Excellency Chairman Senior
Cambodia is endowed with considerable natural resources. This includes land, forests, fisheries, minerals, water as well as oil and natural gas. When managed in a sustainable and equitable manner, this wealth can serve to further reduce rural poverty and spur economic development.
The most effective means to ensure this outcome is good governance. The more Cambodians are able to understand how their resources are being used and to express their views, the more democratic and appropriate the decision-making process on the use of the country’s natural resources will be. It is through this prism that natural resources should be viewed.
While the sustainable and equitable management of natural resources is undeniably essential for the competitive economy of the 21st century, it cannot only be valued by their worth in the short term market place. Natural resources have an ecological and biodiversity value which is vital for human activities. It is for this reason that Development Partners very much welcome the opportunity to discuss this important issue today.
The past year has been a very productive one for the agriculture sector with improving rice yields, increasing production of other agricultural commodities and the development of new irrigation systems and other agricultural infrastructure. We congratulate the Royal Government on the completion of the Strategy on Agriculture and Water and note that now attention has increasingly focused on the development of a more aligned and harmonised approach within the sector as outlined in the jointly developed Statement of Principles. Continued leadership as well as financial and human resources are keys to ensuring success and we urge the Ministers of MAFF and MOWRAM to continue to drive this process forward commencing with the endorsement of the Statement of Principles.
One of this area’s key sub-sectors is irrigation. Development Partners encourage the Royal Government to implement an Integrated Water Resource Management approach for all new investments. This approach recognises the need to balance infrastructure improvements and maintenance with better irrigation practices, as well as the availability of water resources and agricultural potential.
Cambodia is blessed with abundant forests. Nevertheless, its forest cover declined during the period 2002-2006 from 61% to 59% of the total land area – slightly below the CMDG target of 60%. The quality of remaining forests in terms of forest types, their diversity and densities also declined. Insecure title over land and unclear land use rights also hampered efforts to secure livelihoods. Agricultural expansion, illegal logging and increasing demands for land have caused the loss of forests, and increased the vulnerability of communities who depend on forest resources. There is clearly a need to ensure sustainable management and equitable use of forests, to improve rural livelihoods, and to promote a balanced socio-economic development in Cambodia. Past forest management systems have not contributed sufficiently to these broad policy objectives.
Development Partners welcome the recent adoption by the Technical Working Group Forestry and the Environment of a four-year Forestry and Environment Action Plan 2007-2010 aligned with the NSDP. This provides a broad framework of prioritised actions and investment opportunities. Development Partners encourage the Forestry Administration to continue their current efforts to demarcate Cambodia’s Forest Estate, to approve Community Forestry agreements, to develop new service delivery models to strengthen mapping services and forest crime monitoring, and to develop a National Forest Programme. The latter will provide new momentum and strategic orientation to the sector, and lead to improved planning, implementing and monitoring of forestry-related activities
The significant progress being made in the management of agriculture and natural resources risks being overshadowed by the rapid increase of Economic Land Concessions (ELCs) at both the national and provincial levels. In many cases, the issuance of ELCs has been granted in a non-transparent manner and essential pre-conditions to the grant of concession such as social and environmental impact assessments have not been met.
Development Partners welcome the Royal Government’s commitment to make public a logbook of all ELCs, including those approved at the provincial level. They also commend the government’s intention to review economic land concessions over 10,000 hectares and to take appropriate action. Cancelled or reduced ELCs should be used to make available land for social land concessions.
Indigenous People’s Land Rights is also an important topic for discussion. While indigenous peoples represent a small percentage of Cambodia’s population, they live in areas rich in natural resources that have increasingly become the focus of pressures to develop the land. This subject serves to illustrate the need to balance national economic development and broader access to land with the sustainable and equitable use.
