PHNOM PENH, Nov. 21 (Xinhua) -- Cambodia's rapid development over the past 30 years has led it to rank in the top 10 globally, and second in Asia and the Pacific, on the "rate of improvement" in the Human Development Index, said a new report released here by the United Nations Development Programme (UNDP) on Thursday.
"Today, more Cambodians than ever before have access to roads, energy, better public services, and new economic and employment opportunities," said Cambodia's 2019 Human Development Report.
"In order to sustain and maximize growth over the long run, environmental sustainability must be integrated into the economy," it said.
Rapid population growth and urbanization are putting growing pressure on Cambodia's ecosystems, resulting in environmental degradation, and a loss of ecosystem services and biodiversity, it added.
About 80 percent of the Cambodian population live and work in rural areas, relying mainly on agriculture, the report said, adding that forest resources and activities provide an important safety net for these rural communities, especially women and the poor, as they provide an alternative source of income.
"This deep connection between the economy and the environment puts Cambodia in a unique position to illustrate that human development can go hand in hand with environmental sustainability," it said.
In her speech at the launch of the report, Valerie Cliff, UNDP's deputy assistant administrator and officer-in-charge of regional bureau for Asia and the Pacific, said the report shared several recommendations for promoting better natural resource management throughout the country.
She said key measures included establishing clear and secure ownership of natural resources, mobilizing funds to protect natural ecosystems, empowering local people to better manage the resources they depend on, and promoting sustainable natural resource products and alternative livelihood opportunities.
"The focus of this Human Development Report is to show the potential of future development pathways that promote the integration of human development and environmental sustainability alongside rapid economic progress," she said.
The report underlines the longer term environmental and development benefits of sustainability for climate change adaptation and mitigation, saying that this can result in significant national human development outcomes, build resilience to shocks, and secure progress throughout Cambodia.
Also, the report reiterates that rural communities are important agents for sustainability, and that they need to be empowered to meet their needs and help improve human development by engaging in sustainable natural resource management.