After a long history of political turbulence and civil war, Cambodia once again adopted multi-party election as a means for political parties to compete for government positions in May 1993. Since then, democratic values and principles have gradually taken root in society, giving rise to a vibrant civil society and high political competition. For the first time, Cambodian people seem to enjoy stability and peace as never seen before.
Cambodia’s economy has also grown at a breakneck rate, averaging around 7 percent annually and lifting millions of people out of extreme poverty over the past decades. The country also ranks high in its impressive achievements of the United Nations Millennium Development Goals and other economic indicators. Moreover, economic growth also contributes to rapid expansion of the middle class, which is now becoming the most potent force in Cambodia’s politics.
The Kingdom has also become an important player in regional and global affairs. It actively works with other ASEAN member states to expand trade, promote culture and enhance security in the region. In recent years, Cambodia has also taken part in many global initiatives such as sending hundreds of soldiers to war-torn countries to assist the United Nations in peacekeeping and demining.
Such progress does not come without challenges. In the last few years, unprecedented demographic, socio-economic and technological change has transformed Cambodia’s political landscape in many important ways. The emerging consensus is that the government must seriously embrace rigorous democratic reforms in order to respond to public demands. However, the question is which reform areas most deserve attention and support.
In addition, the changing regional and global order requires countries to undertake careful and strategic readjustment in their relations with major powers. The rise of China and the US’s so-called “pivot to Asia” undoubtedly shape Cambodia’s foreign policy as well as other ASEAN member states for decades to come. Other security issues such as terrorism, transnational crimes, natural disaster and humanitarian crisis are continuing to pose potential threats to the region.
As a result, the Cambodian Institute for Strategic Studies (CISS) is established to help prepare Cambodia to meet these challenges by providing pragmatic, evidence-based and non-partisan policy recommendations. It will also serve as a forum for key decision makers to exchange views on a wide range of political, economic and social issues. Moreover, CISS seeks to work closely with partners oversea to address potential security issues that might endanger peace and stability in the region and the world.