The Third Quarterly Member Meeting (3rd QMM) of the year 2021 was organized using online, Webinar Zoom, on the morning of the 5th August 2021. The objective of the meeting is to share information with member organizations and discuss solutions to the emerging issues that have arisen in the situation of Covid-19 pandemic and the responses of Government and CSOs in providing social support and emergency aids to the affected people/communities and vulnerable groups in the country.
There were 59 participants (19 female) from across the country who actively listened to key speakers. The speakers are NGOF, UNDP Cambodia, HEIFER International, and RECOFTC. The 3rd QMM was chaired by Mrs. Ros Sopheap, a member of the Management Committee of the NGOF and Executive Director of GADC. Dr. Tek Vannara, Executive Director of The NGOF, facilitated the meeting from beginning to end. Five key speakers are representatives of the four institutions who delivered their contributions to the meeting sharing lessons learned during the context of Covid-19.
The objective of the meeting is to share information with member organizations and discuss solutions to the emerging issues that have arisen in the situation of the Covid-19 pandemic and the responses of Government and CSOs in providing social support and emergency aids to the affected people/communities and vulnerable groups in the country. The meeting was held in half-day of the 5th August 2021 as shown on the Agenda in Annex 1. The meeting was hosted by The NGOF.
Dr. Tek Vannara, Executive Director of the NGOF, he updated on Quarterly Progress Report of the NGO Forum on Cambodia
Having paid respects to all the participants of the meeting, including the chairperson, representatives from GADC, UNDP, HEIFER International, and RECOFTC, Dr. Tek Vannara summarized progresses made by The NGOF as following:
• Engagement of NGOF in Development and conservation of Mekong Region;
• Provided inputs to NSDP organized by Ministry of Planning (MOP);
• Organized the internal training of NGOF staff on Policy Brief writing;
• The Tenth Meeting of NGOF participated by key NGOs like CCC and the like;
• Training on Data analysis on forest and Non-Timber Forest Product (NTFP);
• Meeting with CSO and Mekong River Commissions (MRC) on coordination and collaboration on Mekong development programs. MRC has seen that CSO roles are important for the Mekong;
• Provided inputs on Natural Resource Management (NRM) to Ministry of Education, Youth, and Sport (MOEYS) on the development of school materials;
• Provided inputs on Financing in Climate Change context;
• Coordinated meeting with UN Offices and CSO in Cambodia to share their concerns on human rights in Cambodia;
He, then, thanked all staff of NGOF and partners for their strong commitment and efforts so far.
Mr. Ouk Vannara, Deputy Executive Director of the NGO Forum on Cambodia, he shared the next 3 years strategic plan 2021-2023 of NGOF
The Mid-Term Review (MTR) of the NGOF strategic plan, conducted by the external consultancy team, brought up 12 recommendations for future implementation of The NGOF. They are on:
- Gender: should be taken into consideration on numbers of male and female, e.g. 1) Quotas for staff, senior management, management committee, target groups, 2) gender audit by external gender specialist.
- Policy monitoring: during the Covid-19 context, e.g. online policy monitoring. For instance, 1) online policy monitoring platform, 2) case tracking for all disputes by NGOF.
- Evidence-Based Assessment (EBA): e.g. policy research and 1) lobbying, 2) online social media, 3) joint activities, 4) EBA, 5) PAR, 6) advocacy strategy.
- Constructive Engagement: e.g. 1) smaller concentrated approaches, 2) informal meetings and dialogues, 3) confidence-building measures, 4) joint activities with RGC. NGOF builds consensus but represents a diverse voice.
- Capacity Development: It includes 1) more coaching and mentoring, 2) online learning website for partners/WG/NMs, and 3) establishment of COPs, and participatory on constructive recommendations.
- Working Groups: 1) establishment of WGs, 2) including NGOs, CBOs (in line with REC#12), 3) explore different funding models, and online learning, website creation.
- Research Think Tank: in order to have a common reference. Activities include 1) establish Research Think Tank, 2) focus on issues of importance to PS, CS, and RGC, 3) recruit 1-2 additional staff.
- Leadership Institute: e.g. 1) Establish a Leadership Institute, 2) work with CCC or API to do so, 3) provide mentoring, opportunities for those abroad.
