WHILE the Government can expect some pats on the back from donors at the upcoming
June 14 post-consultative group meeting, major concerns still exist.
The meeting is an opportunity for the Government to report to donors on the progress
of logging control, military and civil service and financial reform.
The crackdown on illegal logging has been held up as the most visible area of Government
success and willingness to comply with donor requests. It has generally been stopped
except in the northwest of the country, where environmental NGO Global Witness reports
a pocket of ongoing illegal logging and timber exports to Vietnam.
However, one diplomat said that donors are now likely to emphasize their concerns
about logging in legal concession areas and their sustainability and environmental
Demobilization of the military is another key area for donors and the Government.
Donors spoken to by the Post said that overall there was a very favorable impression
of the Ministry of Defense and RCAF's efforts and commitment so far to trim back
the 148,000 personnel in the armed forces.
One donor said that his Government had some queries about the reliability of the
registration process currently under way, but otherwise looked on the process as
still in development.
Criticism of the process has been more directed at the World Bank's plan for the
process and handling of it to date, specifically:
the Bank's use of 1996 data for enrollment figures - which exclude large numbers
the failure of the plan to take into account the military needs of the country following
the lack of foresight over what the demobilized soldiers would do for long term employment.
One diplomat was also particularly critical of a World Bank Seminar two weeks ago
in which no RCAF or Defense Ministry officials participated. He said he asked officials
in both departments why they were not there and was told it was because they were
Meanwhile a group of human rights NGOs have called for a new rule of law and judicial
reform sub-committee to be created, citing fears that the issues will not be covered
fully at the June 14 meet.
Adhoc, Licadho and Human Rights Watch maintain that although the four existing subcommittees
(which cover demobilization, civil service, forestry and fiscal reforms) were each
to address rule of law, impunity and judicial reform issues within their own sector,
as was agreed at Tokyo, a fifth group is needed to look at the issue as a whole.
"We want to make sure that human rights is on the agenda of these donor meetings,"
said Sara Colm of Human Rights Watch. "We want a working group to be set up
not only to coordinate donor policy, input and contributions, but also to create
a body to monitor and evaluate government progress in meeting stated reforms."
The push for a new group comes after the government circulated an agenda for the
June 14 meeting last week, which allowed only for discussion of demobilization, forestry,
fiscal and civil service reforms.
Support for the proposed new group is, however, limited. At a June 7 meeting of around
50 diplomats, UN and other donor representatives, concerns were raised that the rights
issues were "cross-cutting" - in other words, that they were better tackled
by each individual subcommittee, rather than a fifth, separate group.
The rights NGOs, however, do not agree. "We feel very strongly that it's premature
to attempt to mainstream human rights into the bodies of the other committees,"
Privately, however, some donors say that they believe a group dedicated solely to
discussing human rights would frighten off the government from a meaningful dialogue
with any of the subcommittees.
Yet, despite the reluctance to form a separate group, all donors at the meeting were
concerned that the government had not allocated time to discuss broader issues, such
as human rights, at the June 14 meeting.
"All the participants at the meeting were concerned about this, and it was decided
that a request should be made to the government to allow half an hour for discussion
of the human rights issue", said one participant, though conceding that it was
unlikely meaningful progress could be made on the human rights issue with 30 minutes
Before the CG meeting in Tokyo, the government affirmed its commitment to human rights,
pledging in a pre-meeting report to reaffirm its "unbreakable attachment to
liberal democracy, to the freedom of expression, to an independent judiciary, to
neutrality and discipline in the armed forces and national police, to the strengthening
of the rule of law....".
In a statement June 11, Sidney Jones, executive director of the Asia division of
Human Rights Watch said: "We urge the donors to strictly monitor the government's
compliance with its commitments, in particular on human rights. It's time for the
government to live up to its pledges and actually launch the reforms needed to end
the problems of impunity."