Single title

Global Megatrends: How Cambodia Should Respond

by Ou Virak

The article is part of the book series Cambodia 2040, which is published by Future Forum and Konrad-Adenauer-Stiftung Cambodia. Enjoy the read!

In this chapter of Cambodia 2040, I aim to provide an overview of the main global megatrends confronting Cambodia – as well as the broader Mekong, Southeast Asia and Asia-Pacific regions – and to outline how it should respond. With the 2020s now underway, and with some analysts starting to cast a wary eye towards 2030, I am looking further down the track to the year 2040, with the goal of establishing a positive vision for Cambodia to aspire to for the middle part of this century.

Why should I read this chapter? ... because it guides Cambodia in the future global megatrends!


Mr. Ou Virak's vision for Cambodia in the face of the 2040 global megatrends: 

  • The world’s population will now rise at a slower pace.  There will be a significant demographic shift away from Europe and America towards Asia and Africa.  Also, we will see changes within the Asia-Pacific region: India, Vietnam, Indonesia and Cambodia are countries on the rise; whereas Japan, South Korea and Australia are countries facing declining and aging populations.  China may also follow this trend, but has more time to address it.

  • Technology innovations are extremely hard to predict.  What we can expect, however, is that they will rise at an exponential rate and that we will need to anticipate increasingly more disruptive technologies.

  • The global shift in the economic, political and security centers of gravity will mean that Cambodia will need to plan better and build a more cohesive society. We will need our citizens to participate democratically in all these aspects, to support the brightest minds among us to think and join in political life without fear of negative repercussions.

  • We must think globally yet act locally. This strategy will become ever more urgent as the new challenges facing us grow in immensity.  Domestically, there will be a changing of the guard within the next 20 years; and Cambodia will need to manage the transition to the next generation better than we have done in the past.  In other words, the old conflicts from Cambodia’s violent past will – and should – play little part in politics or prevent Cambodia from moving forward.  We will need to emphasize increased inclusivity now so that the next generation is better equipped to deal with these challenges.


Short story: 

The thematic issues and trends – and the corresponding policy recommendations I propose – are not necessarily discussed in order of priority; rather I tackle them in a loose thematic order that clusters related issues together. I examine key trends relating to demographics; migrant labor; urbanization; climate, energy and resources; economy, industry, technology and data; trade; terrorism and security; and populism and nationalism.  I anticipate that all these trends and issues will affect Cambodia at least to some degree, whether imminently or at some point in the next two decades.  As the title suggests, I have my eye on 2040 and the 20-year span to that point.


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Deth Sok Udom, Bradley J. Murg, Ou Virak, Michael Renfrew


Phnom Penh