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Cambodia’s Youth as Change Agents for a Sustainable Transformation?

Dr Michael Waibel
10.05.2021
Youth and Ageing in Southeast Asia(SoSe 21)

In the past decades, Cambodia witnessed an economic boom, accelerating unsustainable urbanization and resource-intensive lifestyles, particularly of the emerging urban middle and upper classes. Estimates forecast a continuation of this development and a doubling of the urban population in Cambodia by 2030 and a doubling of the total building stock in Phnom Penh by 2050. This dynamism and the urgency of a sustainability transition are the rationale of the multi-disciplinary Build4People project (full title: “Buildings for People: Enhancing Quality of Life through Sustainable Urban Transformation in Cambodia”). The key objective of the Build4People project is to support the reconfiguration of Phnom Penh’s urban development regime towards more sustainability and a better urban quality of life of all its citizens.
When analyzing transformational dynamics in Cambodia – a country with one of the youngest populations in the region – the youth might be considered as a key actor for change. Following significant political and socio-economic changes in the last decades, today’s youth is confronted with a vastly different context than previous generations. This includes new possibilities, freedoms, and global influences, but also continuities of patrimonial and hierarchical structures. Being considered as one of Cambodia’s greatest assets, youth are however suffering from many vulnerabilities and a lack of political representation. Furthermore, its chances for talent growth, vocational / technical and global knowledge skills have been poorly evaluated in global rankings.

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