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Published by UNDP Cambodia, 2019-11-18 23:39:30

UNDPKH_NHDR_ publication

UNDPKH_NHDR_ publication





For the
United Nations

Copyright © 2019
by the United Nations Development Programme

53 Pasteur Street, Boeung Keng Kang 1, Phnom Penh, Cambodia

All rights reserved. No part of this publication may be reproduced, stored in a retrieval system or transmitted, in any form or by means, electronic,
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The views expressed in this publication are those of the authors and do not necessarily reflect the views of UNDP Cambodia or partners.

For contributions and feedback, please email us at [email protected]


Report Production Team

Team leaders and principal authors

Dr. Moeko Saito Jensen, Environmental Policy Specialist, UNDP Cambodia
Dr. Richard Colin Marshall, Country Economist, UNDP Cambodia


Ms. Gretchen Luchsinger, Human Development Report Editor
Dr. Sarah Milne, Senior Lecturer, Australian National University
Dr. Maya Pasgaard, Researcher, Aarhus University, Denmark

Production team

Dr. Moeko Saito Jensen, Environmental Policy Specialist. UNDP Cambodia
Dr. Richard Colin Marshall, Country Economist, UNDP Cambodia
Mr. Samruol Im, Head of Communication, UNDP Cambodia
Mr. Sony Oum, Policy Specialist, UNDP Cambodia
Mr. Timothy Jenkins, Communication Consultant, UNDP Cambodia
Mr. Anthony Kubursy, Junior Consultant, UNDP Cambodia
Ms. Sakshi Jain, Junior Consultant, UNDP Cambodia

Design and layout

Mr. Vandy Ros, Art Direction and Design, UNDP Cambodia



This National Human Development Report is findings of this report feed directly into our work
essential reading for anyone concerned about the with the Royal Government, local communities
world’s forests, our natural resources, and how and others to stop deforestation, reverse its
better protection of our planet can help drive effects and better manage all protected areas for
human development further and faster. It focuses the nation.
on Cambodia, but its themes, findings and
policy suggestions have global relevance. Like There are compelling economic and empirical
all Human Development Reports, it considers arguments to invest in effective natural resource
our well-being as people who have multiple and management, some of which are presented here
complex needs and are not just economic agents. for the first time. The forests of Cambodia are
That perspective profoundly changes the way we also an essential cultural and religious part of
see the issue of natural resource management. It the national identity, especially for the many
presents an opportunity, not a burden. indigenous communities for whom the forest is
home. Many forests contain ancient Angkorian
I have had the privilege to visit many of temples. Monks and lay people wishing to find
Cambodia’s protected areas, such as Prey Lang, spiritual peace and isolation to meditate and
Phnom Kulen and the Cardamoms, as part of pray use the forests today as they have done for
the work of the United Nations Development thousands of years. One of my most memorable
Programme (UNDP) to support the Royal experiences of Cambodia’s forests was joining the
Government of Cambodia in protecting Prey Lang festival and with the Venerable Monks
these unique and beautiful national treasures. leading us, blessing and protecting trees in the
Cambodia has more than 40 percent of its land heart of the forest by wrapping them in the saffron
mass under environmental protection, making cloth used to make the monk’s robe. Readers of
it a global leader in that respect. Yet, when I this report can find plenty of inspiration within
visit those forests, the threat they face from for more activism, and practical suggestions on
encroachment and degradation is clear. There how the Royal Government, local communities
has been great progress in slowing the rate of and others might more effectively protect natural
deforestation, but the problem remains to be resources, and in doing so, find better human
solved. development outcomes for all Cambodian people.

The report is wide-ranging and gives an excellent Nick Beresford
overview of how natural resource management Resident Representative
can drive human development in Cambodia. It United Nations Development Programme
contains many new and original pieces of research
looking in depth at the development stories of
the poorest and most remote rural communities,
the market failures driving deforestation, and
business models for sustainable production of
charcoal and non-forest timber products. Our
research, like all UNDP’s work, is designed
to help bring about positive change, and the



This report would not have been possible Consultant, Environmental Economics and
without the collective efforts, knowledge and Development; Dr. Hedley Grantham, Director
support of many organizations and experts. Spatial Planning, Wildlife Conservation Society;
We are sincerely grateful to all our collaborators Dr. Romola Stewart, Consultant; Mr. Jeffrey
and partners. Silverman, Senior Technical Advisor, Wildlife
Report preparation was led by Dr. Moeko Conservation Society; and Mr. Phien Sayon, GIS
Saito Jensen, Environmental Policy Specialist, Technical Advisor, Wildlife Conservation Society.
and Dr. Richard Colin Marshall, Country
Economist, UNDP Cambodia, with technical Development processes
editorial and writing support from Dr. Sarah and consultations
Milne, Senior Lecturer, Australian National
University; Dr. Maya Pasgaard, a researcher at This report could not have been produced
Aarhus University, Denmark; and Ms. Gretchen without the excellent support and guidance of
Luchsinger, Human Development Report the Royal Government of Cambodia, especially
Editor. of the Ministry of Environment, the Ministry
Background working papers, stories, analyses, data of Agriculture, Forestry and Fishery, the Na-
and information were provided by Ms. Lingbo tional Council for Sustainable Development,
Lyu, Policy and Research Assistant, UNDP the Ministry of Economy and Finance, and the
Cambodia; Ms. Sakshi Jain, Junior Consultant, Ministry of Planning.
UNDP Cambodia; Mr. Anthony Kubursy, This Human Development Report is an
Junior Consultant, UNDP Cambodia; Dr. Taizo outcome of numerous background studies and
Yokoyama, Policy Associate, UNDP Cambodia; papers that UNDP Cambodia has conducted in
Mr. Felix Arnold, Policy Associate, UNDP support of the Royal Government of Cambodia
Cambodia; Mr. Timothy Jenkins, Communication on natural resources management.
Consultant, UNDP Cambodia; Mr. Sony Oum,
Policy Specialist, UNDP Cambodia; Katherine • For the introduction, in-depth ethnographic
Koerper, Policy Associate, UNDP Cambodia; Mr. studies of Aural Mountain and Kulen
Ratha Soy, UNV Communication Officer, UNDP Mountain were conducted in preparation
Cambodia; Dr. Sopheak Chann, Lecturer (PhD), for the “Collaborative Management
Natural Resource Management and Development for Watershed and Ecosystem Service
Department, Royal University of Phnom Penh; Protection and Rehabilitation” project and
Dr. Tim Frewer, Australian Catholic University; as a part of feasibility studies for payments
Dr. J. B. Chevance, Archaeologist and Programme for ecosystem services, respectively.
Director, Archaeology & Development
Foundation; Dr. Pheakkdey Nugon, Consultant; • Chapter 1 on human development was
Dr. Ratha Sor, National Consultant; Dr. Reinhold developed in conjunction with the Ministry
Glauner, Consultant, WaKa-Forest Investment of Planning and the Ministry of Economy
Services AG; Mr. Chhun Delux, Deputy Chief and Finance to provide the latest overview
of Forest Carbon Credits and Climate Change of progress on human development in
Office, Forestry Administration; Ms. Emmanuelle Cambodia.
Andaya, Consultant, non-timber forest products
community enterprise/markets, training; Mr. • Chapter 2 on sustainable timber production
Khou Eang Hourt, Consultant; Mr. Yann drew on modelling that was developed
Francois, Technical Expert, climate and forests, to support the Government’s interest in
Groupe Energies Renouvelables, Environnement identifying the most economically viable
et Solidarités (GERES); Mr. Jaime Echeverria, and sustainable scenarios. This work was
facilitated in 2017 and 2018 in conjunction


with UNDP’s technical support for the Ministry of Environment The initial
the formulation of a production forest idea of ecosystem mapping was presented
strategic plan. in October 2016; the final analyses of
• Chapter 3 on sustainable woodfuel and decision support systems were shared in
Chapter 4 on non-timber forest products August 2017.
were prepared to contribute to the UNDP Cambodia facilitated these initiatives in
Government’s ongoing efforts to improve cooperation with Government partners, a range
the livelihoods of rural communities of development partners, non-governmental
dependent on woodfuel and key non- and civil society organizations, and academic
timber forest products such as bamboo, institutions. A number of individuals consulted
rattan, resin, honey and medicinal plants. during the preparation of this report provided
Many of the key findings of these analyses invaluable advice, information, and materials.
have been incorporated into national The report team is grateful to: H. E. Dr. Tin
strategic plans on protected area strategic Ponlok, Secretary General, and H. E. Chan
management and production forests, Somaly, Deputy Secretary General, National
including through a series of consultations Council for Sustainable Development; H.
in 2017 and 2018. E. Sao Sopheap, Secretary of State; Mr.
• Chapter 5 on community-based natural Touch Vina, Director, Department of
resource management was originally Geographic Information Services, Ministry of
developed to support the Government in Environment; H. E. Dr. Keo Omaliss, Director
proposing a new measure of collaborative General, Forestry Administration of the
management under an environment Ministry of Agriculture, Forestry and Fishery;
and natural resources code. Initial draft and Mr. Chun Delux, Deputy Director Chief
background papers were reviewed by of the Forest Carbon Credits and Climate
the working group on collaborative Change Office, Forestry Administration for
management under the environmental continuous guidance on policy-related research
code in 2016 and 2017. as well as for the formulation of this report.

• Chapter 6 on payments for ecosystem The team is also grateful to H. E. Ros Seilava,
services was developed as a part of policy Under-Secretary of State of the Ministry of
and research support for the Government Economy and Finance, and H. E Thavrak
in operationalizing conservation financing, Tuon, Secretary of State, Ministry of
based on two feasibility studies on Kulen Planning for providing insightful comments
Mountain in Siem Reap province and Kbal for the introduction as well as the first
Chay in Sihanoukville. Key findings and chapter on national human development.
recommended actions were presented and For report consultation, background working
discussed in Siem Reap and Sihanoukville papers were prepared and presented during a
in March 2018. technical review meeting with more than 80
participants on 5 May 2017.
• Chapter 7 on spatial planning as a tool A final report was shared with the Ministry
for natural resources management was of Environment, the National Council for
developed to summarize experiences and Sustainable Development and the Forestry
analyses facilitated under the ecosystem Administration/Ministry of Agriculture,
mapping initiative led by the Department
of Geographic Information Services of


Forestry and Fisheries in mid-February 2019. Analyst; Dr. Clara Landeiro, Climate Change
The UNDP team met with H. E. Dr. Tin Ponlok Technical Specialist; Ms. Leticia Gontijo Souza
and officers from the Ministry and National Guimaraes, REDD+ Technical Specialist; and
Council to present the main findings on 3 April Mr, Rodrigo Montero, Gender Specialist.
2019, and incorporated final comments received We would like to thank the UNDP country
from the National Council and the Forestry team for its incredible and ongoing support,
Administration. The team also presented the including Mr. Nick Beresford, Resident
main findings to H.E. Ros Seilava, Under- Representative, UNDP and Ms. Pauline
Secretary of State, Ministry of Economy and Tamesis, UN Resident Coordinator; Ms. Sonali
Finance, and H. E. Thavrak Tuon, Secretary of Dayaratne, Deputy Resident Representative,
State, Ministry of Planning on 25 April 2019, Mr. Napoleon Navarro, former Senior Policy
and sought to incorporate their comments in Advisor; and Ms. Claire Van der Vaeren, former
the final version of the report. UN Resident Coordinator for the initiation of
this report, which provided a strong indication
Peer review, comments of UNDP’s commitment to environmental
and technical support sustainability.

