The NGO Forum on Cambodia

The 10th National Advocacy Conference on “Working together for Social Justice and Sustainable Development”

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On 30 November 2016, Tonle Bassac2 Restaurant, Phnom Penh, Cambodia: The 10the National Advocacy Conference is jointly organized by 59 civil society organizations, there are participants of approximately 400 persons taking part in this conference and these participants are various communities coming throughout the country, representatives of CSOs, government, national assembly, senate and private sectors. Currently, we the civil society organizations who are the organizing committee of this conference are working together for the enhancement of draft laws and policies through provision of recommendations and inputs and we also participate in the enhancement of law and policy implementations and services in order to increase the respect for human rights, good governance, social justice, protection of environment for the promotion of sustainable development and reduction of poverty rate in compliance with the national strategic plan of Cambodian government. This annual conference is the event for our debate on policy which is mainly in relation the land and natural resources governance. It is like one slogan says that - “we share heart, sharing thinking, share doing and we share responsibility”.

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Welcome remarks by, Mr. Tek Vannara, Executive Director of The NGO Forum on Cambodia:

May I take this opportunity also to inform you that, in 2015, we have organized the 9th national advocacy conference with the topic called “working together for the promotion of social accountability on land and natural resource governance in Cambodia” and there were participants of 432 persons who came from throughout the country and we then had discussed on the six important topics such as land issues, Indigenous people issues, forestry issues, hydropower dam issue, access to information, extractive industry and responsible investment. We had issued recommendations and a joint statement which received endorsements from 48 local and international organizations and obtained endorsements from affected communities throughout the country. As results of CSO working together, it has been noticed that those stated recommendations and other major issues have been addressed and put in a remarkable progress for actions such as the government has put Preylang forestry as a wildlife sanctuary in which Preylang forest consists of size of 43,0000 hectares and the government has also taken actions on a number of other important issues.

Responding to this situation, I wish to appeal to all levels of leaderships for their actions as follows:
- To be united and be open hearted for constructive criticisms for the glory of nation
- Work together for the promotion of freedom of expression in sense of promotion of democratic implementation and respect for human rights in Cambodia.
- Propose to review and release human rights activists, land rights activists and political activists who claimed for land rights and housing rights who use their freedom of expression.
- Stop accusation against CSOs activists whom were accused of having done incitement and staying behind of community people.
- Expedite the process of investigation on shot death case of Dr. Kem Ley and the death of journalist who worked and traced on the issues of forestry, minerals and other natural resources.
- Stop prevention and obstruction against the peaceful actions of people, for example, peaceful protest and petition submissions to government institutions, enlarge the space for the freedom of expression.
- Ensure the independent and just judicial systems and respect for human rights and stop using the judicial system for suppression of and crackdown against the people who just claim for their land rights and housing rights.

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Keynote address, by Mr. Yong Kim Eng, Chairman of Cambodian Human Rights Action Coalition (CHRAC) and President of Center for Peace and Development (PDP – Center):
I would like to take this solemn opportunity to extend the appreciation to the Cambodian government for their great efforts for the resolution of major national issues such as the reduction of time period of economic land concessions and the withdrawal of some economic land concessions from private companies who did not really work well in compliance with the policy of the government. However, presently, it is noticed that there are still major challenges in the country such as issues of freedom of expression and freedom of assembly. It is also noticed that for some law making process, government did not allow for public participation for their inputs. There are still major human rights and land issue as well and these issues have erupted due to the operations of private companies and private companies have also been seen to have contributed to gross and serious human rights violations.

Responding to this situation, I wish to appeal to all levels of leaderships for their actions as follows:
- To be united and be open hearted for constructive criticisms for the glory of nation
- Work together for the promotion of freedom of expression in sense of promotion of democratic implementation and respect for human rights in Cambodia.
- Propose to review and release human rights activists, land rights activists and political activists who claimed for land rights and housing rights who use their freedom of expression.
- Stop accusation against CSOs activists whom were accused of having done incitement and staying behind of community people.
- Expedite the process of investigation on shot death case of Dr. Kem Ley and the death of journalist who worked and traced on the issues of forestry, minerals and other natural resources.
- Stop prevention and obstruction against the peaceful actions of people, for example, peaceful protest and petition submissions to government institutions, enlarge the space for the freedom of expression.
- Ensure the independent and just judicial systems and respect for human rights and stop using the judicial system for suppression of and crackdown against the people who just claim for their land rights and housing rights.

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Keynote address, by Ms. Lim Solinn, Country Director of Oxfam – Cambodia:
It is my appreciation to Cambodian government for having done many changes. The existence of open participation is very much important for the processes of country development, for example, participation in the legislative making processes. This kind of public participation is being implemented in many other countries as well. If there is no public participation, the legislative and other legal standard instrument making process will be in gap and short. It is my hope that open participation in policy making process will still continue to exist. Participation is the important aspect and element for the country adhering to principle of democracy like Cambodia.

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Open remark, by H.E. Mr. Ty Sokun, Secretary of State of Ministry of Agriculture, Forestry and Fisheries:

I would like to inform that advocacy is a very good method, it requires a high professionalism for working on it, and we should not understand that advocacy is only for the opposition. This conference consists of very good topics and discusses the strategies and development processes for the creation of employment opportunity. The more we do discussions, the more developments take place. So far, I have noticed that we have done more cooperation between government and CSOs sectors, for example, we worked collectively for law and policy making processes and those laws will be enacted in the future for implementation in the country.


Regarding the land and natural resources governance, Cambodian government has already declared that there will be no more economic land concession shall be granted and government has cancelled economic land concessions from 102 companies. We the government need the participation of NGOs, researchers and other scientists in order to make sure that there will be no more poverty in the year of 2030. The world has 7 expeditious development and, therefore, we have a great deal of works to do while many other counties do the same. If we just do advocacy, we will not be successful and we need to do a practical implementation as well. Let me finish my point of views here, and I wish to declare the opening of the conference now on.

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Closing session, by H.E. Dr. Ken Sereyrotha, Deputy Secretary-General of National Council for Sustainable Development in Cambodia, Ministry of Environment
Let me inform you all that I come here to this conference today, my role is not to resolve the problem, I come here is to listen, understand and make consideration and then I will propose for a coordination and creation of mechanisms with relevant institutions in order to increase the quality of development and this is what I would be able to do. What I wish to draw your kind attention here is that I propose you to make use of mechanism which was the recommendation of the prime minister which he made during the occasion of forum on the protection ad conservation of natural resources recently. As a result from that forum on the protection and conservation of natural resources, Prime minister has proposed to have a regular joint meeting between relevant government institution, relevant CSOs and interested people. I wish you take on those Prime minister’s recommendations as a mechanism for debate and working for issue resolution.

At the end of this closing, Mr. Tek Vannara, Executive Director of The NGO Forum on Cambodia, in the name of the Conference working group, has presented a draft statement to H.E. Dr. Ken Sereyrotha, temporarily, the statement will have been reviewed and adopted the NGO working group, the statement will be once again to Ministry of Environment and other relevant institution for their information and actions.

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