- Networks and Membership: The mechanism should 1) focus on provincial networks over sectoral networks, 2) combine membership categories: network and general members would be considered just members of NGOF, 3) combine and reduce networks.
- Structure and Environment: The structure should 1) Develop DOA, 2) improve the staff working environment by: a. reducing workloads, b. staff appreciation, c. team building and solidarity, and d) pay scales.
- Private Sector: Future works should diversify to 1) work with more COC, 2) serve as the secretariat of CSR Forum, 3) responsible business investment, 4) work with IFIs for advocacy, and 5) campaign for consumer empowerment and awareness.
- Civil Society Breadth: It includes a mix of: 1) academic institutions, 2) trade unions, 3) religious groups including churches, 4) teacher’s associations, 5) youth groups, clubs, and networks, 6) community-based organizations, 7) media outlets, 8) local CBOs on: a. micro-funding, b. capacity support, and c. networking and facilitation.
Based on the recent 12 recommendations raised by external consultancy study, Mr. Ouk informed the updated Strategic Plan and objective programs of The NGOF to the meeting members including the goal and five objectives. For the next three years (2021 – 2023), The NGOF will be implementing the updated strategic plan as detailed as following. The goal of the strategic plan states: “well-equipped citizens and CSOs influence and monitor law and policy development and implementation processes, and are enjoying more equitable, inclusive, and sustainable development.” With this ambitious goal, the five objectives of The NGOF program are:
• NGOF supports sustainable and equitable governance of natural resources (NATGOV);
• NGOF contributes to sustainable growth through effective government and private sector partnerships (PASGRO);
• NGOF promotes socio-economic equity in development processes (SEED);
• NGOF engages in constructive advocacy supported by research, communication, and PMEAL; and
• NGOF enhances its Secretariat role through good governance, effective management, and capable administration.
Ms. Chikako Kodama, Governance Chief Technical Advisor, United Nations Development Programme Cambodia (UNDP), She shared the implementation of the UNDP’s Social and Environmental Standards (SES) Policy”
Experiencing in the project and program implementation, UNDP created a tool entitled UNDP’s Social and Environmental Standards, SES in short, for verifying any projects or programs before let it goes. For this meeting event, Ms. Chikako shared the lessons learned to the participants as following.
The tool is a good tool for the development of projects and programs before they are too late to change if implemented because through the processes of verifying the tool to the newly developed projects or programs could be discussed in advance.
Its core values are “SES is a policy require all UNDP programming to maximize social and environmental opportunities and benefits as well as ensure that adverse social and environmental risks and impacts are avoided, minimized, mitigated and managed”, stated Ms. Chikako. The key objectives of the tool are:
• Provide information for decision-making;
• Identify procedures and methods for avoiding and, were not possible, mitigating and managing adverse impacts;
• Promote transparency and stakeholder engagement in a project’s decision-making;
• Ensure projects are socially and environmentally sound and sustainable;
• Ensure compliance with relevant standards (e.g. UNDP’s SES) and regulatory requirements.
She stressed that although the processes of evaluation are complicated, as shown in the picture, the tool is very helpful to find out mitigation strategies, which could be made from either avoid, minimize, mitigate, and offset or compensation.
Dr. Nhem Sareth, Country Director of HEIFER International – Cambodia, he shared the experience of CSOs responding to the Covid-19”
Dr. Sareth started his presentation by claiming that HEIFER is entrepreneurship with the general core goal of his institution: “Community and Value Chain Development to nourish consumers and offer resilient livelihoods”. He emphasized that Covid-19 badly impacted two main aspects, economy and public health, for the last almost two years. However, HEIFER has a strategic program to help farmers for a long-term approach. He stressed that drawing from practical experiences and more broadly from the development sector, HEIFER has developed a view on what lasting change requires. Four strategic programs are:
• Systems change is necessary if we are to accelerate progress and achieving living incomes;
• Changing market systems;
• Long-term, multi-sector approaches, and commitments;
• Updated skills of staff, ways of working, and ways of collaborating are necessary.
