Phnom Penh, October 27, 2014: More than 250 people representing civil society organizations, youth groups, relevant ministries, local authorities, and community committees from Phnom Penh and Battambang gathered to celebrate the Third Youth Forum on Land and Housing under the theme –Enhancing Youth’s Knowledge, Ethics, and Participation in Reduction of Land and Housing Issues– at the Imperial Hotel.
This one-day Forum has been organized with main objectives related to the development of younger people’s awareness surrounding current critical issues facing Cambodia. The goals of the Forum are:
- To enhance youth awareness of land and housing issues and dispute resolution mechanisms;
- To foster youth awareness, personal ethics, and improved participation in discussions of land and housing issues with relevant government authorities under existing mechanisms; and
- To develop relationships between younger people and relevant authorities over land issues.
“As of 2014, land and housing issues continued to occur resulting in people facing many issues, such as loss of land for farming, loss of income and discouragement in living; in particular, children and youths losing study and employment opportunities because of resettlement to new locations, which are distant, take more time and money for commuting,” said Mr. Tek Vannara, Executive Director of NGO Forum on Cambodia (NGO Forum).“Moreover, this issue affects youths seriously because they are also among main victims, who have less opportunity to take part in solutions with other community members. Therefore, through this Annual Forum, we strongly hope that all youths will have more opportunities as well as courage to participate in social activities, especially those related to issues of decent shelters and land.”
This event also includes discussions on a number of currently relevant topics, including: sharing information and experiences regarding possible solutions to land conflicts, and plenary discussions to give recommendations for youths to take part in solutions of land and housing issues, with participation and coordination by civil society organizations, youth organizationsand representatives from the Ministry of Land Management, Urbanization, and Construction.
Chab Sophat, a student from Phal Andet Community, DermSleng Village, Chhbar Ampov, Phnom Penh shared, “It is a good occasion that I have an opportunity to meet directly with civil society organizations which have worked actively to enhance youth’s right and the government representatives who are responsible for helping solve people’s problems, especially, many youth representatives who took part in this event to share their experiences and knowledge.”He added that,“After taking part in today’s event, I will share with other youths and community members what I have learned and seek to strengthen relationship to social work with all youths.”
A report on land conflicts shows that the Royal Government has given 2,657,470 hectares of land for economic land concessions in 2012 in which 770,000 people were affected by land grabbing from 2000 to 2013. In contrast, the Royal Government has given 1,204,750 hectares of land for social land concessions as of June 2012 .
Mr. Pen Somony, Executive Director of Cambodian Volunteers for Society said that“Concerning land issues, relevant civil society organizations, especially, those organizations working with youths have participated actively through encouragement of youths to take part in resolving land issues because youths have also been affected by land issues. We already know that youths consist of 33% in Cambodia, but their involvement has not been active yet with regard to land issues. This may have occurred due to youths themselves and older people’s vies. Youths themselves are interested in social issues, combined with older people’s views of youths that they are young, lack experiences, and do not know much. We hope that this Forum is the beginning in changed old ideas; and community leaders need to change and seek to understand youth’s important roles in social affairs.”
This Third Youth Forum has been organized by a group of civil society organizations working on these issues, including CHRAC, CMDP, WVC, NGO Forum, CEDT, UPWD, CVS, KKKHRDA, YRDP, KDK, YFP in collaboration with the Ministry of Land Management, Urban Planning, and Construction.