informed about the announcement from the Ministry of Interior which acknowledged to have councilors, chief of Sangkats, first and second deputy chiefs of Sangkat involved in the internal regulation during the implementation of electoral registration. The meeting also covered  announcements regarding women affairs, both ordinary and a typical cases, the Sangkat's 5- and 1-year action plans, the results of the commune/sangkat councilors' decisions,  the sangkat's budget from the government, the citizens, donations, and other NGOs, as well as people's participation in social public services. Other topics also included circulars, sub-degrees,   safety policy, status of the Sangkat project., - which included the committee in activity planning, security, bidding, project monitoring and so on. Sangkat Dangkor has implemented many different strategies to disseminate  information to its citizens, such as community meetings with sangkat councilors, villages,  and NGOs, special ceremonies, documents, public awareness, radio, TV, magazines, newspapers, microphones, and art performances.
The forum discussed about the obstacles of female commune/sangkat councilors such as the limitation of educational background, the age of commune/sangkat councilors, the duties and responsibilities of women both in household chores and office work, the limitation of  their ICT knowledge and of their access to information. Moreover, the information the female commune/sangkat councilors received from sangkat chiefs, clerks, and the police is mostly coming from men. And although there is a growing dissemination of information related to health, women issues and children, there is still a lack of information related to public services, which is useful to people's daily life. In light of the existing challenges and need for further progress, this forum supports a policy or law that will enable access to information and ensure that our human right – that to speak, to express, and to access and disseminate information freely is protected.
Also to be noted, on August 21st, the National League of Communes/Sangkats cooperated with the Open Institute and organized the forum “ Promoting Access to Information Related to Election to Women.” ( For more information please read: )


Mr. Voeuk Samoeurn, Chief of Sangkat Dangkor, presented about “ Strategies and Types of Information commune/sangkat councilors promote to the people in their commune/sangkat” Photo: Open Institute
Mr. Chheav Nak, Advisor of DFGG Project of Ministry of Interior presented about  "Access to Information and Good Governance” in the forum about “Female Commune/Sangkat Councilors and Access to Information” Photo: Open Institute

Ms. Chim Manavy, Executive Director of Open Institute,  expressed the opening remark speech in the forum about “ Female Commune/Sangkat Councilors and Access to Information” Photo: Open Institute
The participants in forum about “Female Commune/Sangkat Councilors and Access to Information” Photo: Open Institute

Mrs. Ros Chamroeunnary, councilor of sangkat Orreusey 3 Photo: Open Institute
Mrs. So Yan, councilor of sangkat Kantouk Photo: Open Institute