National summit on influences of forestry and land regulations on local communities and comprehensive EIA process
Open Development Cambodia (ODC) organized a national summit on “Influences of Forestry and Land Regulations on Local Communities and Comprehensive EIA Process” on 25 May 2023 with a total of 43 (13 females) representatives from the Ministry of Rural Development (MRD), CSOs, EIA firm, journalists, and indigenous peoples from Ratanakiri, Mondulkiri, Kratie, Pursat, Stung Treng, Preah Vihear, and Kampong Thom provinces. The event was supported by the United States Agency for International Development (USAID) through Family Health International (FHI 360) under the Civil Society Support Activity: Cluster Anchor Grants, and Heinrich Böll Stiftung Cambodia (HBS) under the project of promoting EIA for more transparent and responsive environmental governance in Cambodia. The national summit aims to: Provide an opportunity for relevant stakeholders to express their concerns regarding existing and proposed forestry and land law and associated regulations Identify the effective strategy to provide input into the draft laws Discuss how the proposed law and associated regulations will interact with the EIA process, particularly the engagement of local communities and the public more broadly. The team invited Mr. IL Oeur, Executive Director of Analyzing Development Issues Centre (ADIC), and Ms. YA Yanny, a representative of indigenous women from Mondulkiri province to be the speakers. Mr. THY Try, Executive Director of ODC was the moderator of the panel discussion on “Forestry and land regulations”. The discussion started by introducing the speakers as well as their work. Analyzing Development Issues Centre (ADIC) shared their research on public participation in Prey Preah Roka Wildlife Sanctuary and Chhaeb district, Preah Vihear province. The Ministry of Environment (MoE) had clear guidelines and engaged the local community in the process. They set up numerous local and national meetings for two years to map the areas. This is the first map that engages many people, so there are no concerns raised by the local community during the mapping process. The concern is that when the map is released, who will be responsible for border demarcation? The land inventory is also significant to identify the specific land that each indigenous people own within the communal land title. Then questions were raised around the differences in duration of the indigenous communal land titling and private land title as well as the word usage in the law. A representative from the Cambodia Indigenous Peoples Organization (CIPO) shared the concern on the indigenous community cannot do the rotation or traditional agriculture unless they have been registered. That’s a critical point if the community grows the crop or rice on the land. A response from the MRD, if the community has been recognized as an indigenous group by the ministry, there should not be a problem to use the land. The representative from CIPO also mentioned the concern about excluding the word “Indigenous peoples” in the draft law. Indigenous peoples would like to keep their identity (differentiate from other people) both in the current and upcoming laws. Regarding the input, we would like to see a separate chapter talking about the indigenous people within the Land Law. The discussion between the CSOs and indigenous peoples should be happened before meeting with the related ministries to share their concerns to address in the draft law. The discussion around the reasons for revising or amending the law should be widely disseminated. The government should open for consultation with practical and concerned stakeholders. A representative from 3SPN stated that the draft EIA law excludes the word “FPIC” meaning free, prior, and informed consent. The law encourages to have full public participation in all areas. Fully participation has a different definition from FPIC which considered accessing the information, participation, and decision-making. The participants highlighted that cooperation and working together among key CSOs is very important. By doing so, we could enforce and coordinate the mechanism and inputs effectively. There is an interesting question from the private company regarding indigenous peoples’ economic, livelihood, and materials trends. The question has attacked the attention of indigenous peoples in the rooms to share where they are now. They said, \"Some people get a larger house and modern materials, but some of them have to pay back the loan every month. Some people are poor and do not even have a small area of land to grow crops. What we are now cannot be compared with what we have lost. Although we need to adapt to the modern era, we would not want to lose what we used to have, especially the culture.\" In brief, we discussed the inputs which also reflect several significant points including cooperation among key stakeholders and CSOs in the input gathering and providing to the policy-makers as well as networking with the related ministries, case studies in Mondulkiri, Ratanakiri, and Preah Vihear, and the word usage in the law. The panel discussion on “EIA process: Public participation” brought together Mr. HORM Kimkong, Director of Environmental and Assessment (E&A) Consultancy, Mrs. TEP Tim, a representative of indigenous women from Preah Vihear province, Mr. LEANG Bunleap, Executive Director of 3S Rivers Protection Network (3SPN). The discussion was moderated by Mr. LONN Pichdara, Executive Director of MyVillage Cambodia. Mrs. TEP Tim living in Prame commune, Tbaeng Mean Chey district, Preah Vihear province, said that she did not get an invitation to join the public participation of the EIA process as well informed about the development project beforehand. So far, they only invited the commune and district councils to the meeting. A representative from 3SPN stated that public participation sometimes could provide the opportunity for the company to only gather the people who agree and support the project. The law or regulation on public participation is very important, and it should clearly state who should be invited to join such as from the beginning of the process. “When we are discussing the Land Law, it should also refer to the Cambodian people as well. Why the discussion this morning was focusing on indigenous peoples only?” Question from our participant. Yes, it should be referring to everyone. However, we would like to pay more attention to the indigenous peoples because they are the most vulnerable group among others. From time to time, they live and survive in the forest and do not have any