Still No Donor to Take Over Communal Land Titling From Canada

The Canadian International Development Agency (CIDA) said Tuesday that it had still found no replacement donor to commit long-term to carrying on its work helping indigenous ethnic minority groups secure communal land titles once it pulls out in May.

Kan Vibol, project field manager for CIDA’s Cambodia Land Administration Support Project, said they will have spent $240,000 by the time the last of the five communities they have been working with receives its title in late April.

“There is no CIDA money after [April]. I don’t know who can take over,” he said. “I don’t know about the long-term…because [it is] hard to find the donor.

“They don’t have the long-term plan to support the registration process.”

The titles, granted to a whole community at a time, are designed specifically to protect the ancestral land of ethnic minorities from outside developers. Unlike with private titles, outsiders cannot buy up the land one family at a time.

But granting those titles has been an exercise in patience. Since the 2001 Land Law made them an option for indigenous ethnic minorities, the government has granted only five, all within the past 15 months.

Without a committed donor helping the communities through the costly and laborious process, Mr. Vibol said he worried that the pace will only slow down.

“I am concerned the government will not do strong enough because they commit to do only three [titles] a year, that’s why [it is] so important for donor support,” he said.

With some 90 communities going through the application process, he said, “if they do only three per year, it will take 30 years.”

Franz-Volker Mueller, land rights program team leader at the German Agency for International Cooperation, agreed that three titles a year was “not enough.”

Though his agency paid for the work that went into Cambodia’s first ever communal land title in December 2011, and the next two, Mr. Mueller said it had no plans to pick up after CIDA and hoped Canada would change its mind about pulling out.

The European Union, another possible candidate for the work, said on Monday that discussing its commitments to one sector or another was premature because its “programming process, which is complex, is only in its early stage.”

The U.N. Office of the High Commissioner for Human Rights is presently paying the way for five communities in Mondolkiri province, some of which have been feuding with surrounding rubber and timber companies for years.

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