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Cherry-picking in Cambodia: Some questions for Jürgen Blaser about Cambodia’s REDD Readiness Proposal

Cherry-picking in Cambodia: Some questions for Jürgen Blaser about Cambodia's REDD Readiness Proposal

Jürgen Blaser is a reviewer on the World Bank’s FCPF Technical Advisory Panel. Last week, at a presentation during the eighth Participants Committee meeting in Vietnam, he used a quotation from an article on REDD-Monitor and presented it in a slide titled, “Overall Summary: Strengths of the RPP [Readiness Preparation Proposal].” REDD-Monitor would like to take this opportunity to put the record straight.

Blaser managed to cut and paste the quotation accurately. But he took it out of context. I was not in Vietnam, and therefore did not have the opportunity to point out Blaser’s blatant cherry-picking, but a couple of colleagues send me photographs of the slide in which Blaser referred to REDD-Monitor. (Click on the image to the left for a larger version of the slide.)

Blaser used the following extract from the article, “Can REDD save Prey Long forest in Cambodia?,” as an illustration of the “excellent and complete preparation of the R-PP:”

One observation: A consultation process has been taking place, which observers describe as “collaborative” and the “best ever” in terms of involving a wide range of NGOs and community representatives.
By REDD Monitor – Chris Lang, 2nd March 2011

Of course, describing a consultation process in Cambodia (or anywhere else) as the “best ever” does not necessarily mean that it is necessarily any good. It only means that it was better than what has gone before.

Cambodian civil society organisations and NGOs pointed out in a statement about the R-PP, that while the REDD discussions in Cambodia have been “more visible and comparatively more open than others,” problems remain:

the process was constrained by a tight timeline and insufficient debate on the governance-related concerns and the principles that should ground REDD readiness and piloting

The statement from Cambodia CSOs and NGOs about the R-PP can be downloaded here (pdf file 95.8 KB) and is posted in full below.

It’s all very well having a participatory and consultative process to discuss REDD, but at some stage REDD needs to start addressing the root causes of deforestation. This is something the World Bank has proved woefully inept at doing in its involvement in Cambodia for the past two decades. Unfortunately, it seems that this is likely to continue.

Blaser is gushing in his support of the Readiness Preparation Proposal (R-PP) produced for Cambodia. “The presented Revised R-PP of March 4, 2011 is a perfectly well elaborated document,” he writes in the TAP review of Cambodia’s R-PP. (Blaser is co-author together with Suree Lakanavichian and they wrote the TAP review “on behalf of a total of 7 TAP reviewers.”)

REDD-Monitor wrote to Blaser to ask him some questions about his presentation in Vietnam and received the following response:

Dear Mailer, I am from Sunday 27 to Thursday 31 March in the Pulong Tau area of upper Sarawak and compeletely out of air communication (internet, e-mail, cell phone). Thank you for fowarding a minimum of mails, best regards Juergen

The questions are posted below. REDD-Monitor looks forward to Blaser’s response, when he returns from Sarawak.

From: Chris Lang
To: Jürgen Blaser
Date: 28 March 2011 18:03
Subject: TAP Cambodia presentation in Vietnam

Dear Jürgen,

A couple of colleagues pointed out that you used a quotation from REDD-Monitor in one of your slides during a presentation at the FCPF meeting in Vietnam last week. Predictably enough, I’m planning on writing a post on REDD-Monitor to explain that I do not endorse the R-PP for Cambodia in any way. I would be grateful if you could answer the following questions about your presentation and Cambodia’s R-PP.

1. Did you read the whole article that you extracted the quotation from? Just in case you’ve forgotten, here’s the link:

2. Assuming you did read the whole article, did you realise that it was in fact extremely critical of the FCPF and the other REDD readiness processes in Cambodia? Do you think it’s ethical to mislead your audience into thinking that REDD-Monitor approves of the R-PP?

3. One of my concerns about the REDD-readiness processes in Cambodia (and elsewhere) is that they are completely failing to address the root causes of deforestation – as illustrated by the on-going forest destruction in the Cardamom Mountains, Prey Long and Virachey National Park (to name three examples of many in Cambodia). What is your response to this criticism?

4. Do you think that REDD can in fact protect Cambodia’s forests? I’d be grateful if you could explain how and when you anticipate that this will happen.

5. Have you seen the document produced by Cambodian CSOs and NGOs explaining their Concerns about the Cambodian R-PP? (available via the FCPF website, here: Did you mention these concerns in your presentations in Vietnam? If not, why not?

Please send me a copy of the presentation that you gave in Vietnam.

Thank you for your time and I look forward to hearing from you. Please consider your response to be on the record. I would be grateful if you could respond by Wednesday 30 March 2011.

