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cambodia-mapPopulation: 14,864,646

HDI ranking: 138/187

HDI score: 0.543

After several decades of internal conflict, Cambodia has pursued decentralization policies. The process has been extended to provinces/municipalities and their district/khan subdivisions (Smoke and Morrison).


Local governance at a glance

  • Below the provincial and district levels are 1,630 elected commune and sangkat councils (urban communes) (UCLG, 2010).
  •  Established in 2008, the National Committee for Sub­-National Democratic Development (NCDD) is the interministerial body that promotes democratic development through decentralization (NCDD, 2013).
  • Local citizens directly elect representatives to the communes and sangkats. Those councils then elect District/Municipality and Provincial Councils (UCLG, 2011).
  • While there are no legislated gender quotas, the government has committed to the Millenium Development Goal of promoting gender equality. The target is to increase female representation in the Commune/Sangkat Councils to a minimum of 25% by 2015 (CCHRC, 2012).

Civil society actors include

Capacity building institutions

  • The National League of Communes/Sangkats (NLC/S) is an association that works to enhance the status and capacity of Communes/Sangkat Councils, helping to create effective, transparent, sustainable, and self-­reliant decentralized administrations (NLC/S, 2012).
  • The Provincial Association of Commune/Sangkat Councils works toward the same goals for the provincial level of the government (UCLG, 2008).

Fiscal autonomy

  • Communes account for less than 5 percent of total public expenditures (UCLG, 2010).
  • The Law on Sub­National Fiscal Regime and Property Management passed in 2011, aims to create sources of finance for sub­-national government bodies for sufficient means to carry out local development (Cambodian National Budget, 2013).

Key initiatives for participatory local governance

  • The National Program for Sub­National Democratic Development (NP­SNDD) was founded in 2008 as a ten ­year, comprehensive plan for governance reform of sub­national administrations (NCDD, 2014).
  • The government established an Organic Law on Decentralization and Democratic Development in 2009. This created indirectly elected councils at the provincial and district level (UCLG, 2010).
  • Commune councils must prepare a five ­year Development Plan as well as a three ­year Investment Program. To achieve these plans, each council appoints a committee including male and female representatives from each village, commune councilors, and one representative from every NGO registered with the council (Smoke, 2008).

Challenges for participatory local governance

  • Fiscal decentralization has been focused primarily on funding provisions for the communes with little emphasis on the reformation of provincial and municipal governance bodies (CDRI, 2011).
  • Though the legal framework and overall strategy for decentralization has been established, there are few details on implementation (Smoke, 2008).
  • Freedom House, a global, bipartisan organization focused on the promotion of democracy, condemned post-election violence in 2013 calling police attacks on protesters “a setback for democracy” (Freedom House, 2013).

Recent posts on this website about this country:


List of sources:

Cambodian Center for Human Rights (CCHRC), 2012: “Female Political Representation and Electoral Gender Quota Systems.”

Cambodian Civil Society Partnership (CCSP), 2013:

Cambodian Development Resource Institute (CDRI), 2011: “Fiscal Decentralization in Cambodia: A Review of Progress and Changes.”

Cambodian National Budget, 2013: “Law on Public Finance.”

Community Capacities for Development (CCD), n.d.:

Freedom House, 2013: “Post-election violence in Cambodia a setback for democracy.”

The Committee for Free and Fair Elections in Cambodia (COMFREL), 2014:

The National Committee for Sub­-National Democratic Development (NCDD), 2014. “National Program.”

The National League of Communes/Sangkats (NLC/S), 2012:

Smoke, P. and J. Morrison, International Center for Public Policy, Andrew Young School of Policy Studies, 2008: “Decentralization in Cambodia: Consolidating Central Power or Building Accountability from Below?”

United Cities and Local Governments (UCLG), 2008: “Asia Pacific.”

United Cities and Local Governments (UCLG), 2010: “Local Government Finance: The Challenges of the 21st Century.”