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 2015-16 the Australian aid program:

  • developed new investments – in infrastructure, private sector and agriculture that collectively provide greater access to food, jobs and higher incomes for more than 500 000 rural Cambodians
  • generated significant dividends on our investment for Cambodians – the recently concluded first phase of Cambodia Agriculture Value Chain Program created an almost five-fold increase on our original investment; the program, worth AUD46 million over five years (2010-15), increased rice production by an estimated value of USD43 million per year.
  • had a positive and wide ranging impact at the household level – increasing crop production of farmers, clearing landmines to reduce casualties and release more land for farming, providing electricity connections and energy efficient stoves benefitting around 500 000 Cambodians
  • delivered tangible and impressive results for women across many areas of their lives –including health, safety, education, jobs and income. We helped to provide shelter, counselling, legal aid and peer support services to over 9,950 women and their families in need. For the first time we offered 50 per cent of our Australia Award scholarships to women.
  • provided a strong performing disability-specific program – supplied rehabilitation to 31,000 people with a disability (28 per cent women), and played a crucial advocacy role with the Cambodian Government.
  • contributed to fundamental improvements in how Cambodia funds its health system – the Cambodian Government has increased funding, ownership and management oversight of the health sector, resulting in noticeable improvements in the quality and sustainability of hospitals and health centres across Cambodia
  • Continued our long-standing support to the Extraordinary Chambers in the Courts of Cambodia (the Khmer Rouge Tribunal) – an important investment showing Australia's enduring connection and commitment to Cambodia's development

1. Cambodia country overview, World Bank

Last Updated: 5 October 2017
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).