While acknowledging and supporting the Royal Government’s commitment, some areas continue to be of concern in particular the failure to halt land alienation in indigenous areas and issues related to the protection of rights to land. Land and forests are central to the livelihoods, culture and traditions of Cambodia’s indigenous peoples. While interim measures are being piloted, the scope of this effort is not sufficient. As previously stated, not a single indigenous group has been issued with title in the six years since the adoption of the Land Law.
Another challenge in addressing Indigenous rights to land includes coordination between numerous ministries in the implementation of existing laws and development of additional policies. Development Partners strongly encourage the Royal Government to consider recommendations that have been made in various fora to protect and implement these rights.
As has been noted earlier, the equitable and sustainable management of Cambodia’s natural resources can significantly reduce poverty rates. Such an approach must also include secure access and title to these resources and the provision of means that allow the people of Cambodia to effectively utilise the resources. Achieving a balance between economic development and broader access to these resources is a difficult and challenging task. Nonetheless, the risks and consequences are high and it’s a balance that Cambodia cannot afford to ignore.
It is for this reason that Development Partners support the current reform agenda and are working closely with key Ministries in an attempt to maintain momentum in order to meet NSDP poverty reduction targets. We urge the Royal Government to stay the course, as it faces difficult challenges ahead.
The period since the last Consultative Group meeting has been a very productive one for the Cambodian agricultural sector, with improving rice yields, increasing production of other agricultural commodities, and development of irrigation systems and other agricultural infrastructure.
This period has also seen achievements in harmonization and alignment, led by the Technical Working Group on Agriculture and Water. The Technical Working Group has overseen the formulation of the Strategy on Agriculture and Water, in which the Ministries of MAFF and MOWRAM (with support from Development Partners) have outlined the key directions for the agriculture and water sector.
In addition, Government and Development Partners have developed a Statement of Principles, which expresses the commitment of all key stakeholders to work together to implement the Strategy and to move forward to Program approach and step by step to SWAP.
While this initial work has been beneficial, it is essential that both Government and Development Partners continue these efforts so that the work yields practical results for rural Cambodians and the economy in general.
In this context, Development Partners do have some concerns about the capacity of MAFF and MOWRAM officials to continue to lead and work on the design of the Strategy’s programs, and urge Ministers and the Government to continue to provide the leadership, prioritization and staff resources to allow this to occur.
While there is considerable interest in the potential contribution to be made to agricultural production through irrigation, it is important to emphasise that the objective of irrigation projects should not be limited to rehabilitation/upgrading of infrastructure but should also involve improvement of irrigation practices and organization of the water users to sustainably increase agricultural production.
Any irrigation project should be developed on the basis of Integrated Water Resource Management, taking into account water resources available, agricultural potential and operational issues. In many river basins there is evidence that there is insufficient water for all schemes planned, and construction of dams obviously impacts on viability too. RGC and in particular MOWRAM and MEF should consider more the maintenance cost issues of irrigation schemes, for which a specific financial mechanism could be developed to channel funds efficiently.
It is therefore important to promote effective irrigation development through the establishment and institutionalisation of an appropriate irrigation sector policy. The work being done under the Strategy on Agriculture and Water provides a framework for this policy development.
Another issue of importance to agricultural development concerns agrarian structure – how much and where the Government should encourage and assist the establishment of large scale farming operations, or focus on establishing a larger number of smaller farming enterprises. There is now considerable evidence that for both accelerating economic growth and reducing poverty, in general small-scale operations are more efficient and productive. This is not to say that there is not a role for large-scale production (e.g. plantations) but rather that proponents should bring evidence to demonstrate why they will be better in specific circumstances.
In this context, the current policies in relation to Economic Land Concessions and Social Land Concessions are directly relevant.
The RGC has undertaken significant reforms in the fisheries sector to ensure a more poverty-oriented approach. The Statement of the Royal Government on National Fisheries Sector Policy was followed up by the preparation of a Fisheries Development Action Plan for 2005-2008.
