To paraphrase the great Sam Cooke, ‘it’s been a long time coming, but a change is gonna come…’
On Wednesday 8th February in Phnom Penh the Cambodian Ministry of Social Affairs, Veterans and Youth Rehabilitation (MoSAVY), with support from UNICEF, launched a highly significant and frank report on Cambodian orphanages ‘With the Best Intentions – A Study of Attitudes towards Residential Care in Cambodia’.
His Excellency Ith Sam Heng, the Minister of Social Affairs, Veterans and Youth Rehabilitation strongly reiterated the Government’s support of the key recommendations in the report in his impassioned speech, among which included a call for all stakeholders to support family or community based care initiatives. He also asked NGO’s, donors and charities to stop opening more orphanages and to focus their attention and resources on reintegrating children already placed in institutions and exploring family or community care options for vulnerable children.
Regarding the current situation, MoSAVY has set up teams that will visit and inspect all of the country’s 269 orphanages and residential care centres and will assess their capability to deliver a duty of care based upon internationally agreed standards. Those unable to meet the criteria will be closed down, and the Government, Local Authorities and NGO’s will work closely together to ensure that children are reunited with their families or placed into community care and that all necessary resources are in place to achieve this.
Chiming with our own current ChildSafe campaign ‘Children Are Not Tourist Attractions’, the report also called for an end to orphanage tourism and HE Ith Sam Heng remarked on the dangers of orphanages becoming ‘tourist centres’. He also singled out that practices which exploit or place children at risk such as using children to promote orphanages through performances and late night dances etc should cease.
Friends-International Executive Director Sebastien Marot commented on the launch –
‘We very much welcome the launch of this report, as it not only supports the view that we hold in tandem with the Royal Government of Cambodia, that family or community based care is the best option for vulnerable children in Cambodia, but its findings also lend additional weight to our current campaign against Orphanage Tourism, ‘Children Are Not Tourist Attractions’, which is already attracting global interest and discussion. We are very pleased that the focus is now firmly on implementing approaches to care which are in the best interests of the children and young people of Cambodia.’
(The full report is currently only available in Khmer language. We will post links to English language versions when available.)