Working together for peace, poverty reduction and human rights

"Welcome to the United Nations in Cambodia"


The United Nations Human Settlements Programme (UN HABITAT) is the United Nations agency mandated to promote socially and environmentally sustainable towns and cities with the aim of providing adequate shelter for all.

The UN HABITAT Agenda addresses a range of human settlement development issues in the areas of urban governance, housing, environmental management, disaster mitigation, post-conflict rehabilitation, urban safety, water management and poverty reduction. The UN HABITAT Agenda is a global plan of action adopted at the second United Nations Conference on Human Settlements, held in Istanbul, Turkey in 1996.

Otherwise known as United Nations Center for Human Settlements (UNCHS), UN HABITAT was established in Cambodia in 1996 following the formation of its Asia and Pacific Regional Office in Fukuoka, Japan.

Originally sharing office space at the Municipal Department of Land Management, Urban Planning, Construction and Cadastral, UN HABITAT moved to City Hall in 2002, and finally in 2007 moved to the UNDP compound.

UN HABITAT in Cambodia works with the Government, donors and development partners to advocate for human settlement and habitat agenda issues, and to implement various urban water sanitation projects in towns and cities across the country. UN HABITAT office in Cambodia is currently developing its Habitat Country Programme Document (HCPD) for 2011-12, and collaborating with various stakeholders to ensure its successful implementation. The UN HABITAT Country Manager is a member of the United Nations Country Team.

Partnership for Urban Poverty Reduction
Through its “Partnership for Urban Poverty Reduction” project UN HABITAT worked to improve conditions in slums of Phnom Penh.  The first phase of the project included activities in the slums such as building footbridges, concrete lanes, drainage and toilets, and safe water pumps;  capacity building with local authorities, communities and other partners; and empower communities’ to work with local authorities to ensure access to affordable basic services and improved living environments. UN HABITAT was a driving force behind the drafting of the Royal Government of Cambodia’s National Housing Policy in 2003.

From 2004 to 2007, the second phase of the project worked to form local institutions and community organizations to manage community consultations to identify local problems and priorities, and then to finance the implementation of identified necessary site improvement. As a result of this project, more than 160 new community organizations have been formed and more than 350 community based infrastructure and urban basic services improved, benefitting more than 31,000 Cambodian families.

Lessons learnt from the project were submitted to Government for referral and integration into similar future projects.

Mekong Region Water and Sanitation Initiative
The Mekong Region Water and Sanitation Initiative (MEK-WATSAN), which has been in operation since 2005, is a collaborative effort between UN HABITAT and the governments of the Mekong region: The Kingdom of Cambodia; the People's Republic of China (Yunnan province); the Lao People's Democratic Republic; and the Socialist Republic of Vietnam.

The philosophy of the MEK-WATSAN initiative is to support the participating governments to attain their water and sanitation related Millennium Development Goal (MDGs) by halving the proportion of people without access to improved water supply and sanitation services by 2015.

The MEK-WATSAN initiative began in Cambodia in 2008 and aims to expand the water supply system and increase sanitation coverage in Cambodia by funding small loans to low income households for their sanitation and water needs; promoting private company water supply connections among poor households; and providing hygiene and sanitation education through the Human Values-based Water, Sanitation and Hygiene Education (HVWSHE) approach. Through the HVWSHE process, individuals gain awareness of their living environment and acquire knowledge, skill, values and experience, and also the determination, which will enable them to act - individually and collectively – to solve present and future water, sanitation and related hygiene problems.

The trial phase of MEK-WATSAN, began in 2008, consisted of community-based water supply and sanitation projects first in Kampot province and then in Prek Thmei and Snoul. Phase 1 is now is now being rolled out in Kampong Thom, Kampong Cham, Pursat and Svay Rieng provinces. Community-based projects rely on community participation and contribution, and have proven to be cost-effective way of encouraging community ownership, ensuring sustainability of development projects.

A 2005 estimate of water supply and sanitation coverage in small towns in Cambodia on average was 16% and 11% respectively. UN HABITAT interventions work to improve these statistics, and the MEK-WATSAN initiative aims to improve water supply to 70-80% and sanitation to 75-90% in selected communes and towns.

The MEK-WATSAN project aims to ensure 1.04 million people in the Mekong region have access to improved water supply and are practicing healthy sanitation. So far, more than 100,000 Cambodians are expected to have benefitted from improved sanitation, and 40,000 from improved water supply through the MEK-WATSAN project. An additional 15,000 Cambodians are expected to benefit from subsequent planned phases of the MEK-WATSAN project.

Water for Asian Cities
UN HABITAT also implements Water for Asian Cities (WAC) programme in partnership with the Governments of Asia and the Asian Development Bank. The WAC programme, which has been operating since 2003, focuses on:
•    Pro-poor governance by ensuring sustainable delivery of safe water and sanitation services to the poor;
•    Water conservation and demand management, such as minimization of loss or waste, the preservation, care and protection of water resources and the efficient and effective use of water by adapting and implementing strategies (policies and initiatives) by water institutions to influence the water demand and usage of water in order to meet the following objectives: economic efficiency, social development, social equity, environmental protection, sustainability of water supply and services, and political acceptability;
•    Environmental sanitation – by assisting local governments develop strategies and policies aimed at improving or maintaining the standard of basic environmental conditions affecting the well being of people. These conditions include (1) clean and safe water supply, (2) efficient and safe, human, and industrial waste disposal, , and (3)adequate housing in clean and safe surroundings; and
•    Income generation for the poor thorough water and sanitation interventions – by provision of artisans’ training to local communities, setting up of small enterprises (s.a. ice factories, water bottling plant)

Both MEK-WATSAN and WAC are funded by UN-HABITAT’s Water and Sanitation Trust Fund (WSTF), which has been funded by the Governments of Netherlands, Japan, Norway, Poland, Canada, and Spain. The main focus Trust Fund is to improve water and sanitation facilities in Africa and Asia through its regional programmes, Water for African Cities and Water for Asian Cities; promote policy dialogue and information exchange; and educate communities about safe water and sanitation practices. The Trust Fund also monitors progress towards achieving the Millennium Development Goal (MDG) targets on improving access to safe water and sanitation. 

Location of UN HABITAT WATSAN Activities in Cambodia


UN HABITAT has forged successful partnerships with a number of Government Ministries, agencies, NGOs and community-based organizations, including:

Water Supply: Ministry of Industry Mines and Energy (MIME), Department of Potable Water Supply (DPWS), Provincial public water utilities, and local communities
Sanitation: Ministry of Rural Development (MRD), Ministry of Industry Mines and Energy (MIME), Provincial public water utilities, NGOs, and local communities
Water, Sanitation and Hygiene Education: Ministry of Education Youth and Sports (MoEYS), Royal University of Phnom Penh, Provincial public water utilities, Teachers’ Training College, Primary and Secondary Schools,  Center for Development (CfD),  Cooperation for a Sustainable Cambodian Society (CSCS) and local communities
Gender mainstreaming: Mekong River Commission (MRC), Gender and Water Alliance (GWA), Ministry of Industry Mines and Energy (MIME), Department of Potable Water Supply (DPWS), Provincial public water utilities, and local communities

For more information, contact:

Mr. Vanna Sok
Habitat Programme Manager for Cambodia;
Tel: +855 12 850 571
Email: This e-mail address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it

Or visit:
o    UN HABITAT Global website
o    UN HABITAT Regional Office for Asia and the Pacific website
o    Water for Asian Cities website


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