Up to 2005, approximately 56% of fishing lots were released for small-scale fishing. The Royal Decree on establishment of community fisheries was signed on 29 May 2005, and a sub-decree on community fisheries management was promulgated on 10 June 2005. A new Fisheries Law was passed by the National Assembly and endorsed by H.R.H. the King on 21 May 2006.
The formulation of a Cambodia Code of Conduct for “Responsible Fisheries” will provide a framework to link sector the potentials of the sector to the development of rural communities’ needs whilst fulfilling the country’s international obligations.
In the light of these achievements, we would encourage the RGC to continue its commitment to the ongoing Fisheries policy reforms. Despite considerable progress, the continued lack of clarity over access rights to use fisheries resources and lack of incentives to manage capture fisheries in a sustainable remain as key challenges. The coastal zone management and related community-based marine fisheries appear to lag behind inland and capture fisheries. Costal zone management and related community-based marine fisheries development continue to lag behind inland and capture fisheries.
To ensure sustainable management of aquatic resources, it will be important that before the release of any further fishing lots that existing areas of demarcation and a legal recognition for community management is completed.
In order to maintain the balance between conservation, economic development and poverty reduction, it is essential that Economic and Social Impact Assessments as well as cost benefit analysis be undertaken before any further release of fishing areas.
The enhancement of the agriculture sector has been recognised as the key to poverty reduction and would also contribute to substantially increasing GDP. The potential contribution of the integration of fisheries and agriculture activities to achieve this should not be underestimated.
3. Forestry and Environment
Insecure title over land and unclear rights to use forest resources has hampered efforts to secure livelihoods and to contribute to rural economic growth in Cambodia. The continuing loss of forest resources due to agricultural expansion, illegal logging and increasing demands for land and biomass associated with Foreign Direct Investment from S.E. Asia has led to the increased vulnerability of forest-dependent rural communities. Nationally, higher poverty rates are observed for rural households mainly engaged in forestry and fisheries activities, indicating the critical importance of access to common property resources for rural people.
Livelihood security for rural communities requires that natural resource endowments are transformed into livelihood benefits by securing entitlements to use natural resources and acquiring the assets or the organization and rules that allow local users to effectively exploit them. The choices made in transforming endowments into livelihood security include the recognition of rights of categories of users and decisions to use a specific resource, or part of it, for particular purposes. The more local stakeholders are given a chance to express their voice in making these choices, the more democratic the process of making choices - and decisions - will be
Cambodia’s forest cover declined in 2005-2006 to 59% of the total land area i.e. below the Cambodian MDG target of 60%. The quality of remaining forests also declined to the detriment of rural communities and their livelihoods. There is an urgent need to ensure sustainable management and equitable use of forests, to improve rural livelihoods, and to promote a balanced socio-economic development in Cambodia. Past forest management systems have not contributed sufficiently to these broad policy objectives. Large-scale forest concessions did not result in a stream of sustainable benefits to either the RGC or rural communities
We welcome the recent adoption by the TWG F & E of a four-year Forestry and Environment Action Plan 2007-2010 aligned with the National Strategic Development Plan. Similarly, current efforts made by the Forestry Administration to prioritise the development of a National Forest Programme will provide new momentum and strategic orientation to the sector. This will lead to improved planning, implementing and monitoring of forestry-related activities, and will provide a framework for prioritised actions and investments. It includes efforts to demarcate Cambodia’s Forest Estate, to approve Community Forestry agreements, to develop new service delivery models (commercial community forestry and partnership forestry), to re-introduce the Annual Bidding Coupe system, and to strengthen mapping services and forest crime monitoring.
We also recognise that despite some progress in demarcating Cambodia’s Forest Estate, additional resources will be required to accelerate the process. In 2007 it is planned to demarcate an additional 320.000 hectares and 600 km of forest estate boundary with funding committed by RGC and Danida/DFID.
