CSO and Legal Working Group on Environmental Code Influencing

Cambodia faces key challenges on current environmental protection and natural resources management are partly due to unclear/overlapping jurisdiction among ministries and gaps in the law and policies. These challenges are the priority to be dealt with in an effective manner in response to the necessary needs of the country and the Cambodia’s obligation to international agreements and conventions.

By seeing these challenges causes social and environmental impacts, the government starts paying attention to protecting the environment and managing the natural resource in a sustainable manner. As results, in mid 2015, the Ministry of Environment takes a lead in partnership with Vishnu Law Group to create the Environmental Code intended to update and harmonize legal framework for all maters pertaining to environmental protection and sustainable use of natural resources in Cambodia. Political decision level has also been made in dividing jurisdiction of MoE and MAFF over conservation and development.

The development of the Code is part of a broader reform agenda for sustainable development and green growth. The Environmental Code will include key flowing aspects: environmental protection, biodiversity conservation, protection and management of cultural heritage, and environmental assessment. The provisions such as climate change, urban environmental issues, sustainable cities, Strategic Environmental Assessment, grievance mechanisms, enforcement matters, public participation will be included in the Code. The Code will establish chapter of inter-ministerial cooperation among the numerous government institutions that currently share responsibility for environmental matters. The jurisdictional organization will examine the roles, duties and means of collaboration among relevant institutions.

For effective in addressing the issues which cover by the Code, seven sub-technical working groups (STWGs) were formed in August 2015 to analyze and take a lead in preparing the specific issues. The members of STWGs include representatives from relevant government, international NGOs, CSOs and private sector.
Since starting points of code development, the priority and selected CSOs members have been involving. However, the CSOs representatives in the STWG have limited engagement in term of numbers and providing inputs/recommendation and discussion due to limit technical capacity and participation.
To deal with this challenges, the NGO Forum on Cambodia, Oxfam in Cambodia, and Development and Partnership in Action initiated by coordinating for Adhoc meeting on 17 June 2016 in order to inform NGO partners on the situation and progress of Environmental Code (EC) development; discuss and develop proactive NGOs coordination framework in influencing EC; and to discuss and develop influencing and communication strategies for NGOs with embed key international principles, approaches and strategies.

During this meeting, Tek Vannara, PhD, Executive Director of the NGO Forum on Cambodia reported that “currently we are facilitating 8 networks and 5 national working groups (450 LNGO/INGO) where focus on different issues including environment, natural resources, hydropower, agriculture, climate change, sustainable city and green economic, biodiversity conservation, waste management, food safety and food security, water governance, national development strategic, localize of Sustainable Development and budgeting. It is a great opportunity for NGO Forum to bring all the concerns, issues, gaps and challenges from the ground which should be addressed by the Code. Moreover, it is an opportunity to support and strengthen the capacity and participation of CSOs representatives in STWGs for effective engagement of CSOs in the creation of the Code.
Therefore, as the membership organization, the NGO Forum on Cambodia will take a lead and play important role in coordination among NGOs/CSOs for providing and gathering inputs/recommendation on the development of the Code. The NGO Forum had great experience in coordination and providing inputs/recommendation in the draft law on Environmental Impact Assessment”.

There is a need for effective NGOs/CSOs engage in the development of the Code. This is a great opportunity and advantage of NGOs/CSOs in supporting of current policy reform/development in Cambodia. The NGOs/CSOs have demonstrate capacity and experience, working closely with local communities which play an important role in the providing and sharing information about their on-going projects, knowledge, experiences and expertise related to specific STWG and the drafting team