The NGO Forum on Cambodia

Land Security Project

The Land Security Project facilitates NGOs advocating for improved land tenure security and better land dispute resolution mechanisms, to benefit the poor and vulnerable.
The project:

  • encourages engagement of NGOs, affected communities, development partners and the government in policy consultation and dialogue
  • Coordinates local and international NGOs working on land and housing to be organized and strengthened.
  • brings the concerns of affected communities and the need for better land allocation, registration and disputes resolution processes to the attention of decision makers
  • is supported by evidence-based and gender-sensitive research.

The project works closely with the Land and Housing Rights Network (LAHRIN), a network of NGOs working on land and housing rights.
Specific activities of the Land Security Project include:

  • Facilitating the policy consultation and monitoring the policy implementation
  • Monitoring systematic land registration and advocating for increased registration efforts, with a focus on those that benefit poor and vulnerable people
  • Intervening in land disputes and advocating for improved land dispute resolution
  • Working with LAHRIN members and human rights groups to document land dispute cases by updating NGO Forum’s land dispute database
  • Coordinating LAHRIN members to advocate for pro-poor policies in government-development partner Technical Working Groups (TWGs) and development partner forums such as Government Development Partner Coordination Committee (GDCC) and Cambodia Development Cooperation Forum (CDCF)
  • Facilitating the concerns of affected people to be heard by decision makers at national and international level with dialogue session
  • Conducting field investigations, interventions and research to ensure advocacy is supported by evidence.

Poverty reduction is tied to land security 

Cambodia is one of the poorest countries in Asia. An estimated 30% of people live below the poverty line, 85% in rural areas. Land is critically important because agriculture employs 60% of the labour force and contributes to 33% of GNP.

An estimated 20–25% of the population is landless – the major cause of poverty in rural Cambodia – and another 25% of rural families have too little land (less than 0.5 ha) to provide a sufficient livelihood.

Lack of secure land tenure is a major problem facing the rural and urban population.

Strengthening this sector is one of four priority areas in the government’s National Strategic Development Plan.

Government attempts to reduce poverty through land reform in 2011–2015 are based on a Land Administration, Management and Distribution Programme (LAMDP), segmented into sub-sectors:

  • Land Administration Sub Sector Programme (LASSP) focuses on policy development, a land titling programme and development of a modern land registration programme, strengthening mechanisms for dispute resolution and land valuation and land market development
  • Land Management Sub Sector Programme (LMSSP) focuses on policy development, institution and capacity building and spatial planning
  • Land Distribution Sub Sector Programme (LDSSP) focuses on policy development, the establishment of a state land inventory, locally and nationally-initiated social land concessions as well as partnerships in small and large scale agriculture.

These are implemented by the Ministry of Land Management, Urban Planning and Construction (MLMUPC) and supported by the Asian Development Bank, the Korea International Cooperation Agency and the governments of Germany, Canada, Japan, Denmark, Sweden and Finland.

Few benefits for the poor

Unfortunately, government efforts to reduce poverty through land reform have resulted in uneven distribution of benefits, discriminating against the poor and disadvantaged groups such as women. There is a widening gap between rich and poor and uneven development between rural and urban areas.
More than 20 years after the reintroduction of private land ownership in 1989 and 12 years after the adoption of the 2001 Land Law, there is still inadequate monitoring of land ownership to provide a comprehensive picture of trends, complicated by a difficult legal framework.
NGO Forum and LAHRIN members have focused their work on land titling, land disputes, and Social Land Concessions.

Land titling

Systematic land titling contributes to improved tenure security. The process of adjudicating areas to be titled is not transparent – areas considered for titling have been chosen on ‘easy to do’ criteria. This excludes disputed areas and areas likely to be disputed (‘difficult’ areas) such as the Boueng Kak Lake area in Phnom Penh – leading to forced eviction and land disputes. According to official statements, efforts are now underway which aim at accelerating SLR and avoiding the exclusion of areas from the process.

Land disputes

Disputes are still a critical issue in Cambodia. In 2010, there were 282 ongoing land disputes. These were often caused by infrastructure developments (including concessions) implemented with little respect for the rights of local communities. According to NGO Forum research (Statistical Analysis on Land Disputes in Cambodia, NGO Forum, 2010), 62% of all disputes that have entered a resolution process remain unresolved.

In 2010 the Cadastral Commission (a mechanism set up to resolve land disputes between those who do not have LMAP titles, disputes arising during the titling process and in areas outside of the systematic titling target Communes) resolved only 3 land disputes and the courts only 6 cases. Both are slow mechanisms, leaving communities exposed to land grabbing and intimidation. Court decisions do not always follow fair trial principles as courts are not independent. 

Social Land Concessions

Social Land Concessions are a transfer of state land into the private ownership of poor landless people. Land distribution through Social Land Concessions remains slow and focuses mainly on former soldiers.

Project background

Land Security Project has been working to assist poor and vulnerable people affected by land issues in Cambodia since 2004.
In 2010 the project extended its scope and network from 10 to 22 provinces. Provincial members strengthened linkages between NGO Forum’s Land Security project and other networks, following a network mapping of organizational skills and working experiences of the NGOs working on land issues.  

During 2009–2013, the Project coordinated NGOs and CSOs to engage in dialogue with the government and local authorities, the Cadastral Commission, the Ministry of Land Management Urban Planning and Construction (MLMUPC), authorities responsible for the 3 components of land reform such as LASSP, LMSSP and LDSSP, the Council of Land Policy and development partners.

According to the recommendation of the final term evaluation 2011, LAND and RAN networks merged to avoid overlapping membership and to establish more flexible mechanisms, thus forming the Land and Hou

Land security project