Dr. Sareth underlined that all relevant key partner agencies in the loop of productions of agriculture, particularly animal husbandry, have changed the conventional ways of doing business to adapt to the context of Covid-19. For instance, packaging methods were changed from loading and unloading products to sending packages. The emerging methods, such as Signature Program FY21-FY30, were developed and implemented in order to maintain the chain of productions. The Signature Program FY21-FY30 has been based on important pillars of 1) Scale; 2) Permanence of Impacts; and 3) Partnership.
Even though unpredicted challenges have happened, HEIFER has its plan as shown on the graph below, he stressed. In general, all aspects of the program, such as the number of Agricultural Cooperatives (AC), funding figures, and agricultural aspects, will be increased by 2030.
He further detailed the methodologies of how to achieve the target programs following the target timeframe. For instance, he very much detailed poultry development across the country. Dr. Sareth noticed that HEIFER knew that capital for upfront payment for the increase of agricultural products is the most important to help the target farmers.
Mr. Chhneang Kirivuth, Community Forestry Partnership Coordinator of RECOFTC Cambodia
Topic: “Sharing the Contribution of CF to Covid-19 response and recovery in Cambodia”
Generally, Community Forests (CFs) have supported the livelihoods of the communities, stated Mr. Kirivuth. The local people obtain non-timber forest products such as vegetables, firewood, and even fish from the areas of the CF. Mr. Kirivuth claimed that, in general, the livelihoods of CF members have got worst because of the Covi-19. There have been existing problems and emerging ones come after some time during the Covid-19 pandemic. In the past, CF was faced with a lacks of funds to support patrolling, but during the pandemic disease time, more problems occurred because of the lack of jobs within the communities, especially those people who came back from abroad, where they lost their jobs. The following points are advantages of CF contributions to local people; and some problems that the CFs have faced.
• CFs have been supportive coping issues created by natural disasters, including Covi-19
• Two studies show the impacts of Covid-19 on CF and Community Protected Areas (CPA) members. 16 sites were selected for the studies.
• In general, forests are important for the resistance of community livelihoods. About 96% of the members were negatively affected by Covid-19. Among these affected people, males are the most dominant.
• Because of the Covid-19, the returned workers from abroad created more problems for CF due to they do not have alternative jobs.
• In response to the problems faced by CF, members of the CF mobilized support, e.g. from MAFF using National Forest Funds, to support patrols within the CF areas.
The good strategies that contributed to cope with the emerging problems and interventions made during and after the Covid-19 are:
• CF Management Plans: All of the existing CFMP had not included Covid-19;
• CF Management Action Plan: activities in the Action Plan include some preventive matters, which are good, for emerging challenges like Covid-19;
• Mini-trust Funds could help CF members in coping with Covid-19 because the CF members reserved some money for their expenses.
Mrs. Ros Sopheap, Member of Management Committee of the NGOF and Executive Director of GADC, she wrapped up and Closing remarks”
She noticed that NGOF has worked tirelessly to fulfill its tasks, especially for the 27 points show by Dr. Tek Vannara, above. She further stressed that forests and lands are among the politically sensitive in Cambodia.
Ms. Chikako Kodama, UNDP, shared excellent lessons learnt among us as a civil society organization. On behalf of the participants, she shared acknowledgment to Ms. Chikako Kodama.
Last, but not least, Mrs. Sopheap agreed with the speakers that members of CF and CPA; and farmers are among the most vulnerable people badly affected by Covid-19. However, we have seen some emerging strategies created by members and farmers, with the supports from our NGO partners and government ministries, to cope with the Covid-19 issues.
Before the end of her speech, she wished all the participants with health and success in daily tasks; and the meeting was closed.
It was agreed among the participants that Covid-19 has been a negative impact on the implementation of all aspects of the economy, development, and health. Some additional efforts were the must to be added to daily works of development and implementation projects, such as Relief Fund. Covid-19 related travel restrictions delayed in project implementation of all kinds. Nevertheless, all the participants have been getting used to online working and supporting each other for the success of project implementations, except for the actual fieldwork.
The 3rd QMM was successfully ended as planned and the participants obtained fruitful opinions and experiences from the speakers and the question and answer sessions for their future works. The meeting was closed by Mrs. Ros Sopheap with her key important wishes, particularly for overcoming Covid-19.