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Land and natural resource governance

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.

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The initial cluster convention

The Initial Cluster Convention was held on September 13, 2022, at the FHI 360 Office in Phnom Penh, with 29 participants (10 females), including 06 indigenous peoples. The convention brought together media organizations, civil society organizations (CSOs), and community-based organizations (CBOs) working on indigenous peoples, natural resources, forestry, land, and the environment. Open Development Cambodia (ODC) organized the convention, which was funded by the United States Agency for International Development (USAID) through Family Health International (FHI 360) as part of the Civil Society Support (CSS) Project: Cluster Anchor Grants. 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. The projects contain 26 major activities. One of the important parts is the convention, which clusters members and the host of their network to share lessons learned, information, and prioritized issues on natural resource management, environment, forestry, land, indigenous peoples, Strategic Environmental Assessment (SEA), and Environmental Impact Assessment (EIA). The cluster members will be integrated through physical meetings as a project initiative. ODC hosted the initial cluster convention, which brought together all cluster members and networks to build networks, learn from one another, map the effective strategy, and pave the way for future NRM advocacy activity in Cambodia. As a result, the initial cluster convention has four core objectives, including: Explaining the nature of cluster formation and the roles of each cluster Create a friendly learning and sharing environment for cluster members and their networks Keep current priority environmental issues, as well as environmental laws and regulations, up to date Encourage cluster members and stakeholders to work together. Natural resource management issues are arising in the country, particularly land grab and encroachment, economic land concession, communal land titling, forestry, and environment and social fund, among others. On the other hand, the prioritized issue could be related to forestry. Many CSOs fail to focus on the Investment Law, which is at the heart of the development project, causing many problems for local communities. The law should be thoroughly reviewed, particularly regarding indigenous peoples and natural resource management. If the law is not carefully studied, residents may face difficulties if there are any development projects or investments in their areas. The communities lack precise information on the development project and strategy that address the issues. Natural resources are indigenous peoples’ last hope; therefore, they must be protected. As a result, indigenous peoples should broaden their alliances in each campaign and workshop.

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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.