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Groups urge action at govt-donor forum

LOCAL and international observers have called on foreign donors to push the government to institute key reforms and strengthen implementation of existing legislation in advance of landmark meetings set for this week.

During the two-day Cambodia Development Cooperation Forum (CDCF), which starts Wednesday, donors will assess the government’s progress on reforms and make aid pledges for the coming 18-month period.

In a statement Sunday, the opposition Sam Rainsy Party (SRP) acknowledged progress since the last CDCF meeting in December 2008, but said that there are still gaps that need to be filled.

Among the SRP’s recommendations was that the government address the Kingdom’s recent string of land disputes and evictions.

“Titling of land must be increased, and a moratorium on evictions and arrests should be implemented until all land is formally adjudicated according to the law,” the statement said.


The party also said donors should address the issues of access to information, public finance reform, corruption and transparency in extractive industry revenues.
“A crucial first step is to strengthen enforcement of existing legislation and policies,” it added.

In a statement Monday, UK-based corruption watchdog Global Witness said donors should make sure aid flows are tied to concrete reforms.

“The Cambodian government has been promising to reform for years, but nothing has changed,” campaigns director Gavin Hayman said in the statement.

“Donors must take a coordinated stand against the horribly subverted dynamic of aid in Cambodia in which their country’s money props up the basic functions of the state, leaving an elite free to exploit the state’s assets for personal profit.”

Phay Siphan, spokesman for the Council of Ministers, said last week that despite criticism from groups such as Global Witness, foreign governments recognise that progress has been made in key areas, and understand the challenges facing Cambodia.

“We expect that the country donors and our development partners … understand the whole process,” he said Wednesday.

At this week’s meetings, delegates will approve a series of 20 new reform benchmarks – known as joint monitoring indicators (JMIs) – that will be implemented and monitored over the next 18 months. At the last CDCF meeting in December 2008, donors pledged US$951.5 million in
assistance for 2009, according to an IMF estimate published in September.

Chith Sam Ath, executive director of the NGO Forum on Cambodia, said that aside from sector-specific JMI targets, donors should also take the opportunity to encourage action on broad issues such as access to information and the implementation of laws already on the books.

Open dialogue, which he said is a key strength of the CDCF process, would only be strengthened by such actions.

“Information needs to be disclosed to the public to get more people participating and engaged,” he said.



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