ILO launches project to promote Rights of Cambodia's Indigenous and Tribal Peoples

The ILO is launching a project specifically designed to help the Cambodian government and indigenous and tribal people´s work together to create a framework that will help address needs and concerns.

Press release | 04 May 2005

A fundamental step towards the improvement of the rights of indigenous and tribal peoples (ITPs) in Cambodia will be taken this week.

The International Labour Organisation (ILO) is launching a project specifically designed to help the Cambodian government and indigenous and tribal peoples work together to create a framework that will help address needs and concerns.

The project will assist both parties in developing legislation and policies relevant to the development and rights of ITPs, and will encourage them to play an active role in their own future.

It will also use training to build the capacity of the government authorities, civil society groups and the ITPs so that they fully understand the process and environment in which effective legislation and policies are created and implemented. The training programme will also highlight experiences in other countries so that Cambodia can benefit from lessons learnt elsewhere.

The project, which is being funded by the Danish Government, also intends to help strengthen ITP representative organizations so that they can contribute effectively to the development of policies that affect ITPs.

The work will take place at national, provincial and grassroots levels to ensure the greatest impact. The concerns of indigenous women and children will receive special attention.

The first, essential, step in the project will be a two-day workshop which will be held at the Phnom Penh Hotel in Phnom Penh from 5-6 May. About 60 participants, including representatives of indigenous peoples , government bodies , NGOs, employers’ and workers’ groups, international organizations and donors are expected to attend. The workshop will be led by the Chief Technical Advisor of the ILO’s Project to Promote ILO Policy on Indigenous and Tribal Peoples (PRO169), Birgitte Feiring.

The participants will review current work on indigenous peoples’ issues in Cambodia, establish working partnerships between organizations, identify gaps and needs that can be addressed by the ILO project, and develop recommendations to ensure the project’s effective implementation. The conclusions of the meeting will help to shape the project’s work over the next year.

While Cambodia ’s central areas and the banks of the Mekong River are the domain of ethnic Khmer , the traditional homelands of the country’s indigenous peoples are in the remoter, sparsely populated areas in the north and northeast (Ratanakiri, Mondulkiri, Stung Treng, Preah Vihear, Kratie) and the mountainous areas of Koh Kong, Pursat, Kompong Speu and Sihanoukville. Cambodia ’s indigenous population is highly diverse and comprises more than 30 different groups which together make up about one percent of the national population. Indigenous peoples in Cambodia (often referred to as hill tribes , highland peoples , or ‘Khmer Leu’) are considered among the country’s most disadvantaged groups and the most vulnerable and impoverished segments of the national population.

The ILO has been working with indigenous peoples since the 1920s, aiming to promote social justice and improve their living and working conditions. The ILO’s Indigenous and Tribal Peoples Convention , 1989 (No. 169) is internationally recognized as the foremost instrument on the subject in force today.

Ms Feiring said “Although Cambodia hasn’t yet ratified Convention No.169 the Convention offers a ‘body of good practices’ , which can be very helpful in managing issues of concern to ITP’s. By working together the ILO hopes to give interested parties in Cambodia the chance to review lessons learned in other countries - particularly concerning the participation of indigenous peoples themselves - fundamental concepts of good governance, and the range of relevant international instruments.

“This project is an example of the ILO’s commitment to promote the rights and improve the conditions of the world’s approximately 350 million indigenous and tribal people,” she said.

For more information please contact:

Sek Sophorn
National Project Coordinator
Tel:(855-12) 890289

Birgitte Feiring
CTA of ILO PRO 169
Tel:+ 41 (0)22 799 7921

Sophy Fisher                                                                                          
Tel:02 288 2482