Readers and peer reviewers provided extremely We also would like to express sincere thanks to
useful comments, suggestions and inputs during the following members of the UNDP colleagues
report preparation. for providing editorial support, conducting
Special thanks go to external reviewers: Mr. fieldwork to feature human stories, and for
Robert Davis, Senior Forestry Specialist, the the design and publication of the report: Mr.
World Bank; Dr. Asako Takimoto, REDD+ Samroul Im, Communication Analyst; Mr.
Advisor, Japanese International Cooperation Cedric Monteiro, Regional Communication
Agency; Mr. Peter Iversen, Consultant, Asian Specialist; Mr. Timothy Jenkins. Communication
Development Bank; Dr. Walter Kollert, Consultant; Mr. Leif Holmberg, Climate
WaKa-Forest Investment Services AG; Mr. Change and Environment Policy Specialist;
Mathieu Van Rijn, Forestry Officer, Food and Mr. Chenghong Sun, International Intern; Mr.
Agriculture Organization; and Dr. Casper Ratha Soy, UNV National Communication
Bruun Jensen, Former Associate Professor Officer; Mr. Manuth Buth, Cambodia Young
of Osaka University. Graduate; Mr Kimheang Tuon, Cambodia
Young Graduate; Ms. Lingbo Lyu, Policy and
The report team is especially grateful to Research Assistant; Ms. Phearanich Hing,
internal reviewers: Dr. Jonathan Hall, focal Climate Change Policy Analyst; Mr. Sony
point, Human Development Report Office, Oum, Policy Specialist; Ms. Chanpisey Ky,
UNDP New York; Dr. Bishwa Nath Tiwari, Programme Assistant; Ms. Katherine Koerper,
Programme Specialist, Human Development Policy Associate; Mr. Anthony Kubursy, Policy
Report, UNDP Bangkok Regional Hub; Associate; Ms. Isabelle Bouchard, Policy
and Dr. Rany Pen, Head of the Programme Associate; Ms. Julianna Saoud, Project and
Unit UNDP Cambodia, Ms. Nimnuon IvEk, Communications Officer; Ms. Chloee Konsam,
Head of the Policy and Innovation Unit Policy and Research Assistant (Economics);
UNDP Cambodia. The report also benefited Mr. Michael Wasserman, International Junior
from valuable comments received from Ms. Environment and Circular Economy Consultant;
Sakshi Jain, Junior Consultant; Ms. Isabelle Mr. Donal Yeang, Environment and Natural
Bouchard, Policy Associate; Mr. Carlos Adolfo Resources Management Officer; Ms. Kulkaew
Riano Paramo, Measurement, Reviewing Kowattanawaranon, Policy Associate; Ms. Lang
and Verification specialist; Mr. Pieter Paap, Sok, Private Sector Engagement Specialist; and
Technical Specialist, Three Rio Conventions Ms. Johanna Paola Gaba Legarta, Sustainable
Project; Ms. Phearanich Hing, Climate Change Urban Mobility for All Initiative Project Manager.



Foreword II 2.3 Considering the options: seven sustainable 44
Acknowledgements III forest management models 46
Acronyms X 47
2.4 Modelling approach and key indicators 50
Executive Summary 2 2.5 A wide range of costs and benefits 51
2.6 Assessing potential risks
Sustainable management of natural resources 2.7 Varying assumptions 51
2.8 Two top performers: private teak 53
for long-term human development 3
and community forests
Introduction 6 2.9 Recommendations

Securing human development by safeguarding

Cambodia’s abundant natural resources 7 Chapter 3 56

i. Human well-being depends on ecosystems 7 Sustainable consumption and production
of woodfuel
ii. Costs and benefits of economic development 57

and environmental degradation 9 3.1 Growing demand 58

iii. Two cases of rural transformation 11 3.2 Business use 59

iv. A downward spiral of resource degradation 3.3 Domestic cooking 59
and deterioration in human well-being
13 3.4 A mix of sustainable and non-sustainable supplies 60

v. Cambodia’s commitments and challenges 13 3.5 Limited impacts of fuelwood collection by households 61

vi. Towards a better balance: key questions of 3.6 A proliferation of charcoal production and
impacts of concern
this National Human Development Report 17 62

Chapter 1 3.7 Many options to move towards sustainable energy 65

20 3.8 Challenges in promoting sustainable woodfuel options 68

Human development in Cambodia today 21 3.9 Recommendations 69

1.1 Putting people at the centre of development 22 Chapter 4

1.2 A record of substantial and inclusive growth 23 72

1.3 Steady advances in human development 26 Upgrading value chains for non-timber forest products 73

1.4 Variations at the subnational level 31 4.1 Tracing value chains for five products 73

1.5 Exploring links to natural resource management 35 4.2 Bamboo: Potential in domestic and international 74
1.6 Conclusions: Building on gains to accelerate progress 39
4.3 Rattan: Improved competitiveness aimed at exports 75

Chapter 2 42 4.4 Resin: Investments beyond the raw value chain 76

Sustainable timber production 43 4.5 Forest honey: Strong prospects for growth and value 77
2.1 The state of forests today 43
2.2 Towards sustainable forest management 44 4.6 Medicinal plants 78

4.7 Challenges to productivity and sustainability 79

4.8 Recommendations 80


Chapter 5 82 Figures

Communities and natural resource management 83 0.1. Many ecosystem services contribute directly to
human development
5.1 Sharing responsibilities and benefits 8 3 8

5.2 Design principles for successful CBNRM 85 0.2. Cambodia’s forest coverage has declined for ecades 10

5.3 Understanding common challenges 85 1.1. Economic growth (%) has been exceptional over the

5.4 A promising start to CBNRM in Cambodia 87 last three decades 23

5.5 Taking stock of experiences 91 1.2. Structural change in Cambodia is substantial and 24
ongoing 25
5.6 Recommendations 94
1.3. Measures of inequality show progressive
Chapter 6 96 improvement

Payments for ecosystem services 97 1.4. Poverty (headcount %), regardless of measurement, 25
continues to fall

6.1 Agreeing on conservation 97 1.5. Rapid improvements in the Human Development

6.2 A decade of experience in Cambodia 98 Index (HDI), but further catch-up is required 27

6.3 Putting payments into practice 99 1.6. Exceptional improvements in longevity have
driven advances in HDI components
6.4 Conditions for success and risks to avoid 100 28

6.5 Common implementation challenges 101 1.7. Human development losses due to inequality
have fallen
6.6 Steps towards a national scheme 102 29

6.7 Phnom Kulen: a fund for effective park management 1.8. Gender differences in human development are

and environmentally friendly farming 102 falling, but not fast enough 29

6.8 Kbal Chay: Leveraging fees for water and instituting 1.9. Despite long-run improvements in women’s
empowerment, performance has levelled off 3 0
a management plan 1.10. Provincial HDIs vary considerably but have
converged over the last 10 years
6.9 Recommendations 108 32
1.11. Lagging areas are rapidly catching up 32
Chapter 7 110
1.12. Starting point is no barrier to improvement in 33
Spatial planning as a tool for integrated 111 provincial HDIs, but also no guarantee of
natural resource management ongoing improvement

7.1 Developing an integrated approach to land-use 112 1.13. Greater longevity is driving improvements and
planning subnational convergence in human development 34

7.2 Applying the decision support system 113 1.14. Forest cover in Cambodia is still high, and
the rate of decline is slowing
7.3 Zoning protected landscapes at the national level 113 36

7.4 Zoning a protected landscape at the subnational level 119 1.15. Patterns of forest loses vary: the most forested
areas often see smaller declines
7.5 Zoning at Kulen Promtep Wildlife Sanctuary 120 37

7.6 Bringing together people and data 123 2.1. Forest cover map 2016 43

7.7 Recommendations 124 2.2. Baseline Model (b) on the hypothetical illegal
cutting of natural forests
Conclusion 126 47

Towards a better future 127 2.3. A summary of results for the seven cases and 48
Baseline Model (b)


3.1. Both businesses and households depend on Tables
58 1.1. Forest cover correlates negatively with human
3.2. Share of households using firewood, charcoal, 38
2.1. Examples of potential sustainable and human 45
LPG and electricity 59 development gains modelled in the assessment

3.3. Woodfuel, mainly residues, comes from replacing

plantations 61 2.2. Only community forestry shows acceptable returns

3.4.Pressure from household firewood collection for within 10 years 49

domestic cooking is relatively limited 62 2.3. Risks vary, with teak and community-managed
natural forests scoring best
3.5. Location of charcoal producers 63 50

3.6. Value chain of charcoal from Phnom Aural 3.1. The main brick kilns currently in use in Cambodia 66
supplying Phnom Penh
64 3.2. Main improved cook stoves currently in use in
3.7. Value chain of charcoal from Kampong Thom 67
supplying Phnom Penh
64 3.3. Differential taxation for incentivizing
community-based firewood harvesting 7 0
3.8. Chain of Custody Certification Scheme 6 9

4.1. The value chain for bamboo 74 5.1. Communities gain rights and responsibilities under

4.2. The value chain for rattan 75 management agreements 89

4.3. The value chain for resin 76 5.2. Approval processes can be protracted 90

4.4. The value chain for honey 77 6.1. Cambodia has seen a number of PES and similar

4.5. The value chain for medicinal plants 78 schemes 98

5.1. Management structures oversee sustainable 6.2. The numbers of hotels and rooms in Siem Reap 103
resource use
88 6.3. Options for payments from different dimensions

6.1. Key design elements of PES 100 of tourism in Siem Reap City 105

6.2. Agriculture is overtaking forests in Phnom 103 6.4. The numbers of hotels and rooms in 106
Kulen National Park, 2001-2017 Preah Sihanoukville

6.3. Proposed components of the Phnom Kulen PES pilot 104 6.5. Options for payments from different dimensions

6.4. Proposed components of the Kbal Chay PES pilot 107 of tourism in Preah Sihanoukville 106

7.1. Newly expanded protected landscapes 111 Boxes

7.2. Integrated ecosystem mapping initiative 112 0.1. Protecting the forests: ancient wisdom, modern 9
7.3. The sustainable use zone comprised economic land
concessions and community protected areas 120 0.2. Aural Mountain: Logging takes a toll 11

