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Berlin notes land rights in aid statement

GERMANY has said that up to €4 million (about US$5.1 million) earmarked for technical assistance to land sector reforms in 2011 and 2012 “will be contingent upon further strengthening the implementation of human rights”.

A statement issued by the German embassy on Friday said that “Germany’s future contribution in the land sector” in Cambodia would address relevant human rights issues that include “supporting indigenous communities in securing their land rights” and supporting the government “in progressively solving urban informal settlement issues in accordance with Cambodian law”.

But although the wording of the statement would appear to imply that Germany might decide to withhold funding should Cambodia fail to improve its human rights record in the land sector, an embassy official said yesterday that the statement was somewhat misleading, and noted instead that Germany’s “future support will focus on human rights issues”.

The official, who spoke on the condition of anonymity, declined to elaborate.

Nonn Pheany, spokeswoman for the Ministry of Land Management, said Germany’s pledge marked a significant increase from its previous contribution of $3,823,200 from 2008 to 2010, which focused on land registration, training and legal tools.

The next step, she said, is for the ministry to compile a list of land-reform issues it wants to address, and to present the list to the German government for consideration. “We do not know specifically what points will be chosen by the German side,” she added.

David Pred, executive director of Bridges Across Borders Cambodia, said yesterday that Germany should press the government to meet “specific human rights benchmarks”.

Chhith Sam Ath, executive director of the NGO Forum on Cambodia, said he welcomed Germany’s “continued support in the land-reform sector”.
But he said that it was essential for donors to “look carefully” at projects involving “urban resettlement” or displacement of “vulnerable groups” such as ethnic minorities.

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