Saturday, May 4, 2013

NGO Law Monitor: Cambodia


Cambodia is an example of a post-conflict society in which traditional forms of civil society organizations (CSOs) were devastated and then re-emerged in new forms as part of the reconstruction process. CSOs include Buddhist institutions, trade unions, media associations and non-governmental organizations (NGOs). In 1989 the first humanitarian international NGOs (INGOs) arrived and the establishment of local NGOs soon followed.
The Royal Government of Cambodia (RCG) and development partners recognize that NGOs and INGOs have made an important contribution to rehabilitation, reconstruction and development for the past 30 years. NGOs are viewed as important partners in the delivery of basic social services. Formally the RCG has a number of mechanisms that involve NGOs in national development strategy formulation and policy implementation and dialogue. In practice, however, NGOs have limited influence on government strategy and policy and limited space for dialogue.
Beyond the service provision sphere, the environment for NGOs is very different. NGOs involved in advocacy, legal rights and human rights are seen by the RCG as unwanted opposition and the environment for their activity is restrictive. The power of the Cambodian People’s Party (CPP) is increasing and the Cambodian State is becoming increasingly authoritarian. There is widespread concern from NGOs and other stakeholders on key issues relating to the increased violation of land rights and the restriction of fundamental human rights, such as the freedom of expression and freedom of assembly. Human rights defenders are continually the target of threats and attacks. The recent UN UPR submissions and outcomes document this. (December 2009
Currently the legal framework in Cambodia is governed by the Constitution, but there are no specific implementing laws. There are different registration requirements for INGOs and NGOs. INGOs are required to conclude a Memorandum of Understanding with the Ministry of Foreign Affairs and an administrative order requires local NGOs to register with the Ministry of the Interior. The current legal framework is open to discretion and its implementation saddled by a weak understanding of the concept of civil society. There is no effective judiciary or effective rule of law in Cambodia. The RCG has recently taken the unprecedented step of including civil society leaders within the scope of the newly enacted Anti-Corruption Law, by requiring them to disclose assets.
On December 15, 2010, a draft Law on NGOs/Associations, prepared by an inter-ministerial committee, was made public. Following a public consultation meeting in January 2011 and a critical advocacy campaign led by Cambodian organizations, the Government of Cambodia released a second, revised draft Law in late March and a third version in July. The Ministry of Interior is reportedly now working on a fourth version of the draft Law.
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