7.4. The community zone encompassed village agricultural 0.3. Kulen Mountain: Growing cashews instead of forests 12

areas and social land concessions 120 0.4. Recent reforms and policies aim for sustainability 13

7.5. Combined sustainable use and community zones 121 0.5. National provisions for community-based natural

7.6. Maps used to identify conservation and core zones 121 resource management 15

7.7. Development of a proposed zoning system for 0.6. Preserving culture with community involvement
while improving livelihoods
Kulen Promtep Wildlife Sanctuary 122 16

0.7. Protected area zones 17


1.1. Cambodia’s spirit forests 21

1.2. Cambodia’s provinces and its socioeconomic 26

1.3. Measuring human development 27

1.4. Estimating subnational HDIs 31

3.1. Factors affecting households’ choice of types of energy 60

4.1. Potential new markets for non-timber forest products 79
5.1. Community management improved forest cover in India 84

5.2. Avoiding the “tragedy of the commons”: design 85
principles for successful CBNRM

5.3. Competing interests complicate community 86
forestry in Nepal

5.4. A local woman’s drive for “development that 92
includes villagers”

5.5. Successful community fisheries highlight the 93
potential of community management

7.1. Key sets of land-use data for defining spatial priorities

across Cambodia’s protected landscapes 114

7.2. Key ecosystem and community datasets for 115
prioritization analysis of protected landscapes

7.3. How variables are eighted in the prioritization tool,

according to protected area zones 117

7.4. Conservation prioritization results from decision 118
support system analysis

7.5. Community monitoring: an empowering approach to

collecting spatial data 123

Notes 131
Bibliography 135

Appendix A: Source data used for estimation 147
of provincial HDIs 148

Appendix B: Forest cover data


Acronyms and Abbreviations

./. Not Computable FSC Forest Stewardship Council
[ ] No Dimension
A Afforestation / Reforestation
GDANCP General Directorate of Administration for
a/r Benefit - cost ratio
Biodiversity Conservation Corridors Nature Conservation and Protection
Convention on Biological Diversity GDEKI General Directorate for Environmental
B-C Cash Break Even
BCCs Cubic Metre Knowledge and Information
Community-based Natural Resource Management
C Climate Change Vulnerability Index GDLC General Directorate for Local Community
Cambodia Demographic and Health Survey
CBD Cambodia Development Resource Institute GDP Gross Domestic Product
CBE Community Forestry
cbm Community Forest Agreement GEF Global Environment Facility
CBNRM Community Forestry Management
CCVI Community Forestry User Groups GERES Group for the Environment, Renewable
CDHS Center for International Forestry Research
CDRI Community Managed Forest Energy and Solidarity
CF Cambodia National Mekong Committee
CFA Community Protected Area GIS Geographical Information System
CFM Common Pool Resource Management
CFUGs Compensation and Rewards for Ecosystem Services GMS Greater Mekong Sub-region
CIFOR Cambodia Social and Economic Survey
CMF GTL Grandis Timber Limited
CNMC Decision Support System
CPRM Environmental Impact Assessment
CRES Economic Land Concession Ha Hectare
CSES Ecosystem Services HDI Human Development Index

D Forestry Administration (in MAFF) I
United Nations Food and Agriculture Organization
DSS Fisheries Administration (in MAFF) IBA Important Bird Area
Forest Resource Management Information System ICDPs Integrated Conservation and Development
E Projects
IRR Internal Rate of Return
EIA ITC International Trade Centre
ELC IUCN International Union for Conservation of Nature
JFM Joint Forest Management
FRMIS KBA Key Biodiversity Area


LEV Land Expectation Value
LPG Liquefied Petroleum Gas


MA Millennium Ecosystem Assessment

MAFF Ministry of Agriculture, Forestry and Fisheries

MAI Mean Annual Increment

MEF Ministry of Economy and Finance


MFV Mondulkiri Forest Ventures RAC Rattan Association of Cambodia

MLMUPC Ministry of Land Management, Urban Planning RAPPAM Rapid Assessment and Prioritization of

and Construction Protected Areas Management

MoC Ministry of Commerce RECOFTC The Center for People and Forests

MoE Ministry of Environment REDD+ Reducing Emissions from Deforestation

MoIH Ministry of Industry and Handicraft and Forest Degradation

MOT Ministry of Tourism RGC Royal Government of Cambodia

MRD Ministry of Rural Development RS Rectangular Strategy

MSME Micro, Small and Medium Enterprises S

N SDGs Sustainable Development Goals

NAMA Nationally Appropriate Mitigation Action SESA Strategic Environmental and Social Assessment
NBSAP National Biodiversity Strategy and Action Plan
NCSD National Council for Sustainable Development SEZ Special Economic Zone
NESAP National Environmental Strategy and Action Plan
NFI National Forest Inventory SFB Supporting Forests and Biodiversity
NFM Natural Forest Management
NFMS National Forest Monitoring System SFM Sustainable Forest Management
NFP National Forestry Programme
NGO Non-Governmental Organization SLC Social Land Concessions
NHDR National Human Development Report
NKS Neang Kongrey Stove SMART Spatial Monitoring and Reporting Tool
NLS New Lao Stove
NP National Park SME Small and Medium Enterprise
NPASMP National Protected Area Strategic
Management Plan SO Strategic Objective
NPV Net Present Value
NRM Natural Resource Management T
NRS National REDD+ Strategy
NSDP National Strategic Development Plan TEEB The Economics of Ecosystems and Biodiversity
NTFP Non-timber Forest Product
TLS Traditional Lao Stove


UNCCD United Nations Convention to Combat


UNDP United Nations Development Programme

UNFCCC United Nations Framework Convention

on Climate Change

USD United States Dollar

NTFP-EP Non-Timber Forest Products -Exchange Programme W

P WCS World Conservation Society
WHO World Health Organization
PA Protected Area WWF World Wide Fund for Nature
PES Payments for Ecosystem Services
PKNP Phnom Kulen National Park Y Yield Class
PLUP Participatory Land Use Planning Year(s)
R yr

R&D Research and Development

Executive Summary

Sustainable management of natural resources
for long-term human development


Executive summary

Sustainable management of natural resources for long-term
human development

As Cambodia continues its transition to a higher Economic development has driven growth, but not
level of development, it faces a historic opportunity without alarming pressures on natural resources.
to manage its natural resources for the benefit of More rural communities than ever before have
both people and the environment. Cambodia can roads, energy and public services, and new
mitigate mounting pressure on forests and other economic and employment opportunities. Yet the
essential natural resources by diversifying patterns current pattern of development has taken a clear
of access and use, while building the foundation toll on the environment. Forests offer a salient
for an economy that continues to be strong and example; in 2010, they covered 57.07 percent of
fair, and, crucially, more sustainable. Cambodia, but only 46.86 percent by 2018.

Cambodia has made steady progress, with rising The degradation of environmental resources
incomes, but the country faces long-term challenges. may harm prospects for continued development.
If Cambodia acts now, it can expand and improve Large-scale developments such as dams and the
the quality of its gains, as well as ensure that they loss of common resources, especially forests,
can be maintained. Much depends on reaching the have had major human development impacts in
rural areas that are home to about 80 percent of rural areas. Many people who directly depend
the population, including the majority of people in on natural resources for subsistence, incomes
poverty. Many remain highly dependent on natural and safety nets, are adversely affected. In the
resources for food, shelter and income, which in turn longer term, the degradation of ecosystems
makes them acutely vulnerable to climatic and other also leaves people at large more vulnerable to
shocks. The careful management of natural resources disasters, for example through flooding that
will enhance their resilience and improve future strikes both rural and urban areas.
prospects for human development. Market failures are among the sources of
While there are often trade-offs between environmental degradation. The lack of a
economic and environmental objectives, there are market value for environmental resources
also points of complementarity. This National encourages exploitation for short-term
Human Development Report focuses on forests economic returns, resulting in a proliferation of
and protected areas, in exploring how the country cheap, unsustainably sourced natural products.
might win on both fronts. Producers have limited incentives to invest
Cambodia is performing very well in terms of in measures such as energy-efficient charcoal
economic growth and human development. kilns, improved cooking stoves and alternative
GDP expansion continues to top 7 percent energy. Complex regulatory requirements and
annually, accompanied by one of the world’s insecure land tenure also discourage sustainable
fastest rates of improvement in the global production as do significant uncertainties about
Human Development Index. Significant strides which areas are prioritized for conservation.
on life expectancy and to a lesser extent, higher Options for sustainable natural resources
incomes have been the primary drivers; management exist, but are costly if only economic
however, educational advances lag behind those returns are factored in. For the first time in
of Southeast Asian neighbours. Cambodia, this report models a number of
Human development performance has become different options for timber production. It finds
increasingly equitable. Remote areas have that illegal logging is far more lucrative, in purely
seen major improvements, driven by dramatic financial terms, than any of the seven options
decreases in child and infant mortality. Longer examined for sustainable timber production. Yet,
term trends towards gender equality are when an array of development benefits and longer-
noteworthy. Yet disparities remain, and the term costs are considered, some of the best options
current momentum will diminish if gaps between are private teak plantations and natural forests
areas and groups do not continue to close. managed by communities. Community forestry
has the lowest investment requirements and risks.


A broader set of human development costs Aim for more productive local economies that deliver
and benefits need to be better understood and higher returns for people and the environment.
balanced in ecological, cultural and economic This depends on the successful development of
terms. Modelling work on alternative forms of promising markets for sustainable products. High
timber production shows that while short-term value-added sectors include niche markets for
economic gains from the extraction and use of high-end furniture made of timber, rattan and
natural resources are significant, the long-term bamboo; environmentally friendly commercial
gains decrease rapidly due to the finite supply timber production; and high-quality honey and
of these resources. This also has ecological and medicinal plants. Economic returns may increase
cultural costs. Continued benefits, including through simple and efficient equipment for
human development gains, fundamentally processing and packaging, and improved local
depend on more sustainable management. knowledge of production techniques. These should
be geared towards meeting quality requirements,
Collaborative natural resources management environmental standards and market demands,
between the state and local communities offers a including in wider domestic and international
promising approach but its full potential remains markets. Other steps might encompass directly
untapped. Unsustainable extraction is inevitable linking producers with consumers, and reducing
unless communities enjoy secure resource rights transaction costs, for example, via mobile apps.
and realize tangible benefits. Well-calibrated Reinforce the State’s pivotal role in working with
collaborative management could respond to communities to co-manage natural resources.
the wide variances in community incentives This starts with clearer recognition of the formal,
and capacities, and guide consistent progress secure and long-term rights of communities to
towards sustainability and human development. sustainably manage natural resources and derive
tangible benefits. The Government could consider
How can Cambodia accelerating approval time frames and reducing
move forward? costs for community-based management, clarifying
resource boundaries and strengthening law
Ensure that effective law enforcement deters enforcement. Appropriate measures should be in
illegally sourced products so sustainable place so that community-based institutions uphold
products can better compete. This should community interests as well as environmental goals.
fit within a framework to regulate and Roll out systems for payments for ecosystem services
control illegal harvesting, production and nationwide. Such payments should recognize the
sale of products from natural resources. It full economic value of goods and services from
requires collaboration between Government natural resources. Costs of preservation are reflected
enforcement agencies and communities, and a through a market mechanism, when people pay to
shared commitment to sustainability. use water, and funds go in part towards maintaining
watersheds. Priorities include the full valuation of
Take regulatory measures to accelerate the shift to the environmental services of key ecosystems in
sustainable production. These include ensuring Cambodia, the operationalization of two payments
property rights, so local communities and the for ecosystem services pilots in Sihanoukville and
private sector invest in long-term, higher value Siem Reap provinces, and the development of
added, sustainable timber and non-timber forest policies to implement the approach nationally.
products. Regulations, legal requirements and Apply integrated land-use planning to achieve
administrative procedures should be simplified economic and environmental goals. For strategic
to reduce transaction costs. land-use decisions, a decision support system
can facilitate assessments of both social and
Make a start towards sustainable energy. Like all environmental impacts. It can offer vital insights
countries, Cambodia is undergoing a transition into balancing economic development, poverty
to energy sources that are sustainable and non- alleviation and the sustainable use of natural
polluting. It can take an important early step in this resources as part of shaping a next generation
direction through the sustainable management of of medium and long-term human development
woodfuel, which remains an essential source of strategies for Cambodia.
energy and income in many rural communities.


