JOINT OpEd - Violence against children: how we will write a Cambodian Christmas story

A year ago, on the 11th of December 2017, just one day after the celebration of Human Rights Day, Christmas came early for the advocates of child rights when the Royal Government of Cambodia launched the Action Plan to Prevent and Respond to Violence Against Children 2017 – 2021. After months of consultation and work with all partners, a critical step toward more coordination, more resources and, ultimately, more progress toward ending violence against children in Cambodia was made. One year on, are these promises being fulfilled? Can Cambodia build on this and write a success story on child protection? 

The study on violence against children in Cambodia in 2013, the first of its kind in the region, had provided a clear picture of the scale of the problem in the country. While not unexpected, the findings were chilling: violence against children in Cambodia was affecting ¾ of children before they turn 18. The following years would see a good response from the Government with some new laws and policies adopted. The adoption of the Action Plan also reflected the progress of a global movement to end violence against children and Cambodia was at the forefront in the Mekong region. 

So, a year after the launch, it is time to ask ourselves: “did the Royal Government of Cambodia, development partners and even us, leading independent child-focused NGOs in Cambodia, deliver on the promises of the Action Plan?” From our point of view, the response is a cautious but clear yes. Over the last 12 months, the Royal Government of Cambodia, civil society and development partners have undeniably progressed on the implementation of important actions: adoption of the policy on child protection in schools and its action plan, training on positive discipline and effective classroom management for teachers, development of the PROTECT Partnership to change attitude and behaviours on violence against children and unnecessary family separation, work on social workforce and the local child protection system through the strengthening of the Commune/Sangkat Committees for Women and Children, etc. The list continues.

And more is coming with progress registered on the development of a national policy on child protection, the creation of the interministerial steering committee for the Action Plan and the possibility that Cambodia will officially join soon as a Pathfinding Country as part of the Global Partnership to End Violence Against Children.

For us, it is important to recognize the progress made so far and praise the Royal Government of Cambodia for its leadership. Violence against children is often an area that attracts little interest from decision makers. Cambodia has proven, for the best, to be an exception. But ending violence against children is a long term objective and even after years of progress, there is still a lot more to do. And so, our next question should be: “with 4 years to go for the implementation of the action plan, how to prioritize our efforts and where are the challenges likely to be”?

First, with the creation of the interministerial steering committee, the Royal Government of Cambodia may be about to address one of the biggest of these challenges: coordination for a multisectorial response. Addressing violence against children requires action at so many levels in different sectors from income generation to the review of laws and policies. This requires the participation of many ministries, civil society organizations and children and youth led organizations. Without a strong platform to coordinate their efforts, progress would be difficult. The inter-ministerial committee will play a critical role but it will need a clear mandate and, more importantly, adequate resources.

But in order to be successful, this increased commitment and coordination needs to be matched with an increased allocation of resources for the implementation of the Action Plan and several other promising instruments. At local level, social services and child protection actors need resources to strengthen their capacities. At the national level, many important actions listed in the Action Plan are going to require more investment. And many promising pilot initiatives will need additional funding to be scaled up and sustained. Joining the pathfinding country process should provide the Royal Government of Cambodia with some additional funding opportunities. Beyond this, development partners should see that the Royal Government of Cambodia is committed to progress on violence against children and that investing in this area offers a huge return on investment. But in the end, long term sustainable solutions will only come as the Royal Government of Cambodia is able to integrate the Action Plan into the budgets of the relevant ministries. Only through this integration will we bring the fight to end violence against children in Cambodia to the next level.

Several years of good progress have shown that there is a strong commitment to reduce violence against children in Cambodia, from the Government, donors and civil society organizations. With a bit more coordination and a more sustainable investment, Cambodia could write one of the most impressive success stories on violence against children in Asia. The kind of Christmas stories children of Cambodia need more than any other.

