09/27/2012, 00.00
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Street protest at government-donor meeting in Phnom Penh

Hundreds of activists and ordinary citizens protest against land grabs. Government and donors agree on development goals. More than 100 NGOs launch an appeal, asking that financial aid be used to improve human rights. They also call for reforms to the election law and legal system.

Phnom Penh (AsiaNews/Agencies) - Calling for land and human rights reforms, hundreds of activists and ordinary citizens protested during a meeting between officials from the Cambodian government and donor community.

Hundreds of NGO leaders closely monitored the Government-Development Partner Coordinating Committee (GDCC) meeting, the first since April 2011 after Cambodian authorities unilaterally suspended talks in August of last year.

Designed to prepare a government-donor summits, GDCC meetings are usually used by the government to provide an indication of where its five-year plan is headed. Donors typically use the venue to illustrate where aid funding will be channelled.

The last such meeting was held in 2010 when donors pledged US$ 1.1 billion-or half of Cambodia's annual budget-to the government in assistance.

On Tuesday, more than 100 NGOs and human rights groups urged foreign donors to flag issues regarding land policies, democratic processes and human rights during the Government-Development Partner Coordinating Committee (GDCC) meeting.

The NGO community also called on the government to carry out more reforms, such as a more transparent electoral process and efficient judicial system, demands the government has dismissed as unnecessary.

On the sidelines of the meeting, various rights groups, including Human Rights Watch (HRW), have jointly signed a letter asking donors to protect activists, many of whom have been threatened or jailed, especially when they tried to protect peasants' rights and stop land grabs.

For NGO leaders, the government must reform the National Election Committee (NEC), which headquartered in the Interior Ministry building, so that it is truly independent from political authorities.

They also called for changes in the courts and the legal system, which are too closely aligned with the executive branch of government.


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