Phnom Penh, November 25, 2014: The NGO Forum on Cambodia (NGOF) and the Cambodian Human Rights Action Committee (CHRAC) in collaboration with the Organizing Committee Members (OCM)organized The 8th National Advocacy Conference (NAC), under the theme “Working together to promote effective reform on Land and Natural Resources Governance in Cambodia” at the Imperial Villa and Hotel. Approximately 350 representatives from the government, local and international CSOs/NGOs, development partners, communities from different provinces and youth attended the conference to strengthen the existing mechanisms of resolving land conflicts. The conference also aimed to improve good governance on land and natural resources management with respect for human rights and to promote sustainable livelihoods in Cambodia.
The specific objectives of this annual conference were:
- To provide an opportunity for affected community members , civil society, government officials, lawmakers, private sector and development partners to engage in a constructive dialogue on key emerging issues facing the administration of land and natural resources in Cambodia;
- To collectively formulate recommendations regarding key policy and propose suggestions to the Cambodian Government and lawmakers. The civil society and the communities will thus contribute to the national development plan and ensure good governance of land and natural resources;
“Based on the TAI assessment report the access to information, participation as well as justice of men, women and poor people are often denied. People are not given a chance to participate in public discussion on policies, practices and development on environmental governance includes the Economic Land Concessions (ELCs), Hydropower dam project and Mekong river development projects,” said Mr. Tek Vannara, NGOF’s Executive Director. “Hence, today is a good opportunity that should encourage and motive the participation of people from various sectors to come and talk together about all the issues in Cambodia to seek solutions. However, we will not stop our work after this annual event. Our team will keep working on to ensure better human rights practice in Cambodia. ”
To enhance the agricultural sector, the Government of Cambodia tries to attract foreign investors, offering Economic Land Concessions. According to data from, LICADHO, ELCs covered 2,289,490 ha by April 2013, which is equivalent to 63.46% of Cambodia’s arable land. In addition, 2,027,979 ha of mining concessions have been recorded. Thus, based on LICADHO’s report, mining and ELCs together cover 4,317,469 ha or 24.46% of Cambodia’s surface area.
Due to the extended lease time ranging from 70 to 99 years, this land will not be available for rural communities for farming and cultivation activities supporting their food security in the foreseeable future. Furthermore, the rural population faces a number of problems, including lack of secure land tenure. Indeed, the NGOF recorded 311 Land Disputes in 2013 and estimates that 25% of the land disputes were caused by ELCs, affecting approximately 19,740 households or 92,778 people. Forced evictions as a result of development projects in urban and rural areas being implemented by the Government, companies and International Financial Institutions (IFIs), as well as land disputes and land grabbing are among the most widespread human rights violations in Cambodia.
“Widespread land disputes in Cambodia are happening because of the poor rule of law and in particular the lack of effective legal enforcement in relation to natural resources management. Hence, CSOs/NGOs are working together to organize this annual event with the expectation that it would be an occasion which could help to improve the communities knowledge as well as the understanding of related parties about continuing problems and together seek a better solution for all,” said Mr. Suon Bunsak, Chief of Secretariat Cambodian Human Rights Action Committee.
The 8th National Advocacy Conference went smoothly and successfully achieved its objectives. The conference discussed agricultural Investment and Human Rights, indigenous issues; mining and hydro dam; land issues and legal framework and access to information. The conference key recommendations to address land conflicts included:
- Conduct awareness raising about land law and human rights to target communities
- Provide clear and adequate information to local communities before investment starts
- Promote community participation in any studies on the impacts of the investment
- Review and monitor all ELCs
- Suspend and cancel ELCs which do not comply with the law
A joint statement was developed and approved by all participants. The joint statement reflected and integrated all key concerns of stakeholders and communities. On behalf of the national conference, Mr. Tek Vannara handed over the joint statement to H.E. Pol Ham, Chairperson of 3rd Commission, National Assembly.
In his closing remarks, H.E. Pol Ham thanked all participants, community representative and all keynote speakers who attended the two-day national conference. He pointed out that the forum discussed important strategies and made recommendations to address land conflicts. He stated that the the 3rd commission of the National Assembly carefully listened and heard all concerns of local communities. On behalf of the 3rd Commission of the National Assembly, he said he would take and consider all concerns and issues raised by the participants to the National Assembly and relevant government agencies. At the same time, he stated that all the concerns of community were also the concern of 3rd Commission.
NAC is organized by:
The NGO Forum on Cambodia (NGOF) and the Cambodian Human Rights Action Committee (CHRAC) in collaboration with Organizing Committee Members (OCM): ADHOC, API, CHRAC, CRRT, CVS, DPA, GAD/C, HRTF, ICSO, KYSD, LWD, Star Kampuchea, NGOF, Vigilance, WVC, YRDP, UPWD.
Click here for the Joint Statement in Khmer
Click here for the Joint Statement in English