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Equitable Cambodia releases the report Bittersweet harvest

On the 17th of September 2013, Diakonia's partner organization Equitable Cambodia and the Inclusive Development Institute (IDI) released the report Bittersweet harvest, which assesses the human rights impacts of the EU’s Everything But Arms (EBA) trade scheme in Cambodia. The report states that the scheme is not helping, but is instead impoverishing Cambodian famers.

9/18/2013 Publisher: Julle Bergenholtz

The Everything But Arms (EBA) scheme

In March 2001, The European Commission adopted the EBA initiative, granting preferential access to the European market for all products except arms and ammunitions from all countries classified by the United Nations as ‘least developed’.

Cambodia has not benefitted

But even though the EBA scheme is intended to benefit the poor through job creation from export-led growth, the effect in Cambodia has not gone in that direction.  In recent years, there has been a surge in forced displacement of rural and indigenous communities resulting from large-scale land concessions for agro-industrial development.  Sugar companies, which invested in Cambodia to take advantage of the lucrative European trade preferences, have been among the worst offenders.

275 interviews conducted

Equitable Cambodia and Inclusive Development International has with regards to the situation conducted an independent human rights impact assessment of the EBA initiative in Cambodia, focusing on the sugar sector.  The assessment is based on interviews with over 275 people from the Koh Kong, Kampong Speu and Oddar Meanchey provinces whose people have faced great hardships due to the actions of the sugar industries.

Human rights at great risk

The results of the report indicate that the combination of the EU's investment spurring scheme and the Cambodian policy of granting land to large-scale companies contains great risks, especially when it comes to human rights. Many farmers have had their land sold behind their backs, and more than 1 000 men, women and children have been forced to leave their homes due to the establishment and development of the Cambodian sugar industry.

"The impacts that we have documented in Cambodia betray the fundamental purpose of Everything But Arms and the commitments that the EU has made to uphold human rights in its trade policy", says Eang Vuthy, executive director of Equitable Cambodia.

Need for real impact in the EBA policy

The forced evictions have not only lead to people having to flee their land. It has also meant that the respect of their basic human rights have decreased, including the rights to food, water and housing, as well as the right to work, the right to education and the right to health.

"I am sure that this is not what European policy-makers intended when they adopted the EBA agreement over a decade ago.  They pledged to make poverty history, but they have made it much worse for many families in my country with the type of investment that EBA promotes. The EU should be doing these sorts of assessments so they can see the real impact of their policy", adds Eang Vuthy.

All exporters must be looked in to

The report concludes that initiatives like the EBA scheme, if implemented properly, could have positive effects for the world’s poorest countries, strengthening sustainable development and the respect for human rights.  But to make this a reality, Equitable Cambodia and IDI urges the EU conduct to examine the exporters seeking to benefit from the EBA scheme to ensure that they uphold core human rights standards and in order for the people of Cambodia to start benefitting from the scheme.