land titles as we do. When there is a development project, they always eye on the forest areas where there are not many people living there. In the case of Cambodia, some projects just process the EIA after a long-term operation. The participants wonder what is the point behind that. EIA is just a tool to assess the impact, not a law. There are three types of EIA implementation including EIA before, during, and after the project implementations. The companies that were established a long time ago do not have EIA since it did not exist at that time. As a result, the MoE review and request them to do the EIA. The new development projects currently must have done the EIA before implementing the project based on the guideline of the ministry. EIA report is very difficult to get. How could we get the EIA reports? Normally, when the report is approved, the consultant, project owner, and the MoE have to stamp each page of the report. Previously, the consultant has to prepare 12 copies, but currently, there are only six copies required which will be kept by the consultant (1), the project owner (1), and the rest will be kept by the EIA Department. The consultant needs to keep the report in a safe place for 3 or 5 years based on the agreement, and they cannot share the report without permission from the project owner. The report could be officially requested from the MoE. Our speakers also suggested the community and CSOs keep all the related documents they provided during public participation. The discussion and content of the provided documents will not have much difference from the approved EIA report. Additionally, the stakeholders should focus on the EIA training for the local community so that they could understand the process as well as the content of the report.
On 08 February 2023, ODC organized the “Indigenous Peoples Sectoral Advisory Meeting” with the partners, including Conserve Indigenous Peoples Languages Organization, MyVillage Cambodia - MVi អង្គការ ភូមិខ្ញុំ, Forests and Livelihood Organization FLO, Cambodia Indigenous Youth Association-CIYA, and FHI 360 to identify the challenges, activities, roles of the group, and call for new members. The project is funded by USAID Cambodia through FHI 360 under Cluster Anchor Grant from the Civil Society Support (CSS) Project.
The second cluster convention was held on 19 December 2022, at the FHI 360 Office in Phnom Penh, with 25 participants (06 females). The convention brought together the Ministry of Land Management, Urban Planning and Construction (MLMUPC), the Ministry of Interior (MoI), civil society organizations (CSOs), community-based organizations (CBOs), media groups, and representatives of indigenous people from Preah Vihear, Ratanakiri, and Mondulkiri provinces. Open Development Cambodia (ODC) hosted the convention, which was funded by the United States Agency for International Development (USAID) through Family Health International (FHI 360) under Cluster Anchor Grant from the Civil Society Support (CSS) Project. ODC is the anchor and collaborates with three cluster members: CamboJA, the Conserve Indigenous Peoples Language Organization (CIPL), and Young Eco Ambassadors (YEA). The project aims to make natural resource management (NRM) more sustainable, inclusive, and participatory by incorporating Indigenous Peoples’ needs and concerns. ODC hosted an initial cluster convention on 13 September 2022 to involve all the cluster members and networks to build the networks, learn from each other, map the significant strategy, and step on further activity on the natural resource management (NRM) advocacy in Cambodia. In this convention, we will update the progress of the indigenous communal land titling in Cambodia, which is a curious and significant topic for today’s talk. The convention aims to: Create a friendly environment for networks to learn and share Keep current updates on the indigenous communal land titling in Cambodia Encourage cluster members and stakeholders to work together. The representative of the Ministry of Land Management, Urban Planning and Construction (MLMUPC) and the Ministry of Interior (MoI) shared the current update on the indigenous communal land titling. Currently, 152 indigenous communities have registered as legal entities with the MoI, while 94 communities have requested communal land titles from the MLMUPC. Due to various challenges and encounters, 26 of these communities were suspended. Some people may be interested in obtaining private land ownership to sell or in obtaining a micro-finance loan. In some cases, the requested land overlaps with natural protected areas and forest cover 2002 established by the Ministry of Environment (MoE) and the Ministry of Agriculture, Forestry and Fisheries (MAFF). Currently, 38 indigenous communities in four provinces have received communal land titles totaling 39,342 hectares: Stung Treng (02 communities), Kratie (04 communities), Mondulkiri (07 communities), and Ratanakiri (25 communities). Two more communities are expected to receive communal land titles by January 2023. The convention also discussed the challenges of land titling. The participants had the chance to question ministries and ask for advice to solve their problems. The process of the land tiling is complicated and time-consuming. The land title sometimes cannot be issued and is suspended due to several challenges. Due to the limitations of the indigenous people\'s knowledge of the Khmer language, legislation, and registration procedures, they always find it difficult to obtain land titles without support from the CSOs and CBOs. In some cases, indigenous peoples are unaware of the benefits of communal land titles. Some community members may see the personal benefits as superior to the sharing and wish to withdraw from the community. It meant that they would like to have their private land title. The local authorities sometimes do not reluctant with the indigenous communities regarding the land titling procedures even though the ministries are trying to speed up the land registration. In many cases, the community refuses to accept the land that the government is willing to provide. After the participatory discussion, the indigenous community is encouraged to document the issues or problems with communal land titling and report them to the working group. ODC will continue to host the quarterly cluster convention with the cluster member and networks to share lessons learned, information, and prioritized issues on natural resource management, environment, forestry, land, indigenous peoples, the strategic environmental assessment (SEA), and environmental impact assessment (EIA).
