Recognition of culture’s role in development has been increasingly advocated for in recent years in Cambodia. The challenge is to ensure that the full range of culture’s benefits is considered and that culture is consistently mainstreamed as a defining and sustainable component in national development plans and policies. The new wealth of data on culture and development, which resulted from implementing the CDIS, has made it possible to empirically illustrate culture’s multidimensional contribution to development, beyond a restricted view of heritage’s economic potential through tourism. The CDIS indicators and their analysis have sparked a new understanding and are informing the country’s first framework Cultural Policy and proposals for the better integration of culture in national development plans. In addition, the participative implementation process unveiled gaps in national statistics and monitoring systems, pointing the way to strengthening them and further reinforcing the knowledge base to inform national policies.
Culture matters in Cambodia: CDIS indicators highlight Cambodia’s culture sector’s potential for economic development and wellbeing, while underlining certain obstacles in place that inhibit it from reaching its full potential.
The results suggest that culture is already a non-negligible contributor to the national formal economy and GDP (1.53% of total GDP) 1, even though currently available data greatly underestimates the sector’s contribution. Difficulties to reflect the informal economy may also be a major factor in the low percentage of recorded employment in cultural establishments 2 (0.54% of the total employed population). Regarding the links between education and the cultural economy, though professional training opportunities in select fields are not yet available, a fairly diverse offering of publicly-supported programmes related to culture at the TVET and tertiary levels 7 (0.7/1) is in place, reflecting Cambodian authorities’ interest and willingness to invest in cultural education at the professional level. However, other data illustrates significant gaps in arts education in key formative years 6 (0%) that may hinder individuals’ interest, skills and opportunities to pursue a professional career in the culture sector, undoubtedly contributing to low levels of formal employment.
Analysis of the supply of domestic fiction productions on public TV 21 (23.7% of broadcasting time of fiction programmes), provides further insight into the potential for growth of the cultural economy as levels of creativity and production may currently be hindered by the abovementioned gaps in professional training in film and image, as well as a lack of regulations and policies to guide the sector. While many policies and measures are in place to facilitate heritage sustainability (0.71/1) 22, enhancing normative, policy and institutional frameworks covering additional cultural domains 8 9 (0.43/1; 0.36/1), as well as increasing opportunities for civil society to take part in cultural governance 11 (0/1) and for individuals to access cultural infrastructures 10 (0.15/1), may assist in securing a solid foundation and environment for the entire culture sector to thrive and meet its full development potential. Increased support of infrastructures may also assist in expanding domestic consumption of cultural goods and services 3 (0.3% of total household consumption expenditures) and boost the market potential of the sector.
For culture to further contribute to wellbeing, increased focus may need to be placed on culture’s role in improving gender equality for development, as well as targeted actions to address social cohesion and individual freedoms. Indicators on the objective outputs and perceptions of gender equality 17 (0.62/1) suggest a need for increased advocacy and measures in key domains in order to remove obstacles to participate in political life and the guarantee of fundamental rights. Likewise, indicators on interpersonal trust (7.7%), suggest that much work remains in the post-Khmer Rouge era in order to nurture revised cultural values, attitudes and norms that promote a positive social context, trust, tolerance and appreciation of cultural diversity. Furthermore, to realize culture’s potential for wellbeing as a medium of expression in a time change, additional support may be necessary to improve the enabling political, economic, legal, social and cultural context that ensures the freedom of expression 19 (37/100).