Report of the Asia Regional Seminar on Indigenous Peoples and Traditional Livelihoods, 16-18 August 2010, Cambodia

Report of the Asia Regional Seminar on Indigenous Peoples and Traditional Livelihoods 

16-18 August 2010

Apsara Angkor Hotel, Siem Reap Province 

Hosted By:

Ministry of Rural Development, Royal Government of Cambodia

International Labour Organization (ILO)

Co-organized by:

UNDP-Regional Indigenous Peoples Programme (UNDP RIPP)

Asia Indigenous Peoples Pact (AIPP)

Supported by:

Spanish Agency for International Cooperation and Development (AECID) 

Summary Report

Asia Regional Seminar on Traditional Livelihoods and Indigenous Peoples

A. Introduction

The Asia Regional Seminar on Traditional Livelihoods and Indigenous Peoples, held on 16-18 August 2010 in Siem Reap, Cambodia, gathered 70 participants from national, regional and international organizations from 11 Asian countries. They represented key indigenous peoples (IP) organizations, government institutions with a special mandate on IP issues, UN organizations and donors. Cambodia government officials and ILO and UNDP representatives also attended the seminar, which was hosted by the Royal Government of Cambodia, Ministry of Rural Development (MRD), ILO Cambodia, and co-organized by Asia Indigenous Peoples Pact (AIPP) and UNDP RIPP.

The opening session was addressed by the Secretary of the Rural Development Ministry, UN Permanent Forum on Indigenous Issues member Raja Devasish Roy and ILO representative Albert Kwokwo Barume. The MRD Minister HE Chea Sophara and Siem Reap Governor HE Sou Phirin officially closed the seminar.

B. Objectives

The seminar’s overall objective was to promote the recognition and strengthening of traditional livelihoods in Asia, within the broader context of indigenous peoples’ rights as guaranteed in the UN Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples (UNDRIP) and ILO Convention 169, and in relation to food security and climate change.

In addition, it aimed to highlight the challenges indigenous peoples confront in the pursuit of traditional livelihoods in the face of globalisation and the market economy. It explored positive trends and good practices from participating countries, such as recognition of collective rights to land and resources, and self-determined development, among others. This was to allow the participants to benefit and be motivated from the experiences of others, despite the many challenges ahead.

The discussions on good practices and lessons learned and their possible replication were expected to facilitate a process, whereby government and indigenous institutions could assess their specific needs for capacity building and technical assistance to create an enabling environment for the pursuit of traditional livelihoods and sustainable development in indigenous territories.

C. Proceedings

i. Methodology

The seminar employed a combination of participatory methods: country/case study presentation, workshops, plenary sessions, interaction, dialogue, open forum and discussion, and thematic group discussion. The workshops highlighted the opportunities and challenges, good practices and lessons learned from different countries in their approach to addressing traditional livelihoods, including land and resource rights and traditional knowledge. The country studies were followed by an open forum that further clarified issues and enabled sharing of experiences among the participants. A community visit to indigenous villages in northern Siem Reap province was also organized as well as a solidarity night and cultural events.

ii. Content

The seminar focused on key aspects relating to traditional livelihoods of indigenous peoples, including access to land and natural resources; traditional occupations, local governance, traditional institutions and knowledge, food security, climate change, concept of ‘self-determined’ development and the role and  responsibilities of national governments in this regard. In total, eight panel presentations and discussions, and six working group discussions were held during the seminar.

(See full report for the Seminar program and details of the proceedings)

iii. Group Workshops

Two group workshops were held: the first focused on traditional livelihoods and indigenous peoples. The participants were divided into four groups which discussed key issues and challenges in the practice of shifting cultivation and gave recommendations for strengthening indigenous peoples’ sustainable livelihood practices relating to shifting cultivation and actions for advocacy.

The second group workshop tackled four areas: strengthening indigenous peoples’ rights to traditional livelihoods, promoting traditional livelihoods and self-determined development, replication of good practices of traditional livelihoods and adaptation, and food security. The participants also shared major challenges at the national level and discussed possible areas of capacity building.

(See full report for section on group workshop results)

iv. Community Visit

The participants went on a community visit to Rolum Run Thmey village located about 60 km from Siem Reap town and 12 km from national road 65 leading to the Thai-Cambodia border. The village is inhabited by the Khmer and Kouy indigenous groups, who are mostly farmers who grow paddy rice, vegetables, chilies, and other cash crops as part of their livelihood. In a sharing session in the local Buddhist temple/pagoda, the participants and villagers talked about their livelihoods, traditional occupations and the general situation of the villagers.

The problem of the community is inadequate infrastructure development; they lack a good road and transportation system for marketing their agricultural products and to facilitate access to health services and schools. The villagers also face shortage of food due to less paddy production that forces them to rely largely on the forest for survival. The indigenous community has mostly lost their traditional culture, tradition and language. However, some elders can still speak their language and conduct traditional worship and other ceremonies.

v. Closing Session

H.E Sou Phirin, Siem Reap Provincial Governor shared his impressions on the organization of the seminar in his province, which is considered the ancestral and historical land of the Cambodia people. He warmly welcomed the participants who came from different countries and enjoined them to visit the city and its temples.

H.E. Sim Son, Secretary of State of MRD summarized the two-day workshop and concluded by sharing the process of the workshop, presentations and the key message of the seminar for each day.

H.E. Chea Sophara acknowledged the efforts of his colleagues in MRD and ILO as well as other international organizations in organizing the seminar. He shared the Cambodian government’s programmes and policies for the development of indigenous peoples, such as those relating to culture, education, vocational training, healthcare, environment, land, agriculture, water resources, infrastructure, justice, tourism and industry, mine and energy.

He also acknowledged that indigenous peoples in Cambodia currently face many challenges, such as health, education, and transportation lack even while they give attention to their development through development projects following the government poverty reduction strategy. They will continue to speed up development activities for them in accordance with the royal government’s rectangular strategy and taking into account changes and progress in livelihoods, sustainable natural resource management and economic development in indigenous areas.

D. Achievements of Seminar

The seminar succeeded in bringing out the good practices as well as the economic and social benefits of traditional livelihoods and occupations of indigenous peoples in Asia. These were highlighted in case studies conducted and presented by local researchers who shared their findings in the seminar. At the same time it identified the issues, gaps and challenges that indigenous peoples have to overcome in the continued practice of their traditional livelihoods.

The seminar also enabled participants to increase their understanding on the national implementation of laws and policies, which they can use to strengthen their network, lobby and advocacy work to promote recognition of the rights of indigenous peoples in their respective countries. But it also brought out the need to increase the level of general understanding about traditional occupations under the framework of national laws, policies and international laws and instruments including ILO Conventions 169, 111, 107 and UNDRIP.

Finally, a strategy and action plans were formulated which the participants and their organizations/communities can take up to ensure the right of indigenous to practice their traditional occupations and knowledge in their respective countries. ###

Download the full report here.

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