We lastly urge other development partners, and international/local NGO’s to contribute funds and resources to the National Forest Programme, as the funding shortfall is estimated to be 70%. Similarly, we urge again international and national NGOs to provide information on their activities as many are working outside the scope and “off-budget” of RGC systems and procedures.
4. Land and Indigenous Peoples
It is perhaps easy to forget that Cambodia is one of the most natural resources endowed countries in the region. Cambodia’s natural resources base is due to its forests, fisheries, water, oil and gas and arable land. When managed in a sustainable and equitable manner, this wealth can serve as an important tool in reaching the poverty reduction targets set out in the NSDP and maintain the momentum of the past decade. It is through this prism that the land sector must be viewed.
As the Royal Government has noted, most recently at the 2nd Cambodia Economic Forum, there is a causal link between secure land title property rights and poverty reduction, particularly in rural areas. Significant benefits include: reduction in the number of landless; growth and investment; and enhanced social stability through reducing land conflicts. It should be noted that land distribution by small holdings can sometime deliver a higher agriculture yield and contribution to GDP than certain larger plantation-type holdings, such as those found in economic land concessions.
Reform of the land sector requires change in the three interwoven areas of land management; land administration; and land distribution. An important step in this direction is the recent development of an integrated programme to address specific sub-sectors needs by the Royal Government under the name of the Land Administration, Management and Distribution Programme, or LAMDP. While there is a general need to further define its specific objectives and scope of its function, it nonetheless establishes a strong foundation that will greatly foster the shift toward a programme-based approach for development cooperation in the land sector.
Development Partners welcome ‘Indigenous People’s Land Rights’ as a topic for discussion today. While indigenous peoples represent a small percentage of Cambodia’s population, they live in areas rich in natural resources which have increasingly become the focus of proposals to develop land in order to further economic development. This issue serves to illustrate the need to balance national economic development and broader access to land as well as its sustainable and equitable use for all rural communities and disadvantaged Cambodians. This has never been an easy task.
While we acknowledge and support the Royal Government’s commitment in this vital area, some areas continue to be of concern, in particular is halting land alienation in indigenous areas and the protection of rights to land pending the legal registration of indigenous communities and registration of collective land title. On the one hand, interim protective measures are now being piloted and the process of the identification, mapping and classification of state land continues. On the other, the granting of economic land and other types of concessions continue posing a significant obstacle to the survival and cultural identity of indigenous communities.
As underlined in the Development Partner statement made at the February 2007 Government Donor Coordination Committee Meeting, not a single indigenous group has been issued with title in the six years since the adoption of the Land Law.
At the policy level, Development Partners recognise that the Council for Land Policy has drafted a policy on the registration of indigenous communal lands and that this draft policy was discussed in a public forum in February 2007 and it has now been submitted for approval to the Council of Ministers. We are also aware that three pilot villages have been registered with the Ministry of the Interior as legal entities suitable for holding indigenous communal land. Development Partners welcome plans to implement sub-decree #118 State Land Management process in the three villages which have been registered as legal entities with the Ministry of Interior. As part of this process, indigenous peoples’ claims will be provisionally recognised on the state land map. This is a concrete example of an interim protective measure. However, given the rapid and widespread alienation that is currently witnessed, the scope of this effort may not be sufficient.
Challenges in addressing Indigenous rights to land include coordination between numerous ministries in the implementation of existing laws and development of additional policies. Nevertheless, Development Partners encourage the Royal Government to consider recommendations that have been made in various fora, such as the Indigenous Peoples and Access to Land in Cambodia held last February to protect and implement these rights. These include, among others, taking concrete measures to halt the alienation of indigenous land; assisting Indigenous communities to map the boundaries (and ground demarcation) of their communal land; prepare claims for collective title; and provide interim recognition of these lands pending the legal registration in indigenous communities and of collective title.
In the meantime, Development Partners are committed, through the Technical Working Group Land, to support the design and implementation of these and other measures in order to protect and enforce Indigenous peoples’ rights to land.