Open Development Cambodia (ODC) under the Civil Society Support Activity: Cluster Anchor Grants funded by United States Agency for International Development (USAID) through Family Health International (FHI 360) supported indigenous peoples to participate in the Conference on Land and Natural Resource Governance which was organized by the NGO Forum on Cambodia in Ratanakiri province on 12th - 13th October 2022. The conference aims to engage with the Royal Government of Cambodia to advance laws and policies related to land and natural resources and to strengthen the implementation of policies, laws, and regulations that are meant to promote land and natural resource governance with a focus on addressing social impacts and protecting natural resources and the environment, as well as the sustainable livelihoods of local communities. The event was divided into two phases, which began with gathering input from over a hundred local communities, indigenous communities, community protected areas, forestry communities, and local non-governmental organizations (NGOs). The inputs were used for the panel discussion with the representatives of Ratanakiri, Stung Treng, Kratie, Preah Vihear, Mondulkiri, and Kampong Thom Provincial Governors, Ministry of Interior (MoI), Provincial Departments of Agriculture, Forestry and Fisheries, Provincial Departments of Environment, Provincial Department of Land Management, Urban Planning, and Construction, Provincial Departments of Rural Development, Provincial Departments of Mines and Energy, and private sectors on the second day with a total of 250 people (60 females) participated. Land and natural resource governor in Ratanakiri province Economic land concession within the province is granted to 27 companies, of which 10 companies justified the contract, 06 companies are in the process of revising, and 11 companies have not signed the contracts. The business area is 83,785 hectares, with a total investment area of 181,896 hectares. The area that has been cleared is 56,702 hectares, and the cultivated area is 51,067 hectares. There are 75 indigenous communities recognized by the Ministry of Rural Development, while 85 communities have been recognized as legal entities by the Ministry of Interior. However, only 24 indigenous communities received communal land titles from the Ministry of Land Management, Urban Planning, and Construction. Systematic land registration achieved 15,691 titles which is equivalent to 10,741 families. Two villages have finished the public announcement, while a village is in progress. Two public announcements on the communal land titling are finished and requesting reclassification for three communities. There are 11 community-protected areas and 36 community forestry, of which 22 have been registered with the Ministry of Agriculture, Forestry and Fishery (MAFF). There are 14 community fisheries, and all of them have been recognized while two new communities have been established. Recognize and protect customary land tenure The community and civil society organizations have identified key challenges to recognizing and protecting customary land tenure. Land that has received the land title or is in processing is not yet secured, and the process is complicated, time-consuming, and costly. The approved land classification does not correspond to actual practice and occasionally overlaps with protected areas because management areas have not been clearly divided. Despite the fact that the land has been registered, indigenous peoples continue to face land grabbing and deforestation. According to the community, the forest crime crackdown is still limited and ineffective. The community committee\'s capacity and knowledge are limited and need to be expanded in terms of by-laws and internal rules, while the community\'s livelihood and natural resource conservation must be improved. To address the issues, the communities would like to see strong collaboration between communities and local authorities to strengthen law enforcement with the assistance of district and provincial administrations. The network of community forestry should be established from the national to the commune level. The process of titling communal land should be improved, and the government should provide an annual budget for each community to manage the land and forest while also improving their standard of living. The budget could be used as a community loan for each member. Yet, the results of the suggestions cannot be confirmed.