Securing human development by safeguarding
Cambodia’s abundant natural resources


Securing human development by safeguarding Cambodia’s
abundant natural resources

This National Human Cambodia has made great strides over the behaviours and choices that undermine human
Development Report explores last three decades, transitioning to peace, development. For example, vulnerable rural
transforming livelihoods and realizing households may expend most or all of their
how to activate the mutually striking gains in socioeconomic development. available resources to cope with shocks or threats,
reinforcing links between Accompanying economic growth, however, leaving them unable to invest in the health and
environmental and human there have been growing pressures on land, education of their children. Forest resources
well-being water and forest ecosystems. These pressures are and ecosystems offer a vital safety net, providing
beginning to challenge the long-term viability of food, medicine and income for rural dwellers as
Cambodia’s development model and its ability to well as a healthy, clean environment.
achieve the objectives set out in Vision 2050 and Third, ecosystems offer intangible benefits.
the Cambodian Sustainable Development Goals. Sustaining their integrity supports a better quality
The goods and services as well as intangible of life, provides amenities, and underpins identity
benefits that accrue from Cambodia’s natural and culture, not to mention regulating the climate.
resource base are fundamental to the well-being With secure and clean water, farming households
of millions of people. Prospects for sustainable are healthier, for instance, and agricultural
and inclusive development greatly depend on production more reliable. Well-managed forest
improved ecosystem management. ecosystems becomes reduce the risks of climate
This National Human Development Report change, and mitigate vulnerabilities caused by
explores how to activate the mutually reinforcing disasters and extreme weather, benefitting both
links between environmental and human well- urban and rural dwellers.
being 1 with a view to creating a sustainable future,
by focusing in particular on the management Human well-being depends
of forest resources. There are three reasons on ecosystems
for this focus: First, forests are Cambodia’s
primary natural resource, and influence human Ecosystems play a vital role in Cambodian
development in numerous ways; second, forests human development, urban as well as rural.
vividly illustrate the importance of high-quality A particularly striking example is provided by
resource management; and third, the striking Cambodia’s ancient forests (see Box 0.1).
rate of deforestation in recent years has made
conservation an urgent concern.

In making the case that the quality of natural While urban dwellers also benefit from forest
resource management is fundamental to the human goods and the climate and ecosystem regulation
development of current and future generations, of forested areas, the impacts are most important
this report emphasizes three causal links. in rural Cambodia (Figure 0.1). These areas are
First, poor ecosystem management results in home to about 80 percent of the population,
resource degradation and depletion, which including the majority of people in poverty. Their
undermines human development. This occurs even well-being and economic opportunities directly
if there are some initial dividends from resource depend on the availability of natural resources.
exploitation. Intense forest exploitation and land Rural households use forest timber to construct
conversion can be lucrative in the first year or two. their houses as well as fences for livestock and
But as soil fertility falls on recently cleared land, agriculture. They depend on rain to grow crops
and as forest resources are no longer available and fuelwood for cooking. In 2014, more than
for food and materials, livelihood opportunities 2 million households relied on non-timber
decline, and human vulnerability increases. forest products such as bamboo, rattan, resin,
Second, vulnerability, which is caused in part honey and medicinal plants for income and
by the erosion or loss of ecosystems, leads to subsistence.2 Nearly half the population uses
wild-harvested medicinal plants,3 which is


part of the explanation for recent findings that agriculture or engage in fishery. When drought
have shown a clear relationship between forest threatens agriculture or fishery is insufficient,
degradation and decreasing human health.4 A forest products provide a safety net.
majority of rural populations practice rain-fed

Figure 0.1.

Many ecosystem services contribute directly to human development

Aquatic ecosystems, especially those of Tonle Sap increase resilience.10 The latest global agenda on
Lake, provide other vitally important inputs. Fish climate and development places resilience at its
are the main complement to rural people’s rice- core, noting it has to be achieved through social
based diet, contributing more than 60 percent and ecological diversity on all levels.11
of rural protein intake. And fisheries are of Forests, for instance, limit the negative effects
fundamental commercial importance, employing of droughts and floods and are a sink for carbon
about 2 million people.5Inland fisheries account for emissions. According to the latest forest reference
nearly 12 percent of gross domestic product (GDP), level report submitted to the UN Framework
more than the contribution from rice production.6 Convention on Climate Change,12 Cambodia’s
Cambodia’s heavy reliance on ecosystem goods carbon storage capacity could be significant
and services makes it particularly vulnerable in climate change mitigation efforts. It might
to environmental shocks and changes. The generate new revenue streams under REDD+13
global 2014 Climate Change Vulnerability that could bolster sustainable forest management.
Index ranked Cambodia among the countries Healthy ecosystems protect Cambodia’s high
most vulnerable to climate change, in part levels of biodiversity, which provide economic
due to its high dependence on agriculture and opportunities and sustain livelihoods in various
a large proportion of people living in flood- ways.14 Cambodian forests shelter a range of rare,
prone areas.7,8 Recent floods and droughts have culturally significant, and threatened species.
highlighted this extreme vulnerability, while Moreover, rich ecological and species diversity
climate change forecasts predict even more dire represent a major opportunity for eco-tourism
weather events in the future.9 that supports both conservation and human
One key way for Cambodia to successfully adapt development. Cambodia’s 2016 National Biodiversity
to climate change risks and other stressors is to Strategy and Action Plan, part of its commitment to
maintain healthy ecosystems, which mitigate the Convention on Biological Diversity, provides a
against environmental and other stressors, and framework for conservation and sustainable use.


Box 0.1.

Protecting the forests: ancient wisdom, modern methods

For many indigenous communities, the value of the forest
goes beyond the market price of land or timber. To the Souy
people, an indigenous group in south-western Cambodia,
the forest is divine, and has been a cornerstone of their
culture for centuries.

“The spirit of the forest is our traditional belief. We call
him Ta Tei,” explains Srey, a 67 year-old community elder
from the village of Putrea.

When Srey was growing up, she was surrounded by dense
foliage. She could take her animals to graze in the forest or
go fishing in the river. The community was spiritually tied
to Ta Tei, and he provided for them through the land.

But in the last four years, everything has changed. The forest To Srey and many others, the forests and mountain are not
surrounding Srey’s community has begun to disappear, part merely symbolic, but living places. The land is the heart of
of a national trend that has seen forest cover decline. the community, providing life-sustaining resources to all
“The spirit tries to protect the forest. But the forest is now that depend on it. Without appropriate reparations and the
gone—people are just cutting it down. They don’t believe building of new skills, communities like Srey’s are left behind.
in the spirit forest as they did in the past,” says Srey. “Before, In 2007, a community protected area was established
we could get wild animals or fish for food. We would share to engage all members of the community in managing
within our community. Now that tradition is dead. We communal lands. It was an important step, yet Srey and
have to go buy it in the market”. many within her community feel that current practices to
Under the combined impacts of land concessions and protect the forests need improvement.
forest degradation, with climate changing looming on the “We have been protecting the area, but threats to the forest
horizon, many in Srey’s community worry that their culture have never been greater,” explains Phal Noeun, the 53-year-
and livelihoods will soon disappear forever. old chief of the community protected area management
“If this continues to happen, I don’t know what I will do. committee in Kampong Speu province.
I’m worried about the children. As it is now, it’s so difficult “The most important area for the community is the spiritual
for everyone. Our sacred Phnom Ta Tei is going to be sold,” mountain and forests,” Noeun emphasizes. “If you don’t
she says. protect the land, you will lose the forest forever.”

Costs and benefits of economic development
and environmental degradation​​

Despite the value of Cambodia’s forests and national territory (Figure 0.2).15 These losses
natural resources, forest coverage has been occurred in the context of rapid economic
declining for decades, and from 2010 to 2016 growth and a transition to a market-oriented
shrank from 57.07 percent to 46.86 percent of economy.


Figure 0.2.

Cambodia’s forest coverage has declined for decades

National forest (including rubber and palm oil plantations)
Source: Royal Government of Cambodia 2019.

