With AFSC Support, China finds New Role in Assisting Developing Countries
From September 13 – 18, 2010 in Phnom Penh, Cambodia, with the
sponsorship and support of the AFSC, China implemented its first
overseas training in environmental protection. The forty participants
included top officials and environmental officers from the Cambodian
Ministry of Environment, government officials from line Ministries,
environmental consultants, and NGO representatives.
Why a Training in Environmental Impact Assessment (EIA)?
In Cambodia, foreign investment has polluted and destroyed rivers, lakes
and forest resources. It has ruined livelihoods, taken away access to
land and resources, often without compensation to local communities. As
investment activities have grown, violent conflict has erupted between
indigenous people and investment project holders, generating
catastrophic losses on both sides. Although China now is the primary
source of foreign direct investment in Cambodia, often policy advisors,
policy makers (and even project holders in China) are not aware of
governance issues, local concerns or of the violence that has occurred.
China already has developed an advanced framework in EIA, which it
regularly uses to stop abusive projects and to penalize companies that
violate standards. The Chinese Appraisal Center for Environment and
Engineering (ACEE) operates under China's Ministry of Environmental
Protection (MEP) and provides training, drafts laws, and provides
advisory reports on environmental issues. ACEE has played a very
important role in the development and advancement of this framework.
In late 2009, the Cambodian Ministry of Environment asked AFSC for
assistance in building environmental impact assessment as a means of
tackling environmental problems. Following this request, the Northeast
Asia Quaker International Affairs Representative, Jason Tower,
approached ACEE to see whether they might have an interest in advancing
an EIA framework in Cambodia.
China Assists a Neighbor
While China is already a major source of overseas developmental
assistance (ODA), it has traditionally focused on building
infrastructure and roads, and less on developing local capacity. Seeing
China's role as the top investor in a country without standards or
guidelines for EIA, ACEE expressed a strong interest in providing
assistance in this area. In collaboration with the NEA QIAR program and
AFSC staff in Cambodia, the ACEE sent two EIA experts to Cambodia in May
2010 to conduct a needs assessment.
With a clear sense of the role that they could play in preventing future
conflicts over environment and resources in Cambodia, ACEE planned a
week-long training program for the Cambodian Ministry and local NGOs. A
team of seven experts from ACEE then spent the next three months
preparing a training manual and other course materials.
With AFSC's support, the September training course was held in Cambodia
and was a tremendous learning experience for Cambodians. Hearing from
Cambodians about their lack of capacity in impact assessment, the sheer
number of destructive projects being implemented, and about China's role
as the number one investor in the country, the Chinese trainers gained a
sense of ownership in the project.
Before leaving, the ranking member of ACEE, Liu Weisheng ,told senior
Cambodian government officials that upon returning to China, he would
advise the Chinese government to provide Cambodia with technical
assistance in developing a stronger EIA framework. Mr. Liu also relayed
his suggestion to the Chinese media. The Southern Weekend, which
Chinese and international observers often compare to the New York Times,
ran a story on the training activity under the headline Chinese
Trainers, Cambodian Students on October 7, 2010. AFSC's translation of
this article is available here.
ACEE told AFSC staff that its involvement in this activity has
demonstrated to the Chinese MEP and the Chinese government an important
role that it can play in developing capacity to prevent environmental
damage in poor countries, and especially in countries where China is a
Related Documents: Chinese Trainers, Cambodian Students (English
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