Communities and bio-cultural diversity in Cambodia - options for policies and action whose time has come

Indigenous Territories and Areas conserved by Indigenous Peoples and Local Communities (ICCAs in short) encompass many of the bio-cultural patrimonies of the world. However, while the Convention on Biological Diversity formally recognises them and recommends their support, recognition by national governments is often problematic.


Even governments signatory to the CBD, and thus formally compelled to recognise ICCAs, are hampered by unsuited policy and legislation, and problems related to implementation and practice. The situation in Cambodia is no exception, although a brief survey and analysis carried out in November 2009 by a Team of two CEESP members and Cambodian colleagues points at some reasons for hope and clear paths for action. In a few words, the Team found out that many of the bio-cultural patrimonies of Cambodia still are, or many others would benefit being, under the governance and care of the indigenous peoples and local communities customarily associated with them. Security of land and resource tenure combined with well thought-out forms of support responding to the specificities of the context appear crucial for the survival and thriving of such ICCAs.

The Team visited and analysed a variety of ICCA cases in Cambodia and identified several policy options that appear feasible and potentially effective to formally recognise and support them. Some such options are already fully available under current Cambodian legislation and rules, and others could be made available through relatively minor modifications. The Team is urging all the national agencies, NGOs and supporting organisations concerned with bio-cultural diversity to join hands and set up as soon as possible a set of parallel “pilot initiatives” to implement the options to secure concerned communities with a form of common tenure to their ICCAs. These options can be set out in experimental ways, with a strong emphasis on learning from experience, and would best be accompanied by a national learning network. The network would ensure the monitoring, evaluation and participatory discussion of the process of “implementing the options” as well as of the results and impacts of each adopted one. The main output of the network would be a clear set of well-grounded policy recommendations for the Cambodian government, responding to the directives of the CBD and IUCN and to other UN obligations (e.g., the UN Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples). Ultimately, this would be crucial to foster the conservation and security of the bio-cultural jewels of Cambodia - indeed an action whose time has come.

For more information please contact Grazia Borrini-Feyerabend ( and Jeremy Ironside (

Work area: 
Social Policy
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