Many countries including Cambodia have security, given the reliance of Cambodia’s rural
promoted large-scale economic development population on fish for protein.17
as the primary strategy to lift rural people out Other examples of negative externalities are
of poverty, making them less dependent on found in the two cases of Aural Mountain and
natural resources. This approach stems from Kulen Mountain National Park, which will be
the view that remote communities in densely explored further below. (Box 0.2 and Box 0.3)
forested areas are trapped in poverty due to The first shows how large-scale development
their dependence on natural resources for and the expansion of commodity markets have
subsistence, and their limited access to public resulted in the degradation of natural resources.
goods. As is clear from Cambodia’s recent The second illustrates how forest loss in the upper
history, economic development has increased watershed threatens to reduce the downstream
the access of rural communities to roads, energy water supply, in addition to destabilizing
and public services and created new economic culturally invaluable heritage monuments in the
opportunities and jobs. Angkor region.
Yet the sustainability of natural resources is All of the above points in the same direction:
vital for the prevention or minimization of While short-term economic gains from the
poverty and long-term human development, extraction and conversion of natural resources
as indicated by the continued high reliance of are significant, negative externalities and long-
rural communities on forest products and fish term costs and gains—in terms of human
for subsistence and income. With short-term development, as well as ecological, cultural
maximization of economic gains comes the loss and economic value—need to be recognized
of natural resources, as well as a range of negative and integrated into long-term development
social and cultural externalities. Cambodia’s strategies.
ongoing construction of hydropower dams, for Accordingly, the emphasis of the present report is
example, requires felling huge tracts of forests on identifying and designing future development
in upstream watersheds. A 2015 study on pathways in a manner that facilitates integration
the influence of dams on river fisheries in the of human and economic development and
Mekong Region predicted that they may reduce environmental sustainability.
fish populations by up to 50 percent,16 which
raises serious concerns about food and health


Two cases of rural transformation

Massive transformations are taking place due to One catalyst of change has been large
Cambodia’s rapid growth. Despite a dramatic developmental projects, such as economic land
decline in forest cover over the last decade, the concessions, mines, dams, sand dredging, and
country’s forest coverage remains relatively high. roads. Incremental shifts in rural landscapes and
This means that there are still possibilities for livelihoods have further contributed to agricultural
creating mutually reinforcing positive change for intensification and degradation of shared resources
people and the environment. However, action is such as fisheries, land and water.21 While new
urgently required. economic activities in rural Cambodia are often
intended to usher in important economic benefits,
Box 0.2. Many changes have been driven by commodity they can also lead to environmental degradation.
markets expanding into new frontiers, where
resources are still plentiful, accompanied by UNDP selected two cases, the foothills of Aural
associated shifts in access and control. Consequences Mountain in Kampong Speu Province (Box 0.2) and
include the degradation of land and other resources. Phnom Kulen National Park in Siem Reap Province
Some actors have benefitted greatly, especially those (Box 0.3) to illustrate this phenomenon. Both show
with access to power, markets and authority. But how cycles of resource use and landscape change are
significant numbers of rural families have faced transforming forests, with important implications
livelihood losses and heightened vulnerability.18,19,20 for food security, equity and quality of life.

Aural Mountain: Logging takes a toll

The forest frontier of Aural Mountain, Cambodia’s highest
peak, provides a vivid example of how resource degradation
impacts human development, and it demonstrates the deep
connections between livelihoods and natural resources.22
Logging began in the 1970s while the Khmer Rouge were
present in the area and continued under the decade-long
socialist Government of the 1980s. More organized logging
operations began in the 1990s, and most slow-growing
hardwoods became locally extinct by the mid-2000s.

The removal of large trees contributed to the unravelling A charcoal production site in the Aural foothills in 2017
of local and indigenous livelihoods, which formerly relied Photo credit: S. Chann.
upon non-timber forest products, especially resin tapping
from the now-missing hardwoods. This disruption prompted medical bills, agricultural inputs, or other essential items, has
local people to “log down”, targeting less valuable and faster forced them to sell or mortgage their land, ultimately leading
growing tree species suitable for commercial purposes like to landlessness.
charcoal production. Charcoal has been produced for the
Phnom Penh market since the early 2000s. Local villagers As forest resources are depleted, and family farmland is
and new migrants have engaged voraciously in the new trade, downsized, degraded or sold, traditional rural livelihoods
stripping the forest bare. can become severely compromised. A modest farm may
Once forested areas are cleared of all large and medium-sized struggle with stagnating prices for rice, cassava, mango and
trees, they are converted into private land parcels or economic other crops, forcing farmers to engage in wage labour. Some
land concessions for agricultural production. Some smallholder smaller farmers secure work on larger plantations, but many
farmers have gained development and livelihood opportunities. leave for the city. Most poor households send at least one
But marginalized people, including many women and poor woman to work in peri-urban garment factories.
households, have not been able to secure sufficient land for
livelihoods. For some, the pressure of debt, often due to loans for


Box 0.3.

Kulen Mountain: Growing cashews instead of forests

Phnom Kulen National Park illustrates the challenges
to effective conservation and watershed management.23
Located about 50 kilometres from the town of Siem Reap
and the Angkor Wat temples, the area was declared a national
park of 37,375 hectares in 1993, in recognition of its natural
and cultural values.

The watershed in the park supplies clean water to Siem Reap Phnom Kulen National Park
and maintains the underground aquifer that stabilizes the
Angkor Wat temples. The park also contains Cambodia’s
most sacred mountain and over 50 ancient temples, many
of which attract tourists. As Siem Reap’s largest remaining
forest area, it is home to globally threatened species, such as
the silver langur.

Up to 8,000 people still reside inside the park. They make a
living from its resources and by running tourist stalls around
the main waterfall site.24

Local residents do not have formal land titles. Nevertheless, Land use trends in 2017 in Phnom Kulen National
villagers’ customary rights to some forest resources are Park showing forests under pressure
recognized through five community protected areas within
the park. Totalling 923 hectars, these areas allow the Forest clearing and herbicide use for cashew
sustainable harvesting of non-timber forest products that are production in Kulen National Park
sold by local families.25 Source & Photo Credit:

The degradation of park ecosystems started with the illegal Archaeological and Development Foundation 2017
extraction of luxury and high-value timber, and continued
with intensified harvesting of fuelwood for brick factories
and charcoal kilns, and other timber for local livelihoods.
Despite efforts by park rangers and police, it has proved
difficult to put stop to these illegal activities. The remaining
forest is now highly degraded and vulnerable to the expansion
of agriculture, particularly profitable cashew plantations.
Cashew has become the dominant local cash crop for villagers
on the eastern plateau of the park, replacing most of the
former natural forest and shifting agriculture systems. Since
2015, many cashew producers have introduced herbicides
that pose threats to both human health and water quality.

Forest cover on the eastern plateau has decreased significantly,
from 42 percent in 2003 to around 25 percent today (see map
below).26 The consequences for Siem Reap and its tourism
industry are potentially devastating. They include declining water
quantity and quality, and loss of irreplaceable cultural heritage.


A downward spiral of more funding and capacity dedicated to natural
resource degradation resource management.
and deterioration in
human well-being Both cases illustrate that resource degradation
leads to the erosion of sustainable livelihoods and
The Aural Mountain frontier demonstrates that resilience. Together, the two cases highlight the
social conditions can rapidly deteriorate when the critical importance of managing change to make
resource base that people depend on is severely the most of synergies between environmental
depleted, or when rural households’ traditional sustainability and human development.
access to resources is diminished by land enclosures
and large-scale development. Such circumstances Cambodia’s commitments
often lead local people to exploit natural resources and challenges
in unsustainable ways. Under extreme pressure,
they may sell land and natural resources that they To sustain Cambodia’s vital ecosystems, the
have depended on for generations. Government has implemented environmental
governance reforms. These include new policies
Phnom Kulen National Park exemplifies the and legal frameworks, jurisdictional reforms for
immense management challenges faced by many ecosystem and protected area management, a new
protected areas in Cambodia. Most relate to draft Environment and Natural Resources Code,
the difficulty of balancing conservation and decentralization of natural resource management
development, but they also point to the need for functions and a moratorium on new economic
land concessions (Box 0.4).

Box 0.4.

Recent reforms and policies aim for sustainability

the Fair and Equitable Sharing of Benefits Arising from their
Utilization, which was adopted by the Conference of the
Parties to the Convention on Biological Diversity in 2010.

Besides these global commitments, new and emerging
national policies reflect a strong commitment to ecosystem
management and biodiversity conservation. They include
a National Environmental Strategy and Action Plan, a
National Biodiversity Strategy and Action Plan, a National
REDD+ Strategy, a National Protected Area Strategic
Management Plan and a Production Forest Strategic Plan.

As of 2017, Cambodia’s protected area system Jurisdictional reforms in natural resources
covers 40 percent of the country management
Source: Ministry of Environment; map created by the Wildlife
Conservation Society (WCS) of Cambodia, 2017. Since February 2016, the Government has implemented
a major reform of natural resource management. This
Cambodia is a party to the Convention on Biological reform refined the roles and mandates of the Ministry of
Diversity, the United Nations Convention to Combat Environment and the Ministry of Agriculture, Forestry
Desertification, and the United Nations Framework and Fisheries. The Ministry of Environment now takes on
Convention on Climate Change. It is also a signatory to primary responsibility for the protection and conservation of
the Nagoya Protocol on Access to Genetic Resources and


forests and ecosystems, while the Ministry of Agriculture, Decentralization of natural resource management
Forestry and Fisheries focuses on the development aspects
of natural resource management, including economic Government Circular no. 5 on decentralizing authority to
land concessions. This reform resulted in the creation of subnational governments enables district and provincial
protected landscapes that cover 40 percent of the country authorities to play more prominent roles in natural resource
(see map above). management, particularly law enforcement. Other resource
management responsibilities may be devolved to subnational
Development of an environment and natural entities in line with Ministry of Environment regulations
resources code (prakas). These delegate key functions of protected area
management to local government, such as community
A proposed environment and natural resources code engagement, environmental education and the mainstreaming
outlines overarching principles and provides guidance of climate resilience measures in development planning.
on implementing laws on natural resource management Decentralization has strong potential to enhance human
and biodiversity conservation, aimed at sustainable development through improved ecosystem management,
management. Important new stipulations include particularly in Cambodia’s remote forested provinces. Yet it
conducting strategic environmental and social assessments comes with potential risks that need to be managed. Indonesia,
to avoid, mitigate and minimize adverse impacts on for example, decentralized power and authority to manage
the environment and development. A proposal for natural resources to the local level, but this initially resulted in
collaborative management would support the rights and significant confusion among stakeholders and a notable increase
interests of communities in natural resource management. in deforestation. 27

These measures are intended to transform the of sustainably managed products have yet to be Cambodia has remaining
current mode of economic development into one fully realized. challenges in sustaining natural
that is more sustainable, and better equipped to resources such as the low
simultaneously ensure the needs of people and The second challenge relates to limited human productivity of natural resources,
ecosystems, recognizing the two are not mutually resources for conserving ecosystems and limited human resources,
exclusive. However, the country still faces several community involvement. At present, according to market failures and unclear
challenges in fully attaining this ambition. the Ministry of Environment, more than 7 million and overwrapping land uses
hectares of protected landscapes are managed by
The first challenge relates to the low productivity just 1,260 rangers. This means that each ranger
of natural resources. While Cambodia has is responsible for more than 5,000 hectares of
dramatically advanced its national agenda for land, an area obviously too large for effective
conservation, areas zoned for production have management. While Cambodia has made some
decreased from 6 million to 1.4 million hectares. progress towards engaging communities in
Current levels of production are unlikely to meet managing natural resources, less than 10 percent
rapidly growing demands for fuel and construction of Cambodia’s forests and protected areas are
timber. This will likely increase pressure on other under community management (see Box 0.5).
forests, leading to a spiral of degradation. There
is thus a critical need to boost the productivity of A third challenge concerns limited financial
forests reserved for production. resources for managing the large area of protected
landscapes. The current budget allocation for the
Improved productivity of natural resources is Ministry of Environment is minimal, comprising
also important to secure the support of rural less than 0.4 percent of the annual Government
communities for resource management measures budget in 2017.29 This is insufficient for governing
by increasing the benefits they receive. People’s 40 percent of the total land of Cambodia.
commitment to sustainable management will
be largely shaped by what they can draw out of A related challenge concerns market failures,
it. At present, however, the economic potentials where undervaluation of ecosystem goods and


services leads to overexploitation or loss. Under A final challenge concerns unclear and
the global REDD+ initiative, for example, the overlapping land uses. The Ministry of
environmental values of forests to store and Environment has the challenging task of
sequestrate carbon has not been fully considered by sustainably managing a very large protected
users of forests because storage and sequestration area system. This requires recognizing the
have had no market value. Rural communities needs of communities living within it.
therefore exploit or clear forests for agriculture and According to the Protected Area Law, all areas
other purposes that they see as generating tangible must be categorized into four zones (core,
economic benefits. The conversion to cashew conservation, sustainable use and community
nut plantations in Kulen Mountain, which led to zones) depending on conservation priorities
the loss of environmental services such as carbon (Boxes 0.6 and 0.7). Yet, only a handful of
sequestration is a stark example. In order to prevent protected areas have actually been categorized.
such market failures and promote conservation, Accordingly, it is uncertain which areas are
payments may be needed to compensate people prioritized for conservation and which for
for preserving the forests. human development.