Regards, Chris Lang


We, Cambodian NGOs and Civil Society Organization present their compliments to the Cambodian (Interim) REDD Task Force led by the Forestry Administration (FA), who is leading the Cambodian delegation in presenting the Cambodia R‐PP for approval of the Forest Carbon Partnership Facility (FCPF).

We acknowledge that more visible efforts (as compared to previous forestry policy processes) have been made to be inclusive in the REDD roadmap development, which formed the basis of the R‐PP presented. National level consultations have been conducted and especially for Cambodian CSOs and indigenous communities consultative workshop on 02‐03 September 2010 which open the way for communities and NGOs to comment on R‐PP. Albeit more visible and comparatively more open than others, the process was constrained by a tight timeline and insufficient debate on the governance–related concerns and the principles that should ground REDD readiness and piloting.

Very recently, communities around Prey Lang, one of the last remaining primary forests in Cambodia, a wide expanse of lowland evergreen and semi‐evergreen forests, staged a peaceful protest against Vietnamese Economic Land Concession (ELC) companies, CRCK and PNT, for forest clearance activities in an area of almost 20,000 hectares in Prey Lang area. In this instance, 3 major issues and concerns have
surfaced: (1) clearance of primary forests by ELCs; (2) intimidation of communities by local and government authorities; (3) loss of land and resources that are providing for traditional livelihoods. ELCs is a major hindrance for the REDD to move forward in Cambodia. In addition, in 2010 government‐to‐government deals allocated 100,000 hectares in Cambodia to companies under the umbrella of the Vietnamese Rubber Enterprise Federation (VREF) for the development of rubber plantations. VREF represents 14 companies and announced its plans to grow rubber by 2012 on 100,000 hectares throughout the country. To date the VREF’s plans include 8,900 hectares of rubber will be grown in Kampong Thom, 7,500 hectares in Kratie, 1,500 hectares in Ratanakiri, 1,100 hectares in Stung Treng, and 1,000 hectares in Preah Vihear. Other locations of future plantations have not been disclosed publicly.

Moreover, around 40,000 hectares are also threatened to be logged to give way to a rubber plantation, in the Virachey National Park, a declared protected area and home to majority indigenous communities in Ratanakiri province.

These are not isolated cases but a trend of rising vulnerability of communities and their traditional livelihood and which is the backdrop of the REDD readiness process that the RPP will need to explicitly address.

The current state of forest governance and policy enforcement, and the extent of current conflicts and overlaps in land and resource uses are critical points in the R‐PP review. As considered to be a high forest cover, high deforestation country, FA statistics showed that 379 hectares were lost between 2002‐2005 at a rate of 0.8% per year, and with a rising trend of deforestation brought by land use change through economic land concession allocation and their activities, governance arrangements and a policy mandate that seeks to safeguard community rights, livelihood and biodiversity need to be explicit both in the statement of principles of R‐PP as well as in its substance.

The role, and present threat of Economic Land Concessions to communities, the erosion of their rights, and the erosion of the integrity of other policy frameworks such as on protected areas and of community forestry must be tackled. We believe that the threats posed by the indiscriminate granting of ELCs are considerable enough to warrant conditions for approval of the R‐PP. These conditions are provided not on account that we question the goal for Cambodia’s REDD Readiness, instead they are to ensure that the viability of achieving that goal does not suffer the same fate of being eroded.

We, NGOs and CSOs in Cambodia submit the following concerns and recommendations on R‐PP:

1. Provide a clear and robust legal framework of for community tenurial and resource use rights. Such legal framework will need to resolve conflict and overlaps across tenurial and resource use instruments, and include mechanisms for communities to seek redress in cases of conflict.

2. Identify explicitly that economic land concessions, mining concessions, Special Economic Development Zones and large‐scale hydro‐electricity dams are direct drivers of deforestation and forest degradation in Cambodia.

We call on the cancellation of ELCs, especially immediately those that are impinging on existing community / protected areas. The protection of natural forests and natural resources is paramount to REDD+ and fundamental to achieving environmental sustainability.

3. Consultation and participation: the TOR for Consultation Group must be constituted/included in the REDD management and consultation arrangement.

Explain what mechanisms or resources are in place for training and educating indigenous groups, local villagers, and local and provincial officials on REDD.

4. Provide clear and strong provisions that will safeguard forest communities from being displaced or evicted from the forest land. These safeguards from eviction and displacement would redound also to safeguarding community rights to food, water and livelihood, provided for by their land and forest, and the various environmental services afforded from these.

For further information please contact:

Mr. Chhith Sam Ath
Executive Director
Forest Livelihoods and Plantations Networks
The NGO Forum on Cambodia

Mr. Suon Sareth
Chief of Secretariat
Cambodian Human Rights Action Committee

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