A study into the role and contribution of civil society in the contributions to HIV and AIDS in Cambodia was initiated by HIV/AIDS Coordinating Committee (HACC) and conducted in early 2012. It shows that civil society cannot work without an enabling environment which includes government stakeholders at national and sub-national levels.
The results, presented by international consultant Tiffany Tsang at a dissemination workshop on 5 July 2012 in Phnom Penh, goes on to say that the civil society is innovative, flexible, responsive and takes initiative; however, it needs more support from the government.
The research also notes that civil society gives voice to communities, allowing them to speak out about the issues which affect them. Civil society organisations are also playing the role by advocating for rights of people living with HIV from the health care centre level to the national policy-making level.
Tiffany Tsang emphasised that the research was conducted at the time of global economic crisis which affected funding; therefore, the financial problems are a main concern for civil society organisations. Some NGOs closed down their HIV projects due to a lack of funding.
Tim Vora, HACC Executive Director, said the contributions of civil society to the HIV response have been very effective so far. However, he warned that their effectiveness could be weakened as funding to support HIV work falls. He continued that HACC will show donors the research result as evidence to seek for their support for the following years.
The study found that there is not enough being done to support for psychosocial and community support for people living with HIV (PLHIV) and most-at-risk populations (MARPs) and more effective income generating activities are needed. It suggests that NGOs should focus on livelihood and income generation activities and improve the lives of PLHIV and MARPs.
Meas Chanthan, Executive Director of Cooperation for Social Services and Development, who attended the workshop, acknowledged that the study results reflect the reality of NGOs work in response to HIV and AIDS in Cambodia. He wanted to see HACC use the research results to the benefit of civil society.
Secretary General of National AIDS Authority H.E Dr Teng Kunthy said that “Without civil society, we [the government] cannot work effectively in response to HIV and AIDS in Cambodia” in the acknowledgement to the civil society organisation contributions.
The research aims to document civil society involvement in the national response to HIV and AIDS with a focus on strength, weakness, and key achievements; to collect/synthesize evidence of the role of civil society and its contributions the national response to HIV and AIDS; and to document best practices and lesson learned.
Tiffany Tsang said that all comments and recommendations from participants in the meeting will be taken into consideration before the research is finalised.