A Platform for Communities to Voice Out and Claim for Their Land Rights
After three years of its implementation, the project Strengthening Partnership towards Participatory and Accountable Governance of Land and Natural Resource in Cambodia draws to an end. It leaves a number of achievements, good practices and lessons learnt which might be useful to replicate throughout the country. A project completion workshop will be organized on 9 December 2015 at Tonle Basac II Restaurant.
With funding support from European Union, the project in partnership with government stakeholders and five local NGOs established a platform called Access to Justice Committees (AJC) and the provincial-level Cambodia Land and Environment Action Network (CLEAN) to provide a space for local stakeholders to talk and solve problems on land ownership together.
The project was implemented in 240 villages in 46 communes and eight districts in four target provinces, Kampong Thom, Preah Vihear, Kratie, and Stung Treng, where land and natural resources are under threat.
To build the capacity of stakeholders, a series of training events and seminars run by public and private sector experts on natural resource management, dispute mediation and laws related to land governance was provided to 366 sub-national state officials, 33 NGO staff members, 168 members of community based organizations and over 150,000 villagers in the four provinces and in Phnom Penh.
As of December 2014, 201 dispute cases had been raised, collected and discussed by the AJCs and CLEAN network. A total of 77 cases (38%), were solved by the joint efforts of all concerned stakeholders.
“People need to be supported in making sure that they do have the guarantee to have their land so that they can continue living; otherwise, they have to move out, find another living and that’s very difficult in the current context,” said Chris Eijkemans, Oxfam Country Director in Cambodia.
The project encourages a stronger partnership among different groups so that they can work more effectively. The NGO Promvihearthor, one of five local NGO partners that Oxfam worked with during the project, shared that there was significant improvement in communication between all key stakeholders - from villagers to provincial officials.
“The project has had many positive outcomes. We now see that residents are brave enough to express their ideas when they have a problem. They know how to use their rights and they are brave enough to find a solution for the problem,” said Khem Ra, Promvihearthor Program Coordinator, Stung Treng.
In addition to a focus on the governance of land and natural resources, the project was also designed to empower more local women to play a bigger role in decision-making in the community. Oxfam believes gender equality is crucial to future development.
“We often see that women are heavily involved in the use of natural resources and land management. Obviously, we see many women working as the head of AJC committees,” said Sok Khim, Natural Resource Governance Lead, Oxfam. “It was not only the committee heads who benefited. Many young women working for Oxfam's NGO partners said they too had been inspired to speak out more.”
Huon Vannith, Deputy Governor of Kompong Thom province, said, though the project comes to an end in December this year, the local authorities such as the commune and district councils recognize the achievements of the project and are determined to keep the activities running by ensuring the annual allocated budget by the government.
Villagers in the affected area also called for the project to be expanded to cover more than just the four target provinces to reach out more people who are in need.