Collective signature 

Prashant Verma
Country Director | ChildFund Cambodia

Jan Jaap Kleinrensink
Country Director | Plan International Cambodia

Elizabeth Pearce
Country Director | Save the Children International Cambodia

Chea Phon
National Director | SoS Children’s Village

Chan Krisna Sawada 
Project coordinator | Terre des Hommes Netherlands

Christabel Kalaiselvi
National Director | World Vision International Cambodia


Child Rights Now

Child Rights Now is a global coalition of the leading independent child-focused NGOs (Child Fund Alliance, Plan International, Save the Children International, SOS Children’s Villages International, Terre des Hommes International Federation and World Vision International), united to advocate for renewed commitment to achieving the rights of all children. We advocate for all governments to demonstrate their support for internationally agreed standards for children’s rights, and in particular to back the UN Convention on the Rights of the Child (CRC) in the lead up to its 30-year anniversary in 2019.

World Vision

With a presence in close to 100 countries and 50,000 employees and volunteers worldwide, World Vision is a global nongovernmental organization focusing on the wellbeing of children through development and humanitarian programmes. In Cambodia, World Vision is working in 39 districts across 10 provinces and city, implementing health and nutrition, education and life skills, child protection and youth projects benefiting 2.7 million children every year. In November 2017 World Vision in Cambodia launched a global campaign It Takes a World to End Violence against Children. More information on the campaign is available here:

For more information, please contact: Mr. Phearun Kuch, Public Engagement Manager, World Vision | Tel: +855 17 563 520 or Email: 

Child Fund Alliance
Child Fund Alliance is a network of 11 child-focused development organizations. We work with more than 14 million children and their families in over 60 countries to overcome poverty and the underlying conditions that prevent children from achieving their full potential.

Plan International

Plan International is a development and humanitarian organisation that strive for a just world that advances children’s rights and equality for girls. Plan engages people and partners to: Empower children, young people and communities to make vital changes that tackle the root causes of discrimination against girls, exclusion and vulnerability; Drive change in practice and policy at local, national and global levels through our reach, experience and knowledge of the realities children face; and Work with children and communities to prepare for and respond to crises and to overcome adversity. Support the safe and successful progression of children from birth to adulthood.

Save the Children International

Save the Children International is the world’s leading, independent organization for children. We work in over 120 countries. We save children’s lives; we fight for their rights; we help them fulfil their potential. Save the Children works closely with government partners to improve children’s lives, especially the most marginalized, remote and hard to reach children. In Cambodia, Save the Children has been working in Cambodia since 1979, and was one of the first non-governmental organisations (NGOs) to provide support after the fall of the Khmer Rouge regime. Initially we provided relief assistance to the worst affected families in the Thai border camps, gradually shifting towards long-term development with a specific focus on education and health and nutrition. We have also built a strong reputation in children's rights, child protection, Disaster Risk Reduction (DRR) and emergency response.

For more information, please contact: Ms. Sokpheap Say, Communications Manager, Save the Children | Tel: +855 12 682 770 or Email:

Terre des Hommes Netherlands

Terre des Hommes Netherlands (TdH-NL) is an international non-governmental organization that fights against child exploitation. Since 1965, TdH-NL has protected tens of millions of children from violence, labour, trafficking, sexual exploitation, malnutrition and health issues. Children’s rights are violated all over the world. TdH endeavors to create a world free of child exploitation. Our strategy 2020 has been drawn up to clearly set out the pathway to this goal. To achieve this goal, we need to focus on the results and scalable outcomes of our approach and those of others. Child’s exploitation should be everyone’s concern. TdH-NL is guided by our Theory of Change, addressing child exploitation through four approaches: Prevention, Provision, Promotion and Prosecution and with six different stakeholders: Children, Families and Communities, Private Sector, Government, Law enforcement agencies and CSOs. In Cambodia the program focuses on preventing and tackling Online Child Sexual Exploitation (OCSE), Sexual Exploitation of Children through Travel and Tourism (SECTT) and contributing to reduction in prevalence of child marriage in Mondulkiri. The projects ultimately cover the entire nation with research and development of national action plan supported by the Royal Government of Cambodia by strengthening Cambodian technical expertise and capacity. 

For more information, please contact: Ms. Chan Krisna Sawada, Project Coordinator, Terre Des Hommes Netherlands Tel: +855 23 222 553 or Email: