Donor Group Finishes Work on Forest Plan Plan to Protect For

A donor’s working group on Thursday evening finalized the details of a new initiative to make Cambodia’s forests a sustainable resource, a donor representative said after the hours-long meeting.

The next stage will be to inform the government, he said.

Another participant in the working group—a representative of Danida, the Danish government’s aid agency—said Wednes­day that the new plan will involve bringing in independent consultants with no previous experience in Cambodia’s forestry debates.

He added that donors will seek the government’s endorsement and cooperation from a number of ministries.

Those will include the Council of Ministers and the ministries of Agriculture, Land Management, Mines and Ener­gy, Interior and Defense.

Since Prime Minister Hun Sen accused independent forest monitor Global Witness of attempting to embarrass the government and pushed for its removal at the end of last year, the forestry sector has adopted a relatively low profile.

Hushed recent efforts might be viewed as reconciliatory.

The Danida representative said the new initiative’s objective is to get all stakeholders involved in a new process and overcome past misunderstandings and criticisms.

The new initiative has been called both a “new beginning” and a “final attempt” by donor and NGO representatives in­volved in its formulation.

The rekindled effort will take a “sector-wide approach” that re-examines management and provides for a new assessment of natural resources, the Danida representative said.

A complaint of many conservation advocates has been that the government really has no idea how much of the country is still forested. Therefore, the government is in no position, in many cases, to decide how to manage the remaining forests.

Furthermore, it is not known how many villagers in the prov­inces rely on their surrounding forests or exactly what they rely on them for.

An observer said the initiative will also try to rectify problems of governance, such as corruption, poor coordination of departments and ministries and lacking qualifications of officials.

Global Witness uncovered several instances of alleged illegal logging in 2002, despite a Hun Sen-imposed moratorium on logging in forest concessions.

In a November statement, Global Witness charged that “Cam­bodia’s forests are being stolen from under the nose of the World Bank.”

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