Increased impact from wetlands policy

MWD Cambodia is striving to achieve support and endorsement from the Cambodian government for the establishment of a national framework for wetlands management to secure adequate protection of wetlands for long-term conservation and sustainable livelihood practices. Initially MWD had set out to establish a National Wetland Strategic Plan or National Wetland Strategic Guidance for Cambodia. However, based on a strategic review MWD Cambodia has reassessed and decided that the establishment of Sectoral Wetland Guidelines is a higher priority and also more effective within the timeframe of MWD.

IUCN Mekong Water Dialogues Cambodia NWG meeting October 2011

The concept
Cambodia has a high proportion wetlands (about 30% of total land) and has the third largest area after France and Viet Nam (Sok Vong 2011).

Currently there is no policy in place to consolidate wetland management in Cambodia. Multiple line ministries overlap in wetland use and management; however, their roles and responsibilities remain unclear and the coordination between the various line ministries is also challenging.

 Based on the results from the MWD regional meeting in May 2010 and the first MWD Cambodia National Working Group (NWG) meeting in March 2011, MWD prioritized the need for the Cambodian Government to establish of National Wetlands Strategic Plan that would help define the role and responsibilities of government bodies on the implementation of wetlands conservation and wise-use of these ecosystems. In developing the National Wetland Strategic Plan, MWD Cambodia has alreaedy taken many actions such as reviewing wetland strategic plan/guidelines based on international experience and worked in consultation with national wetlands experts.

The review
In conjunction with the MWD Cambodia National Working Group (NWG) a wetlands strategic review was conducted. At the meeting on 21 October 2011 key wetland experts provided an update on the progress of MWD Cambodia, presented the finding of wetlands review including its recommendation and to generate ideas from the NWG members and key national wetlands experts for the establishment of a national wetland strategic plan.

As the result of the NWG meeting in October, the original idea has evolved from the development of National Wetlands Strategic Plan to establishing Sectoral Wetland Guidelines. The development of National Wetlands Strategic Plan is needed however, it is assumed that it will take longer time than the MWD project life and require more resources to support the consultation and approval process.

Key wetlands experts described the possible challenges in obtaining support from some line ministries to approve the National Wetland Strategy, which was also a strong consideration. The advantage is the Sectoral Wetland Guidelines only require approval at a single ministry level. In addition this amendment will create more ownership of these guidelines by the related institutions at the implementation level, it fits better within the MWD project timeframe (2011-2014) and reflects many of the recommendations and suggestions from key national wetland experts. With the above considerations, there was widespread support by the NWG members for the development of Sectoral Wetland Guidelines.

Mr Meas Sophal, former Inventory of Wetland and Monitoring Project Cambodia supported by DANIDA (Mekong River Comission 1997-2000) and Mr. Seng Teak, WWF Cambodia agreed, “We should starting from small scale with successful and being able for implementation then we can scale up with bigger scale rather than starting with the big scale and get stuck in the middle ways”.

The plan
According to the new amendment, the next steps for MWD support and implement wetland and water governance in Cambodia during the project life (2011-2014) are outlined below:
   1. NWG members from target ministries/institutes should assist MWD to identify the priorities for guideline development for the next 5 or 10 years, for their respective ministry/institute. MWD should also support the mainstreaming of wetland conservation and wise-use into the guidelines e.g. for the Department of Wetland and Coastal Zones (including clear role and responsibility).
   2. National consultants will be employed to develop each guideline, based within their respective ministries/institutes and  coordinate with NWG members.
   3. Consultants will assist IUCN/MWD to report on progress of guideline development to MWD country or regional coordinator.
   4. IUCN/MWD will play role by providing coaching, technical and financial support.
   5. The NWG (Chair of NWG, NWG member from target ministries/institutes and MWD coordinator) will be on the panel of national consultant recruitment. 
   6. The related ministry/institute is expected to be the owner and main user of the guidelines.
   7. The NWG member is playing importance responsibility for coordination and discussion with their representative ministry/institute in the process of guideline development.
   8. Once successful at a small scale, the guidelines will be scaled-up to develop the future effective National Wetlands Strategic Plan for Cambodia.

Reference: Sok Vong (2011): Review of Global Experience and the Way Forward in Cambodia (in press).

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