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Back | Programme Area: The Social Effects of Globalization

Transition to What?: Cambodia, UNTAC and the Peace Process



This paper by Grant Curtis was one of five that were commissioned for an UNRISD workshop on The Social Consequences of the Peace Process in Cambodia, held in Geneva in April 1993. It was specifically commissioned to provide the participants with background information on the current social situation in Cambodia and the role of the United Nations Transitional Authority in Cambodia (UNTAC), as well as a preliminary assessment of the contribution of UNTAC to the process of economic and social rehabilitation and reconstruction.

The paper highlights the huge task which UNTAC had to assume, and provides a balanced account of the major achievements and failings of the United Nations "peace-making" operation. Grant Curtis identifies the principal constraints that prevented UNTAC from achieving much in the field of rehabilitation and reconstruction. The peace process, he argues, distorted and possibly even retarded important aspects of the country's development. Of particular concern was the weakening of the public administration and the delivery of essential social services, as well as the highly uneven growth process characterized by an artificial economic boom in the capital Phnom Penh and stagnation in many rural areas. Investment was concentrated in urban service sector activities catering primarily to the demands of foreign residents and visitors while very little investment occurred in agriculture, health and education.

A disturbing effect of the UNTAC presence and the influx of many international agencies was the reduced role of Cambodians in setting their country's development agenda. The author warns of the danger that Cambodia may follow a path that does not address priority needs and is not in the best interests of its people.
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  • Pub. Date: 1 Nov 1993
    Pub. Place: Geneva
    ISSN: 1012-6511
    From: UNRISD