Good governance and Human Rights violations are serious concerns. Cambodian Human Rights organisations estimate that between 500,000 and 770,000 people have been embroiled in the land disputes over the past 20 years, often leading to loss of assets, income sources and displacement.
While Cambodia continues to be largely a rural country (79%), its cities are growing extremely quickly, at rate of 3.8%. This means that every year approx. 72,000 people migrate to Cambodian cities looking for better life opportunities. This phenomenon is further exacerbated by a combination of recurring cycles of droughts and floods, devastating people’s livelihoods, forced evictions and low productivity. 150,000 people were forcibly evicted in Phnom Penh since the Paris Peace Treaty to 52 unprepared relocation sites surrounding the city (some of them as far as 50 km away). There are 26 communities in Phnom Penh under formal threat of eviction. PIN will support these communities in their effort to identify satisfactory solutions to all enabling those communities.
PIN supports the Urban Poverty Reduction Working Group in creating policy papers and good practices in urban poverty reduction. To tackle the issues linked to forced eviction we focus on mapping, enumeration and legal analysis of land status, for promoting of good practices in participatory spatial planning, and also improving the environmental sanitation in urban poor communities in Phnom Penh.
City for All – spatial planning bearing in mind human rights
Despite the fact that the majority of Cambodians live in the rural areas, the cities are growing fast (approx. 3% a year). Every year, thousands of people move to the urban areas looking for jobs, education and better living conditions. Cambodia’s fast growing garment and construction sectors absorb the majority of such an influx of new inhabitants.
However, Cambodian cities do not have sufficient infrastructure to accommodate migrants. Therefore, they tend to rent dwellings on the outskirts of the city in very poor, unsanitary conditions and disaster prone areas (esp. flood and landslides). This puts their lives, health and assets at risk and is also one of the factors contributing to high malnutrition rates among poor urban children (35%).
Over the past 20 years, rising pressure on commercial land in Phnom Penh has caused the eviction of approx. 150,000 people from areas they lived on for decades (many since the fall of Khmer Rouge regime in 1979). Often poorly compensated and relocated outside town (up to 50 km), they lose their livelihoods, access to schools and healthcare.
In January 2014, PIN and its local partner, STT, launched a new project aiming to strengthen security of tenure and the right to adequate housing by providing alternatives to the forced eviction of poor urban dwellers in Phnom Penh, in line with the existing policies and regulations of the Royal Government of Cambodia and Cambodia’s international obligations.
In collaboration with our local partners and local authorities we support inclusive, green and sustainable urban development on various levels:
- On municipal level, together with UNICEF and other organisations we support Urban Poor Poverty Reduction Working Group run by the Phnom Penh City Council, which is developing the “minimum assistance package” for upgrading poor urban settlements. This important policy paper will determine the direction and standards in housing, livelihoods, water, sanitation and hygiene, child protection, etc.
- Urban dynamics are still poorly understood in Cambodia. Through our research, we support decision makers and other stakeholders in taking longer-term and better informed decisions concerning improving living conditions, especially for those most vulnerable. Since 2014 we have published three comprehensive reports looking at the problems of malnutrition and urban resilience.
- With Sahmakum Teang Tnaut (STT) and Open Development Cambodia we organise a Spatial Planning Lab – a series of spatial planning and GIS courses offered to students and young professionals so they can gain more knowledge and skills in people centred spatial planning approach. In 2014-2015, over 70 people joined these trainings.
- At community level, in collaboration with our local partner Sahmakum Teang Tnaut (STT) we develop alternative spatial plans for the areas which are under threat of eviction. We do this in close cooperation with local authorities and communities, trying to find win-win solutions for all. Before developing a plan, we engage in mapping and enumeration as well as providing every household with information and advice regarding their land tenure situation so they can take better-informed decisions. Currently we assist 1300 families in Phnom Penh.
- Once the plans have been developed, we support communities in small scale upgrades of infrastructure such as upgrading electricity lines to reduce fire of risks, environmental sanitation, etc.
The project is supported with the Phnom Penh-wide “City for All” campaign, promoting the human rights-related aspects of the land-use planning process. The project is funded by European Commission and Czech Development Agency.