Cambodia is a Southeast Asian nation in the Mekong Delta region between Thailand and Vietnam. Young people 15-30 represent 32% of the population of 14.5 million people in Cambodia. The GNI is $27.16 billion PPP dollars. [1]

Youth Civic Participation Overview

Cambodia has a variety of CSOs that work on both local and national levels. Some of these organizations, described below, reach a wide audience and were included in “Harnessing the Potential to Develop Cambodia,” a report published by Youth Star Cambodia in cooperation with United Nations Volunteers in 2008. [2]

Youth Star Cambodia is a civic participation organization that has been active since 2005, with the objective “to build a just and peaceful nation through citizen service, civic leadership and social entrepreneurship.” It places university graduates in rural communities for a volunteer period of one to two years. Since Youth Star’s foundation, 168 volunteers have improved the lives of over 44,000 beneficiaries. Volunteers have very few resources aside from their own ideas and whatever they can mobilize in the community where they are placed. This program is particularly effective as volunteers are on site on a constant basis and because it allows volunteers to develop programs based on the needs of the communities which they have observed. [3]

Khmer Youth Association is an organization that works with young people in the areas of democracy building, conflict resolution and reproductive health. It began in November 1992 and now has over 4,000 individual members. It operates through youth clubs based in Youth Learning Centers (with 10-15 full time volunteers) which have been established in rural communities. It encourages volunteers to make links with other agencies and develop employment skills by serving as administrative support for projects.[4]

The United Nations Volunteers are active in Cambodia. They worked with Youth Star Cambodia to produce “Harnessing the Potential to Develop Cambodia” in June 2008 and have also helped establish VolCom, a centralized website which lists volunteer opportunities in Cambodia.[5] The World Bank is also active in promoting youth civic engagement in Cambodia through its Civil Society Fund which has provided funding for programs such as KYA and the Commune Research Team, which uses youth volunteers to survey life in communes and encourages citizens to participate in decision making by providing them the opportunity to discuss issues with commune officials. [6]

Youth policy in Cambodia is the province of the Ministry of Education, Youth and Sports which has established education programs in HIV/AIDs, non-formal education and strategies for teaching information and communication technology. The Ministry has also established physical education programs and was instrumental in developing the National Youth Policy. [7]

The third draft of the National Youth Policy was completed in March 2010, with the final draft expected to be completed sometime in 2010. The process began in 2004 with a series of workshops, surveys and consultations with UN organizations, youth-led associations and other development partners. The first draft of the policy was completed in 2006 and the second draft in 2008. [8] Two sections of particular importance are the sections on volunteerism and civic engagement. Strategic objectives for civic engagement include establishing youth centers, promoting youth organizations and increasing youth involvement in the media. The volunteerism section establishes such strategic objectives as strengthening the mechanisms of coordination between volunteers and communities, raising awareness of volunteer opportunities, and improving recognition of young people who participate in volunteer projects and programs. [9] After the final draft is completed, a National Youth Action Plan will be developed to define the implementation process. [10]


According to the 2008 census, young people 15-30 represent 32% of the population in Cambodia, thus making them the largest demographic and one of Cambodia’s most vital resources. However, the rate of primary school completion in Cambodia is only 50% while the unemployment rate is high. Most young people live in rural areas and while volunteerism is highly valued, it is difficult for rural residents to have access to programs or opportunities. As such, several NGOs, such as Youth Star Cambodia, particularly focus on engaging young people in volunteer opportunities in rural areas. Cambodia hopes to increase youth contribution to development and democracy by ensuring that young people are not only engaged, but also have a voice in decision making.

Going Forward

A draft of the National Youth Policy has been completed and includes provisions for a Cambodian National Council for Youth Development and the creation of a National Youth Action Plan; however, neither of these provisions has been implemented yet. [12] There is some fear that without at least the National Council for Youth, the National Youth Policy will remain solely on paper. Implementation is contingent on the final draft of the National Youth Policy which is expected to be completed by the end of 2010.While the policy progresses, several CSOs are civically engaging young people throughout the country and striving to ensure that young Cambodians have a role in the country’s development. [13]

Contact Information

Khemra Som, Executive Director, Youth Star Cambodia,
Dilafruz Khaydarova, Programme Officer, UNV,
Qimaio Fao, Country Manager, World Bank,

Additional Resources

National Youth Service Profile (2008): IANYS Country Profile_Cambodia
Regional Study – Young People’s Civic Engagement in East Asia and the Pacific (2008)
Ministry of Education, Youth and Sports
UNDP Report on Youth Civic Participation in Cambodia – Knowledge, Attitudes, Practices and Media

[1] World Development Indicators 2010, World Bank, Web, 26 July 2010,….
[2] Eleanor Brown. “Harnessing the Potential to Develop Cambodia,” Youth Star Cambodia in Cooperation with United Nations Volunteers, 2008, Web, 3 Aug 2010,
[3] Ibid.
[4] Ibid.
[5] “New website to spread volunteer opportunities in Cambodia,” United Nations Volunteers, 21 Jan 2010, Web, 3 Aug 2010,….
[6] “Cambodia: Community Research Team Helps Decision Making,” The World Bank, 8 Jul 2010, Web, 3 Aug 2010,….
[7] Draft: Cambodia National Youth Policy, Cambodia: 2010, Web, 3 Aug 2010,….
[8] “National Technical Assistant, UN Support to National Youth Policy Development, Phnom Penh,” UN Jobs, 23 Sep 2009, Web, 3 Aug 2010,
[9] Draft: Cambodia National Youth Policy.
[10] Douglass Broderick, “The UN Resident Coordinator — Speech at the Fourth National Consultation on National Youth Policy Development,” United Nations in Cambodia, 29 Apr 2010, Web, 6 Aug 2010,….
[11] Draft: Cambodia National Youth Policy.
[12] Ibid.
[13] “Policy Alone Inadequate: Youth Advocate,” VOA News, 11 May 2010, Web, 3 Aug 2010,…