GIZ’s indigenous community land registration initiative ranks as largest effort to secure indigenous land rights in Cambodia

19 March 2013

Preparing 95 indigenous communities for collective land registration

Phnom Penh, Cambodia – In December 2012, GIZ’s Land Rights Programme signed an agreement to work with the International Labour Organization to help 90 indigenous communities in Cambodia take steps to prepare for the registration of their collective lands.

Following this, in January 2013 GIZ cooperation led to an additional five indigenous communities preparing for land registration. Altogether, this is the largest single effort any government or organization has ever made to assist indigenous communities in Cambodia secure their land rights. In 2001, a Land Law outlined indigenous communities’ land rights, and in 2009, a sub-decree on registering indigenous lands was issued. GIZ’s work builds on these legal documents.

First 5 indigenous communities register land – over 400 to follow

Cambodia has approximately 450 indigenous communities. Currently, the land of only five of these communities has been registered: three were registered with GIZ’s support, two with Canadian support

However, GIZ anticipates that through Canadian support three more communities will achieve registration by May 2013. The registration includes land that the indigenous peoples use for farming, residence, and for cultural purposes such as burial areas and spirit forests.

These eight communities are taking major steps in history, as they are the first to have ever applied for land registration. Others have taken various official steps that precede filing for land registration applications, which include receiving acknowledgement as an indigenous community by the Ministry of Rural Development and obtaining legal status recognition by Ministry of Interior. Legal status enables indigenous communities to hold land titles.

GIZ aims to help as many indigenous communities with land title applications as possible

A key objective of GIZ’s Land Rights Programme’s work is to help as many as possible with the land title application filing process.

Under a 2011 joint circular of the Ministries of Interior and of Land Management, Urban Planning and Construction the filing of these applications triggers provincial governors issuing interim protection letters for the lands specified in the applications. Once issued, these letters prohibit private transactions, but do not affect pre-issued concessions.

As stated in the circular, the letters do not apply to “those plots that the Royal Government has agreed in principle for investment or development – prior to these measures coming into effect.”

The concession exclusion poses serious limitations to issued letters’ effectiveness. Nevertheless, the letters are the only legal protection that currently exists until the community’s land registration process is complete.

For more information on GIZ’s Land Rights Programme, please contact: Mr. Poch Sophorn, Senior Advisor on Land Policy, Land Rights Program at [email protected].

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