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Second national round table discussion

Phnom Penh, 29 January 2003

Closing remarks

Mr Chay Samith, Director, Department of Nature Conservation and Protection,
Ministry of Environment


It has been a rich and productive session and I thank all the PAD core group members on providing such valuable comments. The national PAD report provides a comprehensive agenda for action in building working links between each development sector and the conservation of protected areas.

Of course, in implementing such an agenda we can't do everything at once. We have limited staff and budget capacities. Therefore we need to set priorities. Some things recommended in the report involve a reorientation of existing resources rather than major additional inputs. Once finalised, we all need to review the report carefully to identify those actions that fit easily within our existing programs and which can begin at once.

Other actions will require greater financial and technical support. In this report, the PAD core group is arguing that every sector receiving development benefits from the natural systems and products within protected areas should contribute to conserving them. The principle of user pays seems a reasonable one, and I believe we need to move towards giving it practical expression in Cambodia - at least for commercial operators. Special arrangements would be needed for poor local communities.

The report sets out a number of actions that each sector needs to take to make this shift. I would like to mention four of them.

As one of the first steps, the report recommends that relevant sectors, for example, tourism, energy, agriculture and water, prepare a plan which sets out the policies and guidelines for promoting and managing its relationship with protected areas. The report provides useful guidance on the content of these national plans. They would lay the foundation for collaborative and productive working links between protected area users and protected area managers.

Another early step recommended in the report is the implementation of a PAD pilot project to test many of the more innovative approaches to integrating protected areas to provincial and local economies. The pilot would need to cover a cluster of protected areas and the surrounding development landscape linking them. It would need to be a collaborative effort involving all sectors with development activities in the region. To undertake such a pilot, we will need the support of our international partners.

Another action requiring cross sector collaboration is to continue the work of defining the development values of all our protected areas in economic terms. We have made a start through the PAD review, but now need a systematic approach so that this information can be fed into economic planning and begin to influence the direction of government and private sector investment.

Finally, every chapter in this report identifies the areas where capacity in our staff and institutions needs to be strengthened if the PAD approaches area to be effectively implemented. Rather than addressing this priority in a piecemeal fashion, it is recommended that a three year program of short term in country training for PA staff and their sectoral counterparts at central, local and field level, as well as local communities be carried out. The theme of the training program would be "linking protected areas to sector and community development".

Training components would include for example:

  • Tourism management for protected area managers, tour guides and local community leaders.
  • Collaborative management capacity in PA managers, local government and communities
  • Applying the user pays principle in protected area financing

While we should seek government support for such a program, it will require the backing of international partners both in terms of funding and technical support from protected area organisations in other countries. The Department of Nature Conservation and Protection will begin exploring the opportunities for mounting such a training program.

Immediate next steps

The immediate next steps in the PAD process are as follows. The national report will be taken to final form on the basis of the comments and directions made at this meeting of the core group. By mid February we will have a report which can be submitted formally for government approval. Ideally, the report would be distributed jointly signed and with the logos of each of the key ministries involved in its preparation on the front cover. We will be considering the feasibility of achieving that option over the next few weeks.

This report represents a watershed in the way we manage and view protected areas - as assets and the responsibility of all sectors. The Director General pointed out in his opening remarks - if we are to keep our protected area estate for the development benefits of future generations, then we will need to make sure that the creative momentum of the PAD partnership is given practical expression in the years to come.