A new donor-sponsored team will begin work in May to review the slow progress of
forestry reform and examine the selection of a new forestry monitor.
team involved in the six-month review, which will cost as much as $500,000, will
comprise ten external consultants, including specialists in ecology, forestry,
law enforcement, rural livelihoods, economics and community
"The expected output is an action plan which everyone can
endorse," said one donor representative, who declined to be named. "It's about
how to move forward in a more coherent and conducive manner [than in]
The donor working group on natural resources management, which is
co-chaired by Asian Development Bank country head Urooj Malik, will meet in
early April to hammer out the agreement to re-evaluate the sector.
idea is [to bring in] totally independent consultants," said the representative.
"None of them has a finger in the forestry sector. We want the consultants to
assist all stakeholders in Cambodia on how we can move forward."
government's commitment to forestry reform has long been in doubt, a situation
that has continued with further reports of persistent logging. That is despite
assurances from the Department of Forestry and Wildlife (DFW) that a moratorium
on cutting and transporting logs is being enforced.
Malik told the
January donor conference there was a "mismatch between [government] rhetoric and
action" which had prompted donors to review their role in forestry
His comments came after a seriously flawed public comment period
lasting only 19 days. Donors were outraged when villagers waiting outside DFW
for management plans were reportedly beaten by police on December
Michael Bird, program representative at Oxfam GB, said although
tensions had eased, many issues remained unresolved.
"We think the [FMPs]
are not the basis for managing the forestry sector in Cambodia and I don't know
anyone who thinks they are," Bird said. "There's clearly an assumption that the
plans will change dramatically or the concessions will get canceled."
director of the forest management office at DFW, Chheng Kim Sun, said FMPs which
"failed to fill in criteria" could be sent back to the logging companies. He did
not clarify whether that would address ecological and social impacts observers
say were ignored in the original drafts.
DFW has embarked on its own,
much criticized consultation process in provincial communities. Kim Sun said
meetings with villagers were continuing. Donors were informed it would end in
April, which would mean the FMPs would then be eligible for approval.
the donor review will not be charged with revising the FMPs.
will not review the management plans once again, but will be given access to all
the comments and analysis of what everyone else has done," said the
representative. From that, the team would issue its opinion.
will also look at selecting a new forestry monitor to replace Global Witness
(GW). Although the government dropped its defamation lawsuit against GW country
head Eva Galabru in February, the NGO's future role is still not clear. Prime
Minister Hun Sen had set a deadline of April 21 for the NGO, widely seen as a
scapegoat for government inaction, to be stripped of its role.
likelihood of finding a replacement by then is low, and donors said they would
press the government to retain GW. The World Bank said the disbursement of the
remaining $15 million tranche under the Structural Adjustment Credit (SAC) was
dependent on the existence of an official independent forestry
Galabru said she was not committed to retaining the job and
expressed doubts about the government's willingness to let GW perform its role.
She said DFW had ignored six reports of illegal logging submitted by the NGO in
the last month alone.
"If [the donor community] wants the work of the
independent monitor to be effective, then they need to rethink everything
they've done," Galabru said.