Economic land concessions in Cambodia: A human rights perspective

TitleEconomic land concessions in Cambodia: A human rights perspective
Annotated RecordNot Annotated
Year of Publication2007
AuthorsUnited_Nations_Special_Representative_of_the_Secretary-General_for_Human_Rights_in_Cambodia _
Place PublishedPhnom Penh
Key themesAccessToJustice, Dispossession-grabbing, Environment, FDI, MarginalisedPeople, Policy-law

Over 943,069 hectares of land in rural Cambodia have been granted to private companies as economic land concessions, for the development of agro-industrial plantations. Thirty-six of these 59 concessions have been granted in favour of foreign business interests or prominent political and business figures. These statistics exclude smaller economic land concessions granted at the provincial level, for which information on numbers and ownership has not been disclosed. Since 1996, successive Special Representatives of the Secretary-General for human rights in Cambodia have expressed concern about the impact of economic land concessions on the human rights and livelihoods of rural communities. The concerns raised over the past decade remain the same today. At the root of these concerns is poor enforcement of and compliance with the requirements of the Land Law and Sub-Decree on Economic Land Concessions, which govern the grant and management of economic land concessions. Essential pre-conditions to the grant of concessions, such as the registration of land as state private land and conduct of public consultations and environmental and social impact assessments, have not been met. Likewise, restrictions on the size and ownership of economic land concessions have not been properly enforced. Individuals have used different companies to acquire interests in multiple concessions, contrary to the Land Law, and to obtain adjacent concessions for the same purposes, circumventing the 10,000 hectare size limit. Concessions have been granted over forested areas and former forest concessions, contrary to the Forestry Law and forestry regulations. Despite these breaches of the law, there has been no systematic review of concessions, as required by the Sub-Decree on Economic Land Concessions. Further, the judicial system has failed to uphold the rights of affected communities and respect for the law, and to hold companies accountable for their actions. As a result, economic land concessions continue to impact negatively upon the human rights and livelihoods of rural communities, who depend upon land and forest resources for their survival. Commonly-cited concerns are encroachment on agricultural and grazing land, and loss of livelihoods; encroachment on forested areas and loss of access to non-timber forest products; impact on areas of cultural and spiritual significance; displacement; and environmental destruction. The report raises particular concerns about the impact of economic land and other concessions on indigenous communities, whose rights to collective ownership of land are protected under Cambodian law. The alienation of indigenous land through the grant of concessions is undermining the ability of indigenous communities to register their collective ownership of traditional lands, and enforce their rights to land under the Land Law. Instead of promoting rural development and poverty reduction, economic land concessions have compromised the rights and livelihoods of rural communities in Cambodia. To promote the equitable and sustainable management of Cambodia’s land and natural resources for the benefit of all Cambodians, the Special Representative has made a series of recommendations relating to the implementation of the Land Law and Sub-Decree on Economic Land Concessions; protection and implementation of indigenous rights to land; access to information on all economic land concessions and beneficiaries of these concessions; and legal enforcement and access to an effective remedy for affected communities. It is also recommended that alternative agricultural models be considered, prioritizing smallholder agriculture and community-based initiatives. The recommendations are set out in full at the end of the report.

URL Land Concession - a human rights perspective 2007.pdf

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