Box 0.5.

National provisions for community-based natural resource management

The Government has initiated the following measures to foster • Indigenous communal land titles: 11 indigenous
community management of natural resources and strengthen communities have received legal recognition of

resource rights for indigenous communities. Each measure is communal land titles.32

intended to improve livelihoods while safeguarding ecosystems. • Customary user rights: Stipulated in the Forestry Law
• Community forestry: 604 sites established by 2018, and applying to forests managed by the Ministry

comprising 470,970 hectares.30 of Agriculture, Forestry and Fisheries, these rights

• Community protected areas: 168 areas with 39, 452 allow communities to maintain traditional livelihood
households, comprising 272,110 hectares. practices, although they have been hard for communities
to establish and defend.

• Community fisheries: 516 sites established, concentrated
mostly around Tonle Sap.31


Box 0.6.

Preserving culture with community involvement while improving livelihoods

Kulen Mountain, nestled just a short distance from “With less rain, it will also have an impact on the tourism and
Cambodia’s famed Angkor temples, was the birthplace of the the overall economy.”
9th century Khmer Empire. Just a generation ago, Kulen was
still home to a rich jungle. Despite pressures on the plateau, there are still some reasons
for optimism. The Government has developed a number
Veng, a 72-year-old retired farmer and former park ranger, of laws, policies and regulations for the conservation and
who has lived atop Kulen Mountain all of his life, says, sustainable use of ecosystems.
“When I was growing up, Kulen used to have tigers and
rhinos. But now, when you travel from the north to the Veng says. “Now we have good laws and regulations to protect the
south, there aren’t even elephants in the area anymore”. forests. Now everywhere that is protected, I don’t touch,” he says.

Like Veng, many of the elders living on the Kulen The Archaeology and Development Foundation is also
Plateau have witnessed the forest changing and its animals helping the Government explore innovative ways to protect
disappearing. Forest cover on the plateau decreased from the forests on the plateau, while offering alternatives to
42 percent in 2003 to around 25 percent today. If this trend destructive agricultural practices.
continues, the forests could disappear altogether in the
coming decade. “In 2015, the Government recognized five Archaeological
Protected Areas, covering 800 hectares and encompassing
The consequences for the town of Siem Reap and its tourism dozens of archaeological sites,” to protect cultural treasures
industry are potentially devastating, including declining water while benefitting local people by allowing them to collect
quantity and quality, and loss of a remarkable cultural heritage. non-timber forest products within the areas.

“We know when forests disappear, so does the rainfall. With Moving forward, many more similar solutions will be
less rain fall, it will impact the thousands of people living in imperative to protect existing forests and rehabilitate those
the region,” says Dr. Jean-Baptiste Chevance, the Programme already degraded. But the will to do so is in the hearts of
Director of the Archaeology and Development Foundation. many people. As Veng says, “I love the forests because I live
and depend on the forests. I wish we could keep it all.”


Box 0.7.

Protected area zones

The 2008 Protected Area Law states that there are eight categories of areas: national parks, wildlife sanctuaries, protected
landscapes, multiple use areas, Ramsar sites,33 biosphere reserves, natural heritage sites and marine parks.

The zoning system applies to the first five categories.

Core zone A high conservation value area that contains threatened, endangered or critically endangered species
Czoonneservation and fragile ecosystems. Access is allowed only for park rangers and researchers with prior permission
uSusestzaoinneable from the Ministry of Environment.

A management area for natural resources, ecosystems, watersheds and natural landscapes adjacent to
the core zone. Entry is restricted. Small-scale harvesting of non-timber forest products is permitted
under strict control.

A management area for national economic development, including in protected areas and
community protected areas. Shifting cultivation is permitted in accordance with management plans;
development and investment activities are allowed with the approval of the Ministry of Environment

Community Land ownership is granted to local villages and community protected area members. The zone may
development zone contain existing residential land, rice paddies and swidden agriculture.

Towards a better balance: key questions of this National
Human Development Report

This report explores how In light of the key role played by ecosystems of natural resources and human well-being. It
to better capture synergies in human development and present policy reports on the key human development metrics
challenges, this report explores how to better at national and provincial levels, and examines
between environmental capture synergies between environmental Cambodia’s performance compared to that of
sustainability and human sustainability and human development in other countries in South-east Asia.
development in Cambodia Cambodia. It delves into several questions of
central importance today. How can Cambodia promote natural resource
use and production that is sustainable,
What is the state of human development economically viable and supportive of human
in Cambodia compared to neighbouring development?
countries? And how are different Cambodian
communities faring? Crucially, what are the A number of economically viable and sustainable
links with the quality of natural resources? production models could be further explored in
Cambodia. The report considers ways to promote
Chapter 1 provides an overview of the status of natural resource use and production that are
human development in Cambodia today, and simultaneously sustainable, economically viable,
analyzes the connections between the quality and supportive of human development.


Chapter 2 focuses on sustainable timber and inclusive. The chapter reviews current
production, presenting economic analyses of thinking and experiences and provides policy
seven timber production models to identify recommendations for unlocking the potential
the most economically viable scenarios. These of community-based natural resource
findings are used to gauge possible alternatives management in Cambodia.
to destructive models of forestry, including
cooperative management and commercial How can Cambodia balance conservation
forestry. and development to maximize human
development benefits?
Chapter 3 analyses the consumption and
production of fuelwood and charcoal, and With Cambodia’s recent jurisdictional reform
proposes ways to enable rural communities resulting in 40 percent of the country’s
to engage in sustainable consumption and territory being placed under some form of
production. It focuses on charcoal as a major protection, there is a critical need to mobilize
activity with environmental concerns for financial resources for conservation. Key to
Cambodia, given the ongoing dependency on this is overcoming common problems that local
woodfuel for cooking. communities have faced. This report argues
that it is possible to develop management
Chapter 4 examines how to add value to non- structures and governance arrangements that
timber forest products for local communities. allow for effective management of common
It details the value chains of five key products pool resources, like forests. The report takes
commonly harvested by rural communities— a detailed look at two policy instruments,
bamboo, rattan, resin, honey and medicinal payments for ecosystems services (PES) and
plants—and identifies opportunities for value spatial planning, as means of maximizing
addition. These sectors offer viable alternatives to conservation and human development
unsustainable practices, and provide possibilities benefits.
for building family livelihoods and local
community economies, and enhancing human Chapter 6 presents PES as a tool for
development conservation financing in Cambodia, based
on two feasibility studies. PES attempts
How can Cambodia empower communities to rectify market failures where ecosystem
to manage natural resources for improved services are undervalued. It establishes
well-being, resilience and human contractual mechanisms whereby users pay
development ? for ecosystem services delivered by providers,
typically rural communities who manage
Since active engagement of local communities in natural resources. The chapter reviews design
natural resource management can have positive options for two pilot sites: Kulen Mountain
impacts on livelihoods and ecosystems, the in Siem Reap province and Kbal Chay in
report examines the possibilities and challenges Sihanoukville.
of securing resource rights and access. This
would enable communities to achieve their Chapter 7 elaborates spatial planning as a
development aspirations, while becoming more tool for natural resources management and
resilient and maintaining essential safety nets explores the potential of the decision support
for their livelihoods. system. As a platform for data-sharing, it
could assist decision-makers in visualizing
Chapter 5 explores community-based natural and identifying areas suitable for specific land
resource management as a governance uses, such as conservation and protection,
tool to ensure that the management of development activities and zones dedicated
ecosystems and protected areas is effective to community development.

Chapter 1

Human development in Cambodia today


1. Human development in Cambodia today

Natural resources, Cambodia’s Cambodia has made major human In the longer run, natural resource stocks
extensive forests and hydrology, development gains since the foundation act as a buffer to risks, boosting resilience to
of the modern Khmer nation in the early environmental and other shocks. This occurs
remain central to the both systemically, via their ability to rebalance
livelihoods and well-being of 1990s, after a long period of conflict. The ecosystems and moderate severe weather events,
economy has changed dramatically with and by providing fallback options to communities
many communities sustained growth of over 7 percent per year where savings and asset holdings are weak. There
and the emergence of higher value added is also an intergenerational dimension to the
The vitality and resilience industrial and service sectors. Social changes, preservation of these resources, enabling the
of ecosystems, and their including through urbanization, migration maximization of human development over time.
management, are important and evolving lifestyles, have accompanied And with Khmer culture steeped in a connection
for human development in the and supported a shared prosperity. to the land and especially to Cambodia’s ancient
forests, the preservation of natural resources has
near and longer terms Against that backdrop, natural resources, other intangible long-run benefits (see Box 1.1).
specifically Cambodia’s extensive forests and
In sum, the vitality and resilience of ecosystems,
complex hydrology, remain developmentally and their management, are important for human
important. These are central to the livelihoods development in the near and longer terms. Taking
and well-being of many, often vulnerable rural stock of the current state of human development,
communities. They provide key environmental in addition to providing a barometer on well-
goods and services in both urban and rural areas, being, provides a baseline for understanding risks
including through the regulation of climatic and opportunities, and the policy priorities and
and ecological systems, and the preservation of actions discussed in the following chapters.

Box 1.1.

Cambodia’s spirit forests

Cambodia’s ancient forests have a central position within the as the Souy people in south-west, the Kuy in the north-west
culture and traditions of its peoples. For indigenous groups, and the Bunong in the north-east.
forests are revered as sacred places where supernatural spirits
serve as custodians, ensuring nature remains in balance and For the Khmer people, the forest has become part of folklore,
supportive of human life. Their significance is underlined stories and cultural forms, including dance and music, that
by maintenance of cultural and religious taboos—rules that connect current generations with those of Angkorian times.
limit the exploitation of certain plants and animals, and guide The forest is therefore, a powerful facet of national identity,
behaviour in the forest as well as worship and burial practices. and its degradation represents a major cultural, and in turn, a
These are widespread and deeply embedded in groups as diverse human development loss, felt across Khmer society.