Indigenous women seek direct help and support from all stakeholders on the International Day of the World’s Indigenous Peoples 2022
The United Nations marks 2022 as this year’s International Day of the World’s Indigenous Peoples under the theme “The Role of Indigenous Women in the Preservation and Transmission of Traditional Knowledge.” This theme recognizes how important and central women are in the longevity and survival of indigenous communities. Indigenous people living in Cambodia are 250,000 to 400,000 (51% of women), accounting for 2-3% of the Cambodian population. More than 155 indigenous communities have received official recognition from the Ministry of Rural Development (MRD). On 09 August 2022, Cambodia Indigenous Peoples Alliance (CIPA), Cambodia Indigenous Women Association (CIWA), Cambodia Indigenous Youth Association (CIYA), Cambodia Indigenous Peoples Organization (CIPO), Highlanders Association Ratanakiri, Converse Indigenous Peoples Languages Organization (CIPL), Organization for the Promotion of Kui Culture (OPKC), Indigenous People for Agriculture Development in Cambodia (IADC), Indigenous Rights Active Members (IRAM), and MIPN, in collaborating with Klahaan, Women Peace Makers, Asia Indigenous Peoples Pact (AIPP), and Open Development Cambodia (ODC) with the supports from United Nations Human Rights, VOICE, Diakonia, USAID, and FHI 360 celebrated the 18th International Day of the World’s Indigenous People in Cambodia. A total of 138 participants (approximately 90 females) joined the event. The indigenous groups opened the celebration with the indigenous traditional prayer as well as displayed their traditional materials, clothing, and vegetables. The celebration also included a traditional Kui dance and singing. This event was not only commemorating the International Day of the World’s Indigenous Peoples but also exhibiting indigenous peoples\' culture and beliefs. Role of indigenous women in the preservation and transmission of traditional knowledge In terms of culture and tradition, indigenous people have a strong relationship with natural resources, and women have knowledge of the land and natural resource conservation. The community offers their prayers to the woodland, forest, and mountain spirits. Women in the field must pass on the knowledge to the next generation to continue recognizing and protecting the forest. There must be a forest in the village, and it should be maintained to ensure food security as well as spiritual beliefs. Indigenous people teach the next generation about how the importance of forests. Currently, the livelihood of the indigenous people is not the same as before. If young indigenous people don’t involve with the elders, their land, forest, culture, livelihood, and language will be in a greater lost from generation to generation. The indigenous people’s agriculture is not destroying the forest as some say indigenous people cut the forest for agriculture. The forest loss is not the indigenous people’s fault; it is because of the development project that cleared the land. The community has been doing agriculture for many years before, but there is not any great forest loss. Challenges of indigenous women on the land and forest protection The indigenous people show their enthusiasm for protecting their land and forestry. They think that this is their obligation to protect the forest for their lives and their generation, who they love from the bottom of their heart. It is not only for the indigenous people but also for all Cambodian people. The front line of land and forest protectors are mostly women because most of the men only do their specific work. Although there are NGOs, CBOs, indigenous communities, etc., that support them, indigenous women still face several difficulties and problems. The family somehow does not encourage or support them to involve in those activities due to unexpected encounters with the company and government, which could harm them or the whole family. When there is a land dispute with the company, the communities might be hurt and get involved in the trial. The indigenous people claim that they receive injustice solutions or decisions from the court. For example, they could get into prison because they do the farming on their own land, where the land has been given to the company without their agreement. The local authorities do not act or find solutions for them, and they just keep silent. Therefore, the community has no choice. They could only pray to the spirits. Joints statement of the Cambodia Indigenous Peoples Alliance (CIPA) Women have an important role in indigenous societies, leading, managing, and protecting collective cultural identities, traditions, land, and natural resources for indigenous groups and communities. Indigenous women who take the lead in land and natural resource protection are frequently subjected to social threats, discrimination, and unfair legal application, which can result in lawsuits, imprisonment, family separation, poverty, a lack of personal security, and legal restrictions or prohibitions on land rights. CIPA, as the representative of all indigenous communities, calls on all indigenous women to continue their efforts to strengthen their capacity, network, and voice in all trends and mechanisms to ensure their full participation, leading, preserving, transferring traditional knowledge, and sustaining indigenous peoples\' development in accordance with the UN Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples. CIPA also seeks direct help and support from national and international organizations, governments, and courts for indigenous women. Simultaneously, indigenous peoples press the Ministry of Justice and judges to strengthen law enforcement and acknowledge legal rights that protect indigenous peoples\' rights to ensure that they, as victims, receive a fair trial.