While protesters demonstrated outside, urging land and human-rights reform, members of the donor community met with the government yesterday at the Council for the Development of Cambodia in Phnom Penh to sign off on a series of development targets that bore only a faint resemblance to those recommended by civil society.
The high-level donor meeting typically convenes every six months, but had been indefinitely postponed since April, 2011.
At the meeting, donors and the government agree to targets that help inform aid packages.
Local and international NGOs have been urging foreign nations to withhold aid unless strict human-rights reforms are made by the government, but donors neither pledged nor suspended funds yesterday.
Instead, reading from a series of prepared speeches, most offered only the most cautious of critiques, such as a suggestion by Japan that civil society opinion be sought more often and the EU’s calls for increased budget transparency.
“There’s normally a question-and-answer session, but at this particular time, there was hardly any room for comment,” pointed out Lun Borithy, executive director of the Cooperation Committee for Cambodia, which co-ordinated a long list of recommendations along with a 170-page series of NGO position papers disseminated at yesterday’s meeting.
“I think we’ll have to rely on the coverage in the press . . . about our key asks and recommendations. To rely too much on direct input in the meeting is having over-expectations.”
Pushing for land reforms
Reform recommendations publicised by the joint group of NGOs on Tuesday appeared to have had little impact on the targets signed off on.
The groups, for instance, called for concrete changes to land policies, asking for public access to information regarding state land and a complete overhaul of resettlement procedures.
The endorsed targets, in turn, touched upon neither, mostly focusing on due dates for draft policy papers and laws.
While participants endorsed 20 “joint monitoring indicators” ranging from health to aid effectiveness to education, land and the attendant rights issues have been chief on many observers’ minds.
Though most of the meeting was pro-forma, there were hints that the donor community has been pushing harder for land reforms than those endorsed targets might indicate.