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ClientEarth Communications

1st September 2023

Environment and Natural Resources Code officially announced in the Kingdom of Cambodia

An essential new Environment and Natural Resources (ENR) Code has been adopted in Cambodia. The code, signed and endorsed by the King on 29 June 2023 is an important milestone in Cambodia. Deforestation, illegal sand mining and other environmental issues are common in the Kingdom, which has reportedly lost more than a quarter of its tree cover since 2000.

The ENR Code was developed by the Ministry of Environment in consultation with legal experts, NGOs, and the United Nations Development Programme. It had been in development since 2015, with more than 10 versions drafted since that time. Its initial aim was to significantly and comprehensively reform Cambodia's environmental law framework.

It covers areas such as:

  • Duties and roles of ministerial institutions and subnational authorities responsible for environmental and natural resources governance;
  • Overarching relevant principles, for example, the principle of sustainable development, the principle of public participation, the polluter pays principle, etc;
  • Environmental management and sustainability mechanisms;
  • Biodiversity;
  • Climate change;
  • Water and mining and mineral management
  • Cultural and natural heritage conservation and management;
  • Management of protected areas, coastal and marine environments;
  • Forests;
  • Fisheries;
  • Funding and financing.
  • Environmental harm responsibility

Although full review and analysis of the extensive and lengthy piece of legislation has yet to be completed, it is a cause for celebration for the civil societies that had anticipated it for many years.

Recently, Cambodia has also ramped up efforts to reform three laws related to natural resources governance: the Protected Area Law (2008), the Law on Forestry (2002), and the Law on Fisheries (2006).

While the reform processes are ongoing, there seem to be tentative plans to cancel official amendment of the Protected Area Law, as the revised draft of the Protected Area Law that was under development appears to have been largely incorporated into the ENR Code.

However, leaving the 2008 Protected Area Law as-is is a missed opportunity to improve the legal framework governing protected areas, and also could cause legal confusion for those navigating the governance framework related to protected areas as the ENR Code and the Protected Area Law are not perfectly harmonized and consistent.

Sath Kanyara, Independent National Consultant for ClientEarth in Cambodia, said “ENR Code helps strengthen governance of environmental and natural resources in Cambodia and improve public participation to access environmental information.

It also has the potential to strengthen the rights of local communities dependent on natural resources and the forest. One of the key components of the ENR Code increase duration of agreement as Community protected Areas from 15 up to 25 years. This can significantly increase rights to access and management of natural resources that the local communities are dependent on.

It also helps to transfer decision-making power from national and sub-national authorities to the local level for greater governance, management, protection, conservation, restoration of natural resources, biodiversity, protection of cultural heritage and promotion of sustainable living.”

ClientEarth is hopeful that the ENR Code provides a strong opportunity to improve environmental governance in Cambodia, with greater consideration and inclusion of indigenous peoples and local communities.

We are now focused on contributing to implementation of the ENR Code – it is anticipated that further sub-decrees will be issued in the future for purposes of implementing the ENR Code. We are working in close consultation with our local partners on the ground to analyse the ENR Code to raise awareness, develop capacity building activities, and assist with development of needed sub-decrees; working toward the ultimate goal of improving conditions for Cambodia’s natural environment and its people.

The Environment and Natural Resources (ENR) Code was adopted on 30 May 2023 by the Cambodian National Assembly and approved by the Senate on 13 June 2023. This was then signed and endorsed by His Majesty Preah Bat Samdech Preah Boromneath Norodom Sihamoni, King of Cambodia, on June 29 and released to the public on July 5.

For more information, access the ENR Code (Khmer version) here.