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Local Administration and Reform Program


October 2005 – October 2010




Cambodia’s decentralization process commenced in 2001 with the enactment of laws on commune administration, management and elections. With the commune council elections in February 2002, Cambodia took a bold step towards deepening democracy; 1,621 councils were elected, resulting in 11,261 councilors taking office and assuming responsibilities for local governance and local development. 

Since the elections, the Royal Government of Cambodia (RGC), in partnership with both the donor community and civil society, has made substantial progress in pursuing democratic local governance through decentralization and deconcentration (D&D) reform, providing the Cambodian people with greater opportunities to influence the decisions that affect their lives.

There continues to be a need for increased citizen participation in council activities, especially in commune planning and decision making, for the development of additional transparency and accountability mechanisms in line with the RGC’s rectangular strategy. As well as a need for commune councils to develop effective partnership in order to tackle difficult and complex community issues. Inadequate budgetary resources, limited staff capacity, and lack of decision making authority remain major challenges.

The Local Administration and Reform Program (LAAR) is taking a multi-dimensional approach to addressing these needs.  It is designed to build on and enhance existing programs in decentralization, with attention to good governance, under-represented populations and natural resource management (NRM) woven throughout.


Institutionalize participatory democratic practices within local (referred to as sub-national) government and activate sustainable links between commune councils, civil society, and national level government that positively impact D&D reform.


  • Build sustainable horizontal and vertical links between citizens, local government and national government (increase demand for good governance at a local level).

  • Increase public participation in the commune investment planning (CIP) and D&D reform processes (improve policy dealing with D&D to create an enabling environment).

  • Increase and institutionalize participatory development processes and democratic practices within sub-national government (improve supply of good governance by commune councils).

Program Components

  • Capacity Building and Support - LAAR delivers an intensive capacity building program for both civil society organizations and commune councils focused on 1) increasing public participation and decision-making in council affairs and 2) improving transparent and accountable management of council funds. This training curriculum is delivered by provincial NGO (PNGO) partners and other civil society partners, who are also responsible for ongoing coaching and mentoring of training participants to help them reach program objectives. Civil society organizations, in collaboration with Commune Councils and government facilitation teams develop joint action plans to encourage the practical application of skills acquired.

  • Social Development Funds - The LAAR program provides Social Development Funds (SDF) in the form of grants as an incentive for councils to incorporate socially-focused investments into commune planning. Each targeted commune  has access to US$3-5,000 for up to three consecutive years. Funded priorities must be identified through the government-established CIP process and follow the existing government bidding process for procurement of services.  Matching funds are required from communes to increase ownership and sustainability of the projects.

  • Grant Support - The LAAR program  offered one-time grants of up to US$5,000 to innovative commune councils, local NGOs, CBOs and village networks to support projects that aim to increase citizen involvement and that focus on cross-cutting issues of good governance, under-represented groups and NRM. Civil society initiatives had to demonstrate strong partnership links to commune councils to be eligible for funds.

  • Transparency and Accountability - The Program increases transparency and accountability at the sub-national level by employing a  governance self assessment called the Commune Action and Effectiveness Process (CAEP) which engages citizens in the assessment of council performance. The outputs of these two tools will result in a public annual performance improvement plan for each commune. Additionally, LAAR conducts external spot audits of commune councils to foster an environment of open fiscal disclosure.

  • Outreach - LAAR is also implementing an integrated media strategy to raise awareness around partnership best practices, citizen participation in commune activities; citizen and council rights, and D&D policy initiatives. 

  • Dialogue and Awareness - The LAAR program supports mechanisms to increase the flow of information between government and civil society and works to strengthen civil society and commune council networks, increasing their credibility and legitimacy to play a more active role in D&D reform. These mechanisms include provincial-level thematic public forums, civil society working group for partnership in decentralization, inter-commune associations, female councilor networks, the NGO Liaison Office, community mobilizing committees and regional decentralization associations.


  • 13 Provincial NGOs

  • 8 provinces, 356 communes with a population of approximately 3,167,357 people (1,544,279 men & 1, 623,253 women) across 3,389 villagers (643,626 families)

  • 3,164 commune council members (2,742 male & 422 female) from 356 commune councils

  • 3,955 community mobilizing committee members (2,207 male & 1,752 female) from 356 communes




Model for Change



Address: Phnom Penh Centre Building A 3rd floor, Cnr. Sihanouk & Sothearos Blvd or PO Box 149, Phnom Penh, Cambodia
Phone: (855)-23-217-855  Fax: (855)-23-217-856
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