Perspectives: Responsible and Inclusive Buiness, Mr. Philippe Kridelka, Belgian Ambassador

Responsible and inclusive business is an important element of the partnership between Belgium and Cambodia. That partnership is hinged on two pillars: the Belgium Development Cooperation agency, a bilateral cooperation program, along with an interesting program negotiated with the Cambodia authorities. The assistance package has an envelope of around 20 million euros over the five-year period from 2017 to 2021.

Belgium Cooperation is working with international NGOs like Oxfam, local Khmer NGOs and a Belgium university. Responsible and inclusive business is an extremely important part of that program, and an important part of the work done by Oxfam.

Belgian Investment Company for Developing Countries

Belgian Investment Company for Developing Countries (BIO) is another instrument of our development policy. BIO provides loans and direct investment to businesses which are entering the second stage of their development. They are those businesses that are too big to call on microfinance, yet too small to negotiate directly with local banks. Recently, we have been supporting local companies in the field of healthcare and the local production of quality milk products. The responsible and inclusive character of the Cambodian private businesses we support is an important factor in deciding which ones will benefit from financial support.

The development of a responsible and inclusive economy in Cambodia is a shared responsibility. The central and local governments, businesses, citizens, trade unions and civil society must be involved in that development.

We have recently seen an interesting example of that—the power of the consumer to promote inclusive and responsible business. Last January, the European Commission formally lifted the “yellow card” it had earlier issued to Thailand because of the “illegal, unreported and unregulated fishing practices” of the Thai fishing industry. Indeed, 90% of the 60,000 fishermen in the Thai commercial fishing industry are migrant workers from Myanmar and Cambodia. Fishing is one of the world’s most arduous and dangerous occupations. Many workers have been exploited and badly treated off the coasts of this region. But why did the Thai fishing companies change their behavior? I believe that in addition to active dialogue with the UN and constructive pressure from independent journalists and civil society, practitioners in Thailand and elsewhere, including the Thai authorities, the attitude of consumers of Thai seafood worldwide (30% of the total revenue of Thai Union Group, the largest actor in the Thai fishing industry, come from the EU market) has been a powerful tool to convince the involved companies to change the way they work and to become progressively more responsible and more inclusive companies.