Overview of Australia's aid program to Cambodia

How we are helping

2016-17 Total Australian ODA Estimated Outcome
$89.1 million

2017-18 Bilateral Budget Estimate
$62.4 million

2017-18 Total Australian ODA Estimate
$87.4 million

Over the past two decades, Cambodia has had one of the fastest growing economies in the world. While many people have escaped poverty, this has often been by a small margin and around 8.1 million people remain near-poor 1 – extremely vulnerable to slipping back into poverty due to incidents such as illnesses or natural disasters.  Further investment is needed to improve infrastructure, increase agricultural productivity, and deliver better quality health and education services. It is in Australia's national interest for Cambodia to continue to progress toward prosperity and to support efforts to address regional challenges.

This rapid growth saw Cambodia's economy reach lower-middle income status in 2015. According to the World Economic Forum, Cambodia ranks 100 out of 130 countries in terms of human capital development. It is ranked 143 out of 188 on the United Nations (UN) Human Development Index 2016.

While poverty continues to fall, the pace has declined significantly. The UN estimates that 13.5 per cent of Cambodians live below the national poverty line, down from 53 per cent in 2004. However, many Cambodian households, especially in rural areas, remain highly vulnerable to slipping back. These households find it difficult to withstand shocks such as the 2015 drought, serious health events or sudden unemployment. This is exacerbated by limited social protection, high levels of informal employment and low levels of education and skills.

Australia remains one of the most significant bilateral grant-based donors to Cambodia. In 2015-16, Australia's aid to Cambodia was AUD92.0 million, around 0.5 per cent of Cambodia's estimated 2015 gross domestic product of USD18.05 billion. And in 2016-17 Australian ODA estimated outcome was $90.0 million.

The Australian Government will provide an estimated $87.4 million in total ODA to Cambodia in 2017-18. This will include an estimated $62.4 million in bilateral funding to Cambodia managed by DFAT.

During 2015–18, Australia's aid investments will prioritise three key objectives: (1) improving access to infrastructure; (2) increasing agricultural productivity; and (3) better health and education. Across all our programs we will focus on inclusive participation, governance, women's empowerment and disability. Our support will prioritise innovative approaches to delivering aid which work closely with the private sector to drive growth and poverty reduction, and will contribute to achieving Australia's overall aid for trade target by 2020.

Improving access to essential infrastructure

Improving access to infrastructure is critical to both economic growth and poverty reduction. The centrepiece of Australia's support will be the innovative 3i: Investing in Infrastructure program, which is working with the private sector to expand access to electricity and piped, treated water in local communities. Our initial analysis suggests that the program will benefit women most as they currently bear the greater burden of water collection and household activities such as cooking, which will be safer and less time-consuming with access to electricity.

Investments for improving access to essential infrastructure in Cambodia

Increasing agricultural productivity and farmer incomes

We will continue our longstanding support for Cambodia's agricultural sector. The Cambodian Agricultural Value Chain (CAVAC) program provides access to modern farming techniques, lifts productivity and crop quality, and improves the incomes of thousands of farmers. CAVAC is recognised globally as a leading example of aid delivered in collaboration with the private sector.

CAVAC Phase II will extend the benefits to new crops and more locations. It will include a focus on rice export—a priority for the Cambodian Government. We will maintain our focus on improving the lives of rural women.

Investments for increasing agricultural productivity and farmer incomes in Cambodia

Better health and education outcomes

Continuing to strengthen Cambodia's health system will be a key priority for our aid program. Poor health holds back economic growth—it lowers workforce participation and reduces workers' productivity. We will help strengthen Cambodia's health financing system to improve efficiency, and we will focus on improving the quality of care. We will also tackle the ongoing challenge to improve access to, and quality of, reproductive, maternal and neonatal health, particularly for women working in garment factories or living in remote communities.

We will continue to support Cambodia's education sector through our long-running Australia Awards Scholarships program. Since 1994 more than 700 of Cambodia's most talented people have been awarded scholarships to study in Australia. Many of these scholars have become leaders in government, the private sector and civil society. The high-profile Australia Awards Scholarships program has helped build a reputation for quality Australian education and strong people to people links between our two countries.

Investments for better health outcomes in Cambodia

Investments for better education outcomes in Cambodia

Our results

In 2016-17 the Australian aid program to Cambodia achieved these tangible results:

  • Support to 11 water and 14 energy companies to increase the financial viability of bringing piped, treated water and reliable electricity to rural communities, benefitting over 212,000 Cambodians, (51 per cent of who were women), exceeding targets.
  • Rehabilitation of flood damaged roads and drainage infrastructure, which enhanced resilience to flooding in the future and provided employment for unskilled labourers, 32 per cent of whom were women.
  • Completion of seven new irrigation schemes as planned, to provide smallholder farmers (8,368 households) with reliable, affordable water throughout the seasons and climatic changes.
  • Successfully transitioned management and implementation of the Health Equity Fund, the program that subsidises health care for the poorest 20 per cent of the Cambodian population, from external donors to Government of Cambodia.
  • Shelter, counselling, legal aid and peer support services provided to over 7,000 women and their families affected by violence.
  • Support to over 12,000 people (5,311 women) with a disability to vote in the 2017 commune elections, and disability services to 26,447 people (6,590 female), surpassing our goal by more than 40 per cent.

1. Cambodia country overview, World Bank

Last Updated: 2 March 2018
An irrigation barrier, Campong Chhnang, Cambodia (credit: DFAT).
An explanation of HIVAIDS and how it is transmitted being given by then volunteer Aaron Watson (credit: DFAT).
Mak Moa Nang is a teacher at Krola Primary School. She has been teaching for six years (credit: CARE Australia).