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Second national round table discussion

Phnom Penh, 29 January 2003

Welcoming speech

His Excellency Khieu Muth, Director General, Ministry of Environment


I welcome you all this morning to the second national round table in the Cambodia Protected Areas and Development Review. This meeting is intended as an intensive working session of the PAD inter-sectoral core group to finalise the national PAD report.

The first national round table for the PAD Review was conducted in November 2001. Since then, the national PAD team and core group has been involved in a lengthy field study, in preparation of a national lessons paper and sectors background papers, in a series of core group meetings and in two international meetings held here in Phnom Penh. The national report itself has gone through several stages of drafting and comment. Following this meeting, the report will be finalised and submitted formally to MOE for adoption and wide distribution along with other PAD reports. It will be the end of this phase of a very creative and valuable process. The discussion and interaction between the main economic and conservation sectors of government has been as important as the written outputs.

We have undertaken the Cambodia PAD review with four objectives in mind:

  1. To identify and express in economic terms the development values of protected areas;
  2. To have the development benefits of protected areas better understood and reflected in sector policies, plans and budgets;
  3. To increase the level of investment in conserving the development services and products provided by protected areas;
  4. To identify the key areas where institutional strengthening and capacity building are needed so that protected areas are planned and managed as essential components of local and national economies.

Our premise has been that protected areas are not recognised as productive units of the economy so are not taken into account when the government defines its development strategies or national and sector budgets. This situation has two very significant effects:

  1. First, the protected area system, which will expand to cover 25% of the country over the next few years, only receives a small fraction of the annual national budget and international investment in Cambodia, so many basic management needs can not be met; and,
  2. Second, increasingly, development projects will be planned and executed without due regard to their impacts on protected areas and the vital development benefits they provide.

Like our neighbours, we were facing a potential scenario of a protected area system that diminishes in quality as it grows in size. Its value fades both as a conservation and development asset.

The first challenge in overcoming this situation is show that protected areas have significant economic worth when managed and used sustainably in their natural state. The PAD review fields study has made an excellent start in this critical step.

For example, our PAD study found that Ream National Park constitutes an extremely important economic resource for local communities. Up to 84% of households depend on the Park's resources for their basic subsistence and income, to a net value of some US$ 1.24 million a year or an average of US$ 233 for every household living in and beside the National Park. Without access to the basic subsistence, income and employment that the Park provides, many of the 30,000 local people would find it difficult to survive, as they lack access to other sources of livelihood.

The field studies also found that tourism in Bokor National Park forms an important component of the regional economy in Kampot Province, contributing an annual income of more than $0.7 million for government agencies and private enterprises. The critical issue in both cases is that these benefits can only continue if the natural systems and products within the national parks are conserved and used within their sustainable limits.

One clear conclusion of these PAD studies is the strong argument it provides for Park conservation to be considered a priority issue in Provincial planning and development. So the second challenge is in helping sectors at various levels of government appreciate the benefits they receive from protected areas and to invest in their maintenance. The future to protected area management in Cambodia is not in building strong armies to hold development forces at bay, but in having those forces invest in conservation because they see that it is in their best interests to do so. Because they recognise protected areas as a vital development strategy.

These are the messages coming out of the PAD review, and the reason it is so important for us to complete this national report and begin the steady process of implementation in partnerships across government and with international organisations.

Today's meeting provides us with another opportunity to shape the report in a collaborative way. Each of you as sector experts will provide detailed comments on the relevant chapters. As you can see from the agenda, we will do so in three main sessions - the first deals with poverty and demographic influences on protected areas; the second with the natural resource sectors; and the third with energy, tourism and various aspects of protected area planning and management. We will end each session with open discussion, but please feel free to raise questions at any time when certain points may require clarification. I have asked Kol Vothana to introduce each of these sessions by walking through the future directions sections of the relevant chapters so we all have an outline of what the report is proposing as the next steps.

One final small but important point - throughout the report the term "protected area" is used in the general sense to mean all categories of area under the IUCN classification. In this general meaning therefore, a national park, a fish sanctuary, a protected forest, for example, are all protected areas, even though in Cambodia, of course, they are managed by different Ministries.

I look forward with great interest to your discussions today and to reading the results of your work in the final national PAD report.

Thank you.