Speech: National Conference in Land and Natural Resource Governance

Friday, October 25, 2019

By Mr. Biju Abraham, Head of Program, Oxfam in Cambodia

H E Sor Chamrong - Parliamentarian and representative of first Commission of National Assembly
H.E Vuthy Vannara – Deputy General Director of Land from Ministry of Land and Urban Development
H.E Ai Khan – Vice Chairman of the Commission on Legislative Affairs and Judicial of the Senate

A very good morning ladies and gentlemen and a special welcome to people from the villages who have from all over Cambodia.

Today Cambodia is in a state of economic growth and poverty reduction. Cambodia has moved from least developed country to lower middle income country status and aspires to attain upper middle income country by 2030. Statistics show that in 2007 the percentage of poverty rate was 47.8% and in 2014 it reduced drastically to 13.5%. These numbers show a stark reality in terms of priority for the country on economic growth, poverty reduction and development.

HE, ladies and gentlemen

If this is the path for a successful future, then the question is how such economic growth is related to the concerns of land and natural resource governance/management?

After four years signing the agenda for SDG 2030, monumental challenges remain especially in relation to Climate Change. Increasing ocean acidification, costal erosion, intensive natural disasters, collapse of ecosystem is putting Food security at a paramount risk. In addition to this is the increasing inequality, disproportionate share of unpaid domestic work and youth unemployment.

Just as these issues are interrelated, so are the solution to these problems are interlinked too. For example – if we begin to tackle climate change - either mitigation or adaptation, this in turn requires a change to Renewable Energy, reversing trend in forest loss, addressing key environmental issues, improving soil productivity and community adaptive to diverse farming practices. This need influencing policy enforcement and advancing sustainable development agenda.

The areas of policy and law enforcement related to today’s agenda must be focused on the issues related to disputes over land, gain access to land and degradation of land. Even as economic growth is evident, so is inequality and population growth. This will result in immense pressure on land resources. To meet the demand for food – there need to be sustained food production.

Very recently Oxfam has done global scenario planning engaging various stakeholders and have identified mega trends relating to climate emergency, migration – rural to Urban, technology, globalization and shift in power balance from West to East and gender justice. Cambodia is consistently ranked among the top 10 countries most vulnerable to Climate Change. This is mostly due to its geographic layout and low adaptive capacity of the people. In view of this we have invested in Women Led Agricultural Service Team where landless women are equipped with agricultural techniques and skills that provide local farming services to their community. These farming services ranges from Sustainable Rice Intensification, vegetable cropping, aquaculture and animal husbandry. This teams not only improved their livestock and income but also help other small farmers to maximize land usage for land productivity. Therefore cultivable land is important for the poor and marginalized.

The first land law was promoted in 1993 and amended in 2001. However, Economic Land Concessions, population growth, loss of land and an open economy of Foreign Development Investors have paved the way for frequent challenges. The Royal Government of Cambodia has played an important role in resolving many land disputes and has issued land titles to many families. We are happy to see progress even though there are challenges in implementation of legal framework and policy as some legal framework is unclear and sometimes authorities are unclear regarding boundaries between land concessions.

Even though there are structural challenges and limited capacity it is credible to see practical measures in place to accelerate resolution and provide justice to the community.

Oxfam is working with different stakeholders from government, development partners, private sectors, banks, local and international organizations to inform and increase and empower the voices of indigenous people and small holder farmers to have free access and control over land and natural resources. Our approach is by evidence based research, direct engagement with stakeholders, coalition building and networking, promote gender justice, women leadership, influencing and capacity building.

I am sure you will agree with me that despite these efforts we have a long way to go.

Some recommendations:

  • Move towards a more holistic and multisectoral partnership to secure land rights by 2030.
  • Oxfam believes that a sustained land and natural resource governance will enable environmental and food security. This can be done by ensuring transparency, accountability and empowerment.
  • Banks need to be accountable on lending practices and maintain disclosure requirements for Environmental, Social and good governance.
  • Private sectors and state actors should respect and uphold Free Prior and Informed Consent from communities where land is acquired. This assures the community of being part of the consultation which ensures credible natural resource management.

There is always space for improvement and a commitment to improve and adjust policies and practices.

Oxfam is honored to be part of this National Conference Day which marks collaboration for shared information, open and transparent discussion and identify challenges for strategic solutions. I hope this will bring forth new commitment as we explore new ideas towards achieving our shared Sustainable development goals.

I wish you all the very best and have a fruitful time during this strategic planning conference.

Thank you

All photo: Yu Phourn/NGOF