Beginning in the early 90s, with the help of the United Nations, Cambodia began to transition from a suffering country plagued by genocide, civil war, and frequent military and political upheaval to a democratic form of government. In a continuing effort to develop democratic foundations in Cambodia, in 2003, the United States Agency for International Development (USAID) implemented the first Program on Rights and Justice (PRAJ I), an activity aimed at building judicial reform and strengthening Cambodia’s society after it’s scarring history. Then, in 2008, USAID followed with PRAJ II, which continued to promote judicial reform through development of judicial databases, expanded access to legal aid and legal education, and growth of Cambodia’s Ministry of Justice, with an overarching goal of improving the civil society of Cambodia.

As the program drew to a close in 2014, USAID enlisted the help of DevTech’s Monitoring and Evaluation (M&E) experts to assess PRAJ II in order to inform the design and strategy of its next generation of Democracy and Governance (DG) programming.

Upon evaluation, we found that:

  • The initial assumption that the central government would fully engage in the reform had not sufficiently been met, largely due to a highly politicized and at times, uncooperative Bar Association of the Kingdom of Cambodia (BAKC), Ministry of the Interior (MOI) and MOJ, and declining resources.

  • The Monitoring & Evaluation (M&E) system used did not properly align with the needs of PRAJ II, as the indicators used to measure the progress project were not adequate measures of the intended results of the project. For example, given the length of time often needed for legal aid cases to flow through the court system, the small size of legal aid firms and NGOs, and the few organizations providing legal aid, these numbers could change very little from one year to the next, let alone from one quarter to the next.

Based on the results of this evaluation, we used our deep-level experience with security, transparency, and governance to provide recommendations for further DG programming:

  • USAID is one player among many attempting to achieve democratic reform in Cambodia. Therefore, future projects would be well-served by forming an association/ coalition of actors seeking to create a more democratic society and the pooling of donor funds to support democratic reform.

  • With a common planning and M&E approach, success might be more easily achieved by creating a few common indicators in one progress report per quarter for those receiving small grants in order to capture incremental change.

Devtech improves the security, transparency, and the capacity of urban and local governments in countries around the world, implementing projects that counter violent extremism, improve fiscal transparency, improve rule of law and criminal justice systems, strengthen civil society, and more. We bring significant expertise in developing and implementing intergovernmental relationships by providing local governments with the authority and the capacity to fulfill their new responsibilities and amplify the voices of their citizens. As such, when USAID called on DevTech to evaluate the performance of PRAJ II, our strong M&E capabilities and background in governmental development allowed us to provide technologically robust and innovative solutions.

To learn more about this project and DevTech’s capabilities, please visit the full report.