Putting people at the centre of development

“People are the real wealth of a nation. The basic and Anand argued that the human development Human development is a way
objective of development is to create an enabling approach secures both intergenerational and of thinking about progress
environment for people to enjoy long, healthy and intragenerational equity, which entail “recognition and development rather than
creative lives.” of a shared claim of all, to the basic capability to a measurement approach
lead worthwhile lives.”36 Among other issues,
—Opening of the first global Human Development this approach requires taking full account of the
Report, published in 1990 impact of environmental damage on the human
development of current and future generations.
Human development reflects the broad richness This does not mean that policy responses
of human life, extending beyond simple notions and investment choices should prioritize the
of economic output. Grounded in the work of environment over all other dimensions, but only
Nobel laureate Amartya Sen,34 the concept defines that policymakers should account for the full
progress as the expansion of people’s choices to live costs and benefits over the long term, and bring
valuable and fulfilling lives. Sen described human environmental externalities into consideration.
development as the ability (the capability) to
choose and access states of being and doing (termed Contemporary human development thinking
functionings) that are intrinsically valuable, such places particular emphasis on the capability and
as being educated, healthy and enjoying a decent agency of disadvantaged people, such as women,
standard of living. Freedom of action and choice the poor and ethnic minorities. This entails
(agency) and equity are core elements, since all efforts to ensure universal access to health care,
people must be free of constraints and have an education and basic services, and affirmative
equal opportunity to pursue the things they value. action to address structural inequalities. These
types of actions are now hardwired in the
While it is important to recall that human 17 Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs),
development is a way of thinking about progress adopted by the global community in 2015 to
and development rather than a measurement provide ambitious targets for people, planet and
approach alone , it includes a core set of metrics that prosperity through 2030.
track well-being not through a macroeconomic
proxy, such as Gross National Income (GNI) The concepts of vulnerability and resilience
or GDP per capita, but through attributes that place human development in the context of
human beings value directly. Debates have raged risk and change, especially where human-
on variable choices, but since the launch of the first environment relationships are concerned.
Human Development Report by UNDP in 1990, Vulnerability is the susceptibility of people
a set of multidimensional indexes, including the or communities to negative changes in
Human Development Index (HDI), have been circumstances.37 Such circumstances can be
estimated and published for all UN Member triggered by environmental changes such as
States (see Box 1.3 for more details). climate shifts, floods, droughts and ecosystem
degradation, or by economic and political
As the years have passed, human development changes such as commodity price fluctuations,
thinking has enlarged to recognize that real global recessions or destabilizing political
progress calls for navigating trade-offs and events. Resilience refers to the adaptive
synergies between environmental sustainability capacities of communities, which enable them
and equitable development. Also critical is to cope in stressed environments and changing
the extent to which conditions are in place to circumstances.38 Many factors, from social
mitigate against shocks. relations and cultural traditions, to governance,
and environmental practices and the quality of
In a pathbreaking contribution, and pertinent to resource management, can contribute to either
the topic of natural resource management, Sen building or eroding resilience.


A record of substantial and inclusive growth

Cambodia’s very rapid development since the inflation and balance of payments equilibrium,
establishment of the modern Cambodian state has despite the political stresses of a nascent
built on annual economic growth averaging 7.7 democracy and instability in the global economy.39
percent since 1994 and growth was an estimated 7.5 Government borrowing has remained in check,
percent in 2018 (Figure 1.1). Progressive economic and revenues have grown strongly in recent years,
liberalization and ongoing public and private with domestic taxes now accounting for over 20
investment, have transformed a country once percent of GDP.40 The economy is highly open
ravaged by a decade of domestic conflict, preceded and has few capital controls, and as a result
by the desperate years of Khmer Rouge rule. trade and foreign investment have flourished.
A hallmark of Cambodia’s development has Cambodia’s economy remains highly dollarized,
been macroeconomic stability, with low levels of with around 80 percent of transactions by value
conducted in the US currency. 41

Figure 1.1.

Economic growth (%) has been exceptional over the last three decades

Source: World Bank, World Development Indicators.

Cambodia’s economy has Cambodia’s economy has also seen ongoing of underlying improvements in productivity.
also seen ongoing structural structural changes (Figure 1.2). Agriculture has Employment has lagged structural shifts, with
declined, falling from almost 35 percent to 22 agriculture’s share holding at 41.5 percent of
changes percent of value added, and industry and services total jobs.42 Workers displaced from agriculture
have risen from 22 percent to 32 percent, and have largely been absorbed by the new economy,
from 38 percent to 39 percent, respectively by specifically by the garment and construction
2018. Nevertheless, there are questions about the industries.
extent and quality of these changes, and the degree


Figure 1.2.

Structural change in Cambodia is substantial and ongoing

Source: World Bank, World Development Indicators; authors’ calculations.

Cambodia’s population had grown to over 16 in 2007 to 13.5 percent in 2014 (Figure 1.4). The
million people by 2018, and although the rate of international dollar-based poverty line follows
increase has slowed, the population continues to a similar pattern. Cambodia has rightly earned
expand at 1.65 percent per year. This has fed a global plaudits for these accomplishments, which
bulge in the working-age population, delivering enabled it to achieve the primary poverty target
a demographic dividend. A dynamic economy of the Millennium Development Goals ahead of
together with migration abroad, much of it to time. The trend slowed after 2009, however, and is
Thailand, have kept labour market participation likely to continue to do so, as people still living in
high at 82.7 percent, or 88.5 percent for men and poverty are often located in remote and marginal
77.2 percent for women in 2016.43 areas, where they are harder to reach.

Growth has been accompanied by declining and Although inequality has declined, many A sizeable proportion of
comparatively low levels of inequality, with a Gini disparities persist, largely between core and people remain highly
coefficient of 0.31 in 2012 compared to 0.38 peripheral areas of the country, and may even have vulnerable to economic
in 1994 (Figure 1.3). Alongside high economic grown in recent years (see Box 1.2). A sizeable and other shocks.
growth rates, economic inclusion, reflected in proportion of people remain highly vulnerable to
high labour market participation and convergence economic and other shocks. Analysis undertaken
in incomes at the subnational level, has driven very in 2014 suggested a reduction of just 70 cents
dramatic falls in poverty. The national poverty in daily income would more than double the
headcount ratio declined from close to 50 percent poverty headcount ratio to around 40 percent.44


Figure 1.3.

Measures of inequality show progressive improvement

Source: Povcalnet; authors’ calculations.

Figure 1.4.

Poverty (headcount %), regardless of measurement, continues to fall

Source: World Bank 2017; Asian Development Bank 2014; Povcalnet; authors’ calculations.


Box 1.2.

Cambodia’s provinces and its socioeconomic geography

economic corridor runs from the far south-east to the midpoint
of the western border with Thailand.

Special economic zones encourage new It is difficult to be precise about the relative economic
businesses and industries performance of regions, due to a lack of subnational data, but
Cambodia’s peripheral regions, which lack access to markets,
Cambodia has 25 provinces, including Phnom Penh generally lag behind others. Phnom Penh and its neighbouring
municipality, with varying population distribution and core provinces are the most economically vibrant areas by some
socioeconomic conditions. Provinces in the far north-east margin. Provinces with high trade potential and an ability
(Ratanakiri, Mondulkiri, Preah Vihear and Stung Treng) to benefit from Cambodia’s laissez faire economy—such as
and south-west (Koh Kong) are remote, and either forested those on the south-east Vietnamese border, those close to the
or mountainous. Most people live along two major river Sihanoukville port and others on the Thai border—have also
systems, the Mekong and Tonle Sap. Cambodia’s primary grown rapidly in recent years.

The Government has responded to regional disparities with a
regional economic policy rooted in the creation of around 30
special economic zones, where businesses enjoy more favourable
operating conditions. The zones enable the development
of industrial clusters, and in turn, new and better-quality
employment opportunities for local populations. Cambodia is
also experiencing growing internal migration, predominantly
to its economic core.

Source: National Institute of Statistics 2015.45

Steady advances in human development

Against a favourable economic backdrop, From 1990 to 2017, Cambodia achieved the
Cambodia has achieved steady advances seventh fastest rate of improvement in HDI
in human development as measured by the globally, and the second fastest in Asia, although
human development indices. On the 2018 its score remains one of the lowest in South-
global HDI, Cambodia ranked 146 out of 189 east Asia, below close neighbours such as Lao
reporting countries, placing it in the medium People’s Democratic Republic and Viet Nam,
human development category (see Box 1.3 not to mention the subregion’s best performers,
on measuring human development). Many Malaysia and Thailand (Figure 1.5).46 Progress
diverse factors, ranging from social relations in Cambodia was strongest between 2000 and
and cultural traditions, to governance, and 2010, tapering off before accelerating again
environmental practices and the quality of from 2016. While Cambodia is still considered a
resource management, can contribute to either Least Developed Country, even as it has reached
building or eroding resilience. middle-income stage, its human development
performance is now well-ahead of the average for
the least developed group.


Box 1.3.

Measuring human development

The Human Development Index or HDI integrates three and male performance on the HDI, while the Gender Inequality
basic dimensions of human development: life expectancy Index highlights women’s empowerment.
at birth, which reflects the ability to lead a long and healthy
life; mean years of schooling and expected years of schooling, Finally, the Multidimensional Poverty Index seeks to
indicating the ability to acquire knowledge; and gross national measure non-income dimensions of poverty in health,
income per capita, capturing the ability to achieve a decent education and living standards using an aggregation method
standard of living. These dimensions are benchmarked proposed by Alkire and Foster (2011). This index is not
between the strongest and weakest global performances and included in this report as underlying survey data are out of
aggregated with an equal weight to produce the final index. date (the most recent are from 2014). Moreover, this is not
an official measure in Cambodia.
To measure human development comprehensively, there are four
further composite indices, three of which are used in this report. Index values for Cambodia appear on the following pages,
The Inequality-adjusted Human Development Index discounts with fuller details on the basis of calculation available in a
the headline HDI according to the extent of inequality in each series of technical notes published by UNDP. For more
component. The Gender Development Index compares female details, see the human development indices technical notes

The main driver of Cambodia’s The main driver of Cambodia’s striking rate Myanmar, and is close to overtaking Philippines
striking rate of improvement of improvement has been dramatic rises in life and Indonesia. Rising income has also contributed,
has been dramatic rises in expectancy (Figure 1.6), especially in remote reflecting ongoing economic growth. Education
life expectancy (Figure 1.6), and highly challenged areas. Here Cambodia has has seen continued improvements but weaker
surpassed Lao People’s Democratic Republic and relative and absolute performance.47,48
especially in remote and highly
challenged areas.

Figure 1.5.

