INTENSE lobbying by Ministers, ambassadors, NGOs and chambers of commerce has preceded Cambodia's fifth Consultative Group (CG) donors meeting from June 11-13 in Tokyo.
The CG meeting is the annual World Bank-chaired event in which donors get to wave the carrot and wield the stick with the Cambodian government before signing off on some half-a-billion dollars in annual development assistance.
Insiders describe the meeting as a stage-managed affair at which donors release pre-agreed funds to the RGC. Around US$3.65 billion has been provided to Cambodia in external assistance since 1992.
This year, Finance Minister Keat Chhon has indicated that the RGC will be seeking ongoing funding of $500 million for each of the next 3 years (half of which has already been committed) and one-off funding of $24 million to pay for next February's commune elections.
Donors, on the other hand, are seeking a range of improvements in Cambodia's governance, forestry management and political freedom.
The CG Chair Bonaventure Mbida-Essama indicated at a press conference on June 5 that the donors "are urging the government to move fast" when it comes to the Khmer Rouge tribunal and land laws and indicated that the RGC will be including a report on progress toward the formation of a KR tribunal in their "governance action plan" presentation to the CG.
The 2001 donor meeting will be one of the most complex ever held with a record number of issues up for debate and increasing pressure on the RGC to demonstrate reforms are under way.
According to Chea Vannath, President of the Center for Social Development, the RGC will get a rockier reception this year in Tokyo than it has at previous meetings.
"If you look at the trends from year to year [donors] look at the successes and they look at the shortcomings," Vannath said. "Now, more and more, they focus on the shortcomings [and] monitoring is tougher and tougher in terms of conditionality."
Mbida-Essama indicated that donors were lowering expectations, "it is quite possible that we may have been unrealistic in our expectations...in terms of what we expect the government can deliver", he said.
Diplomatic sources have suggested that the RGC is likely to receive the $500 million requested.
Following the resolution of the dispute in February in which Global Witness, the donor-appointed Independent Monitors of the Forest Crimes Monitoring Unit were threatened with expulsion by Prime Minister Hun Sen, donors are understood to be satisfied with the progress of forestry reform.
However the government's public disavowal of the latest GW report and donors public commitment to consider its contents regardless means forestry may join slated investment laws, demobilization and funding for the February 2002 commune elections as the meeting's most potentially contentious issues.