Minister of Foreign Affairs and International Cooperation Prak Sokhonn said Cambodia’s foreign policy is firmly underpinned by a strong spirit of multilateralism which he said is key to addressing global challenges the world faces today.
Sokhonn was speaking at a high-level symposium entitled “The Future We Want, the Role of Multilateralism in a post-Covid World”, which was co-organised by the National Institute of Diplomacy and International Relations and the UN in Cambodia.
“Cambodia recognises the central role of multilateralism in addressing the complex global challenges we face today. Our challenges are interconnected and can only be addressed through reinvigorated multilateralism,” he said, referencing Prime Minister Hun Sen’s statement made during a high-level meeting to commemorate the 75th UN anniversary in September.
Hun Sen had committed to hosting the Asia Europe Summit (ASEM13) and wanted support for Cambodia’s commitment to advanced multilateralism in concrete ways, Sokhonn said.
The minister said if multilateralism was functioning at its best, the world would also be able to pool its resources together to deal with the Covid-19 pandemic.
“But that is not the case, and we all know that. Intense geopolitical rivalries, bordering the new Cold War, have hampered efforts to tackle the spread of the virus and further aggravated world economies,” he said.
Sokhonn added that multilateralism was also needed to assist people affected by climate change-related phenomena.
“We have all seen the devastating impacts torrential rains and floods have caused for Cambodians throughout the country these last weeks. Climate change is real and as deadly as Covid-19. No country on its own can tackle the climate change issue.
“Only through strong and effective multilateralism can we overcome these natural calamities,” he said.
The Kingdom is engaged in the UN multilateral peacekeeping framework. It has sent 7,123 peacekeepers to nine war-torn countries since 2006. Among them, 419 were women peacekeepers who served as medical and security personnel, civil engineers and mine clearance experts, according to Sokhonn.
“Cambodia is ranked number 17 out of 120 countries that dispatch women to UN Peacekeeping Operations (PKO). Among ASEAN member states, Cambodia is presently ranked second in women participation,” he said.
Ministry of Health spokeswoman Or Vandine said at the symposium that multilateralism had helped support Cambodia in its fight against Covid-19.
Since the pandemic started, she said Cambodia has deployed 3,000 rapid response teams across the country.
Cambodia, she added, had seen three successes in dealing with the disease. It rescued the passengers of the MS Westerdam cruise ship in February, handled the return of more than 100,000 Cambodian migrants from abroad, and continued to exercise measures restricting travel.
“If we want to achieve more positive health outcomes to address the Covid-19 pandemic and other future shocks, we have to work together across sectors – public and private, national and international,” she said.
UN Resident Coordination in Cambodia Pauline Tamesis agreed that people want to see more cooperation between countries to work together in the future and address the issues they care about.