Rapid improvements in the Human Development Index (HDI), but further catch-up is required

Source: UNDP 2018.


Figure 1.6.

Exceptional improvements in longevity have driven advances in HDI components

Source: Authors’ calculations.

Inequality in human development (as shown due mainly to a more equitable distribution of While Cambodia still faces
by the Inequality-adjusted HDI), has declined income, but also to wider access to health and higher levels of HDI inequality
somewhat in Cambodia, mirroring changes education. While Cambodia still faces higher levels than many of its neighbours,
in income distribution (Figure 1.7). Losses in of inequality than many of its neighbours, its positive its positive trajectory
human development due to inequality, given trajectory suggests its position will improve further. suggests its position will
by the divergence between the HDI and the It already suffers lower losses due to inequality improve further
inequality-adjusted index, fell from close to 29 than Lao People’s Democratic Republic, and its
percent in 1990 to 19 percent in 2017. This was performance is converging on that of Indonesia.


Figure 1.7.

Human development losses due to inequality have fallen

A positive trend has returned, Note and source: The loss in HDI due to adjusted form of the HDI,49 Cambodia has
with a narrowing of average inequality is given by the difference between moved forward on gender equality (Figure 1.8).
gender gaps in income, the Inequality-adjusted HDI and HDI scores. After several years of levelling off, a positive trend
education and life UNDP 2018 and authors’ calculations. has returned, with a narrowing of average gender
expectancy gaps in income, education and life expectancy.
Over the long run, as measured by the Gender Cambodia’s score on the index remains weaker
Figure 1.8. Development Index, which is the gender- than some of its neighbours, however.

Gender differences in human development are falling, but not fast enough

Source: Gender Development Index from UNDP 2018 and authors’ calculations.


The Gender Inequality Index offers a wider and challenges faced by women. Despite major
more demanding metric, measuring the balance improvements over time, Cambodia’s progress has
of men and women in political life and in the decelerated in recent years. It has the weakest score
economy, along with progress on the specific health within the comparator group of countries in Figure 1.9.

Figure 1.9.

Despite long-run improvements in women’s empowerment, performance has levelled off

Source: Gender Inequality Index from UNDP 2018 and authors’ calculations.

While these trends are somewhat disappointing, In 2017, Cambodia gained 13 places to rank at
other metrics paint a more favourable picture. 99 out of 144 countries.50 Underpinning this
An example is the Global Gender Gap Index change were women’s rising shares in decision-
compiled by the World Economic Forum, which making and executive positions, and higher
covers ground similar to the human development levels of participation in higher education.51
indexes but employs a wider number of indicators.


Variations at the subnational level

Examination of the dynamics of human three points in time-2005, 2010 and 2015-
development at the subnational level provides were selected as the basis of analysis. Human
key insights, and allows, in the next section, some development indexes were estimated for each of
exploration of the possible importance of natural Cambodia’s 25 provinces using various secondary
resources. Given constraints on data availability, data sources and estimation approaches (Box 1.4).52

Box 1.4.

Estimating subnational HDIs

Calculating HDIs for each province was demanding and areas were estimated using CSES per capita income data,
required making several assumptions. The results are then scaled to the national GNI. Second, provincial values
therefore estimates, rather than definitive measures of human (other than for Phnom Penh) were estimated by taking
development in cities and provinces. ratios of urban to rural incomes based on their population
shares (sourced from the census) then scaled to GNI.
Data came from three sources: the Cambodia Demographic
and Health Survey (CDHS) for mean years of schooling, the • The life expectancy index was sourced from census
Cambodia Social and Economic Survey (CSES) for income, update data, albeit with some realignment.
and the population census for life expectancy. Given mismatches
in reporting cycles, waypoints could only be approximately • For the educational index, it was only possible to source
aligned. CSES data for 2009, 2011 and 2015 were matched mean years of schooling (from the DHS); expected years
to DHS data for 2005, 2010 and 2014, and to census data for of schooling relied on the published national estimates.
2007, 2011 and 2017, respectively. Scaling used the appropriate
United Nations data for 2005, 2010 and 2015. In addition, many boundary changes took place within the
10-year period. For new provinces, past data used the parent
Several data weaknesses-imposed constraints on the quality of provincial record; for established provinces, published data
the sub-indexes: were used. Where provincial data were aggregated (mainly in
the CDHS data), the same value was used for each province.

• Estimation of the GNI index required two stages. First, per The final compilation relied on the standard HDI
capita GNIs for Phnom Penh and other urban and rural specifications. Provincial data are provided in Appendix A.

The results reveal considerable variations improvement in recent years, and there has been
between provinces over the last decade (Figure considerable convergence. While the index
1.10). Phnom Penh remains well ahead of others, for Phnom Penh was some 73 percent higher
and in 2015 was approaching the lower bound than the lowest-ranking province in 2005
of the high human development category (a (Mondulkiri), this gap declined to 67 percent
value of 0.7 and above). A cluster of remote in 2010 (when the lowest was Prey Vihear) and
rural provinces occupies the lowest places, yet was only 30 percent in 2015 (when Modulkiri
these areas have shown the highest rates of returned to the lowest position).


Figure 1.10.

Provincial HDIs vary considerably but have converged over the last 10 years

Figure 1.11 underlines the level of catch-up by cluster of provinces around the average and
the most deprived areas, notably Mondulkiri, a persistently lagging group—had by 2015
Preah Vihear and Ratanakiri. A three-group become a pattern of only two groups, namely,
pattern in 2005—Phnom Penh at the top, a Phnom Penh and the rest.

Figure 1.11.

Lagging areas are rapidly catching up

2005 2010 2015


Cambodian provinces fall The level of variation among localities is clearer the third category of “laggards”. A large number
largely into two categories: when rates of change are differentiated from are clustered around the two average values. To
traditionally lagging areas, the average level of improvement and average some extent this pattern, with lagging rural
that are quickly catching up; starting position (as in Figure 1.12). This also areas improving at a higher rate than urban
enables a four-way classification by starting core areas, is predictable, with more developed
and stronger provinces, position and performance: (Q1) those places provinces exhibiting diminishing returns as
with slower levels of with weaker initial human development position they reach higher values of the index.
improvement. but stronger performance, labelled “strivers”;
(Q2) those with stronger initial positions and HDI scores are likely to be affected by
Figure 1.12. stronger performances, the “steady and strong” migration flows from rural to urban and core
group; (Q3) those with weaker initial positions to non-core provinces during this period. The
and weak performance, a “laggard” group; and differential improvement of peripheral versus
(Q4) those with strong initial positions but weak core areas on life expectancy and education
performance, the “strong but slow” improvers. components may be a result of population
increases in urban areas and decreases in
Cambodian provinces fall largely into two rural ones, and hence over/under pressure
categories: the first, comprising traditionally on services. Economic data also suggest a
lagging areas, like Modulkiri and Preah Vihear, tightening of the agricultural sector’s relative
that are quickly catching up; and the fourth productivity, and in turn, an oversupply of
category of stronger provinces, most notably, labour in core areas that may be depressing
Phnom Penh, with slower levels of improvement. A income levels somewhat. Nevertheless, the
few provinces fall in the second “steady and strong” difference between rates of HDI improvement
category, such as Kampong Speu, but none fall in in core and peripheral areas is sizeable.

Starting point is no barrier to improvement in provincial HDIs, but also no guarantee of ongoing improvement

Source: Authors’ calculations.


Analysis of the components of the HDI at the Nevertheless, improved educational outcomes
provincial level reveals the mix of factors at work represent an obvious means of boosting future
(Figure 1.13). As is the case nationally, rapid human development, particularly in lagging
improvements in life expectancy have been a localities.
primary driver of overall human development gains
as well as the rapid catch-up in “striving” provinces. Despite continuing improvements in income, the
Underpinning this have been big improvements in economy’s contribution to human development
child and infant mortality, particularly at remote is below what might be expected given
locations. Yet this also suggests that diminishing Cambodia’s strong year-on-year growth. This is
returns will set in as these gaps close. largely explained by how the income dimension
of the HDI is calculated and Cambodia’s ongoing
Educational outcomes generally remain weaker population growth. The variability between areas
than the other components for all provinces, is also much lower. As noted, migration, which is
although there is evidence of higher rates of often driven by differential income levels,53 could
improvement in areas that were furthest behind. play a role here.

Figure 1.13.

Greater longevity is driving improvements and subnational convergence in human development

Source: Authors’ calculations.


Exploring links to natural resource management

The connections between The connections between natural resource stocks Although this account is somewhat problematic
natural resource stocks (including forests) and development are complex for this report, as it reverses the possible causal
(including forests) and and subject to ongoing debates. A common theme path (i.e. that human development influences
is the so-called resource and also forest transition, forest cover, as opposed to cover driving
development are complex whereby it is argued that natural resource stocks development), it does implicitly acknowledge
and subject to ongoing fall dramatically at the early stages of economic that the links may be bi-directional. Moreover,
debates development, with progressively slowing for countries where forest cover (or other natural
exploitation, followed by recovery at high levels resources) is an especially significant feature of
Effective resource of development. These arguments parallel the the economy and environment, natural resource
management must be concept of the so-called environmental Kuznets management is likely to be developmentally
developmentally salient, and curve, with environmental damage in nations important. The rationale for this is set out at
worsening at low income levels, peaking at the opening of this chapter in terms of both the
beyond its narrow middle income before falling back at high short-run connections (the supply of goods and
contribution to economic levels of income (drawing an analogy with the services, including amenities, and the impacts
growth, or even potentially, the claimed inverted U-shape relationship between on livelihoods, nutrition and health) and the
variables given within human inequality and GNI levels).54 Yet, like the original long-run ones (the contributions of forests to
Kuznets relation, these claims have been disputed ecosystems and the regulation of the climate).
development metrics on empirical grounds. The latter, given contributions to resilience and
human security through combating risks such
A team at the Helsinki Institute of Sustainability as floods and droughts, especially within forest
Science has shown that this relationship with communities, would be the more significant.
regard to forests has a stronger basis if human
development data are used. It found a better For Cambodia, with medium human
conditional correlation between forest cover development levels and lower middle-income
and HDI than GNI or GDP per capita.55 country status, this study implies a transition
Specifically, lower HDI countries are associated should be taking place. Global data (given
with rapidly declining forest cover, whereas very in Figure 1.14) tentatively support this, with
high HDI countries tend to have recovering some slowing in the rate of decline of forest
rates. While the team’s supporting arguments cover. Later data for 2018 (see Figure 0.2)
remain economic—that rural development and show that Cambodia retains a large forested
improved farming techniques allow forests to area (46.86 percent of Cambodia’s territory
find a market rationale (on marginal lands)— in 2018). Therefore, effective resource
the research does demonstrate an independent management must be developmentally salient,
connection between forest cover and human beyond its narrow contribution to economic
development. It stops short of claiming a causal growth, or even potentially the variables given
link, however. within human development metrics.

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