When addressing the 78th UN General Assembly (UNGA 78) on September 22, Prime Minister Hun Manet highlighted several global challenges and reiterated Cambodia’s commitment to a rule-based international order and an independent foreign policy. He also called attention to the Kingdom’s refusal to accept the presence of foreign troops inside its territory.

Manet discussed current geopolitical competition and its impacts, such as the escalation of the war in Ukraine and its grave consequences, noting that the crisis reflects a lack of trust, confidence and adherence to multilateralism among UN member states.

“The rivalry between super and major powers has diverted available resources – to expanding security capabilities despite the widening gap of the lingering effects of the Covid-19 pandemic – away from what is required to achieve the 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development,” he said at the UNGA 78, held in the US’ New York City.

“It is high time to restore strategic security trust between all nations, as well as faith in a rule-of-law based international system in which all states respect international laws and norms, and the principles enshrined in the UN Charter,” he added.

He believes all countries must join hands to prevent the escalation of the current conflict from widening.

Manet also highlighted the progress made by Cambodia in recent decades, such as its move out of “least developed country” (LDCs), expected to be confirmed in 2027, its annual economic growth of over seven per cent before the pandemic, and the high voter turnout in the 2023 general election, among others.

He briefed the assembled world leaders on the government’s recently adopted Pentagonal Strategy, saying it is in line with UN secretary-general Antonio Guterres’ calls for plans to rescue the planet.

Regarding foreign policy, he explained that Cambodia will continue on its path of independence, while maintaining a neutral foreign policy based on the rule of law, equal mutual respect, promoting national interests, strengthening existing friendships and building amicable ties.

“Cambodia remains resolutely against the threat or use of force in international relations, as well as interference in the internal affairs of or oppression of other independent nations. Cambodia will not authorise any foreign military bases on its territory, as clearly stated in the Constitution,” he said.

“Cambodia will not allow any country or group to use its territory against another nation. The Kingdom will further endeavour to strengthen and expand good cooperation with nations around the world – through bilateral, regional and international frameworks – to contribute to global peace, security, stability, sustainable development and prosperity shared by all,” he added.

He said Cambodia welcomed any global accelerators on jobs and social protection for just transition, as initiated by Guterres. The Kingdom supports all relevant initiatives to sustainable development goals (SGDs) and climate change, such as the investment of $500 billion a year between now and 2030 for this cause, and the climate solidarity pact.

Cambodia has an additional SDG of becoming mine-free by 2025, he noted while calling for technical and final support to make this commitment a reality.

“To achieve the SDGs, Cambodia calls on the international community to intensify efforts, strengthen cooperation and rebuild trust and confidence in order to end wars, address the root causes of conflicts and reinvigorate solidarity for SDG achievement,” he said.

Manet stressed that Cambodia will continue to support the increase of Official Development Assistance (ODA) for peace building, and remain a steadfast contributor to the UN’s peacekeeping operations, as part of the Kingdom’s commitment to global peace. To further contribute to this, Cambodia has stood for membership of the Organisational Committee of the Peacebuilding Commission for 2025-26.

Yang Peou, secretary-general of the Royal Academy of Cambodia, noted that numerous observers have seen the decline of the UN Security Council (UNSC) due to competition among superpowers on several geopolitical issues including, among others, NATO; AUKUS trilateral security pact between Australia, the UK and US; Quadrilateral Security Dialogue (QUAD) between Australia, India, Japan and the US; and China’s Belt and Road Initiative (BRI).

“While contests for geopolitical dominance are underway, four major world leaders did not personally attend UNGA 78, namely the leaders of China, Russia, the UK and France. Their notable absence signals a serious concern for the UNSC,” he said.

Peou highlighted the sense of Manet’s comments, adding that the world is delicate and could easily be divided into multiple blocs in the future, making the rule-of-law based international order even more fragile.