Phnom Penh, October 06, 2014: Today, approximately 1,500 community people and CSOs/NGOs, came together at Dey Krahom near the White Building to celebrate the 29th World Habitat Day. More than 50 communities and 20 CSOs/NGOs celebrated this event and raised their voices to a range of obstacles and threats the urban poor face, including land tenure insecurity, eviction, adequate housing and a lack of infrastructure to ensure decent living conditions.
The specific objective of this event is raising awareness of the living conditions of the urban poor. The event also aims to promote alternative solutions to improve the communities’ living conditions – i.e.: upgrading as an alternative to community displacement. Furthermore, the event aims to:
- Increase the communities’ solidarity to ensure the voices of the poor will be heard
- Help share the experiences of the urban poor and cities
- Promote awareness about the “Right to the City” of all urban poor residents
“Created in 1985, this is the 29th celebration of this day in order to reflect the state of the cities, towns, and basic human rights to adequate shelter. It also aims to remind the world of its collective responsibility for the habitat of future generations. Thus, it is very important for Cambodia, one of the countries that has so many issues on resettlement, evictions and land tenure, to be involved and make their voice heard by the public. We should not be silent on human rights violations,” said Mr. Tek Vannara, NGOF’s Executive Director.
The celebration included public remarks from the communities, a press conference by the communities and CSOs/NGOs representatives and a march to the National Assembly and the Phnom Penh Municipal (MPP) offices to submit a petition from the communities and the victims of land grabbing, eviction and resettlement.
“We spent so much time living silently under all the pressures, human rights violations and the lack of law enforcement and injustice causing by the government and all the investment companies, and we have had enough. We come here today to show the world that Cambodians hunger for justice and human rights, and the government, privates, national and international attention is required by us. We have lost a lot of property because of the development projects allowed by the government, and we are concerned about future generations. How are they going to survive and where is the dignity if we cannot even provide them with proper shelters?,” Mrs. Sea Nareth, former Beung Kak community.
Each year, World Habitat Day picks a new theme, chosen by the United Nations (UN) based on current issues relevant to the Habitat Agenda. The themes are selected to bring attention to UN-Habitat’s mandate to promote sustainable development policies that ensure adequate shelter for all. This year them from UN is “Voices from Slums” In Cambodia, the group selected the theme which is reflected the current problem happening in this country, which is “Voices from Urban Poor.”
“The theme of Voices from Urban Poor fits very well with the programme of work undertaken by many organizations which are working closely with poor communities to help them secure their land rights, organize with other communities to ensure their ability and opportunity to live in the city with better conditions. In particular, wherever the residents are facing the problem of displacement problem, we are keen to promote on-site upgrading as an alternative for them,” Mr. Ee Sarom, Executive Director of Samakum Teang Tnaut.
In May this year, there was a creation of the “General Department of Housing” at the Ministry of Land Management, Urban Planning and Construction (MLMUPC) mandated to work with stakeholders on the implementation of the national housing policy. Furthermore the efforts of the MPP in creation of the Working Group on Urban Poor Poverty Reduction as a result of the recognition of the chronic problems of insecure tenure, poor housing and access to community infrastructure faced by urban poor communities in Phnom Penh. We expect that MPP will continue and intensify these efforts, which, if implemented will help poor communities. CSOs cooperate with MPP in this endeavor.