British environmental and human rights group Global Witness have been appointed as the official independent monitor of Cambodia’s forestry sector. The appointment of a watchdog NGO to this kind of role is probably unique in world terms.
The need for independent monitoring was identified at the 1999 Consultative Group (CG), made up of Cambodia’s donors, meeting in Tokyo, to ensure the Royal Government of Cambodia’s (RGC) compliance with promised forestry reforms. The IMF’s reengagement, and the World Bank’s new Structural Adjustment Credit were conditional on the signing of the deal.
“This is a great day for us,” said Patrick Alley of Global Witness. “This role gives us a direct formal feed into the enforcement process, and full access to timber related RGC and concession records. If we report forest crime, the RGC has to act. This means there is a chance that illegal loggers might actually get arrested. The RGC’s actions will be reported to Hun Sen, through the Council of Ministers, and to the quarterly meetings of the international donors.”
The $140,000 deal, funded in the first year by a $600,000 grant from Britain’s DFID, and a $150,000 grant from AusAid, channelled through the FAO, will allow Global Witness to open an office in Phnom Penh and take on local staff. “We will simply do more of what we already do,” said Alley. “The $140,000 funds the Cambodian office: we will continue to fund ourselves, and therefore, around 66% of total project costs.”
The independent monitoring role is part of the recently established Forest Crime Monitoring Unit, also made up of inspection teams from the Forestry Department and the Ministry of Environment, both of whom will receive the bulk of the funds.
“Forestry reform has a long way to go, but the fact that the RGC have accepted us, a thorn in their side for years, as the monitor, is an indication of the new mood in government. Impunity has always been the problem in the forestry sector, so this deal will test the RGC’s resolve, because they have to investigate and take action on reported crimes,” said Alley. “And a lot of the perpetrators have friends in high places.”
Press Release / Dec. 2, 1999