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Cablegate: Cambodia: Ngos Creating New Extractive Industries

VZCZCXRO8533
PP RUEHCHI RUEHDT RUEHHM RUEHNH
DE RUEHPF #0131 0350834
ZNR UUUUU ZZH
P 040834Z FEB 08
FM AMEMBASSY PHNOM PENH
TO RUEHC/SECSTATE WASHINGTON DC PRIORITY
INFO RUCNASE/ASEAN MEMBER COLLECTIVE PRIORITY

UNCLAS PHNOM PENH 000131

SIPDIS

SENSITIVE
SIPDIS

DEPT FOR EAP/MLS, EEB/ESC/IEC--KOPP
STATE PLEASE PASS TO USTR FOR BISBEE
TREASURY FOR OFFICE OF EAST ASIA--CHUN
USAID FOR ANE

E.O. 12958: N/A
TAGS: EPET EMIN PGOV CB
SUBJECT: CAMBODIA: NGOS CREATING NEW EXTRACTIVE INDUSTRIES
MONITORING GROUP

1. (U) Amid oft-repeated concerns about how Cambodia's
future petroleum reserves will be used, a group of local and
international NGOs are working together to create a coalition
of local civil society organizations that will engage with
the government on issues surrounding extractive industries.
The locally based civil society group, Cambodians for
Resource Revenue Transparency (CRRT), was formally launched
January 25 with five members. The coalition aims to address
concerns that only donors and international NGOs are engaged
in preparing for the unintended potential consequences of
petroleum (and other extractive industry) income, especially
corruption. PM Hun Sen and other officials sometimes try to
discredit concerns about the "resource curse" resulting from
future oil income by characterizing them as coming from
meddling outsiders rather than from within Cambodian society.
At the same time, organizers (including the NGO Pact, which
is helping to organize the effort as part its USAID-funded
anti-corruption program) hope that the group will spread the
word about the expected oil windfall and build a public
expectation for improved government services and social
spending once petroleum revenues begin to flow.

2. (SBU) Organizers say that they want to be part of a
tripartite dialogue about oil and gas revenues, which they
envision including government, civil society, and oil
companies. At the same time, they hope that creating the
group now will give them time to build its credibility and
make the group the natural choice to be the civil society
participant in the Extractive Industries Transparency
Initiative (EITI). (Note: The EITI criteria require active
civil society participation in the design, monitoring, and
evaluation of EITI implementation, and in contributing to
public debate. End Note.) One organizer, Warwick Browne of
Oxfam America, privately expressed concern that without a
strong and vibrant civil society organization already in
place, the RGC might try to create a new quasi-civil society
organization that was actually under their control, and then
use that group as the EITI partner.

3. (U) While Oxfam America and Pact have been the main
organizers, the coalition itself consists of only local
organizations, with international groups (currently Norwegian
People's Aid, World Vision, and Trocaire in addition to Oxfam
America and Pact) serving as non-voting members of an
international advisory committee. The coalition now includes
five local organizations--umbrella group NGO Forum; the
Economic Institute of Cambodia, a think tank; and NGOs
Development and People Alliance, Youth Resource Development
Program, and the Center for Social Development. (Note:
Backers are particularly excited about the Youth Resource
Development Program, which turned out a total audience of 500
students at two information sessions on the oil/gas industry
in November and December. End Note.) Two other NGOs--human
rights organization LICADHO and Womyn's Agenda for
Change--are also considering joining. Organizers say that
they hope to reach out beyond this largely NGO-focused group
to also include media, academia, small businesses, etc. At
the same time, they want to keep the organization small and
nimble, with no more than 20 members, having heard stories of
large coalitions in other countries that represent so many
different interests that they can take little action. As
part of USAID's Anti-Corruption Program, sub-grants will be
provided to the coalition to assist their efforts to build
the public demand for transparency in this critical sector.

4. (U) The new Extractive Industries coalition is modeed
after similar organizations studied in Azerbaijan, Kazakhstan
and elsewhere under an Oxfam America grant. While the
petroleum sector is the most immediate priority for the
coalition, organizers are quick to say that they expect the
group will also watch the emerging mining sector as it
develops.
MUSSOMELI

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