Tag Archives: Phnom Penh

Improving Tenure Security for the Urban Poor – Phnom Penh, Cambodia

Funding body: Funded jointly by Cities AllianceUN-Habitat and GTZ .

The project followed on from a research project funded by the UK Department for International Development (DFID) to assess the tenure situation facing the urban poor in Phnom Penh during March and April 2002. The subsequent project has sought to develop innovative approaches to providing secure tenure for the urban poor in Phnom Penh as part of the capital’s social and economic development strategy. It has adopted an incremental approach to increasing formal tenure status and property rights to all informal settlements for a short initial period, during which surveys would identify those settlements considered suitable for in-situ upgrading and those which would need to be relocated. For those settlements to be upgraded, the objective has been to integrate them into the formal tenure system over time, in order to minimise speculative pressure, protect tenants from rapid rent increases and minimise distortion in land markets.
The main objectives of the project are to:

  1. Improve security for urban low-income households in Phnom Penh by offering residents of informal settlements in environmentally hazardous or economically strategic locations, Temporary Occupation Licenses (TOLs), and those in other areas longer terms of tenure security.
  2. Undertake a regulatory audit or review of the present urban planning regulations, planning standards and administrative procedures to identify options for reducing the cost of entry to legal and affordable shelter, thereby reducing the need for future slum formation;
  3. Identify available sites for Guided Land Development or other innovative approaches within the present urban boundaries to which households in environmentally hazardous or economically strategic locations can be moved before the expiration of their TOLs, unless applications to extend these are agreed, in which case such relocation will be on a voluntary basis. Residents of areas where TOLs are allocated will be encouraged to participate in the planning and form of such new developments;
  4. To strengthen the capability of central and local government agencies to undertake pro-poor programs for upgrading and new urban development.

Duration: March 2003 – October 2004

Project outputs:

  1. Four project reports (Inception, Workshop, Progress and Final Reports).
  2. Design and undertake settlement survey of informal settlements to identify those suitable for in-situ upgrading and those for relocation.
  3. Recommendations on changes to tenure system. A Summary of these recommendations can be found in ‘Getting ahead of the game’ (G.Payne) Environment & Urbanization Vol 17, No 1 April 2005.

In 2001, research carried out on tenure issues in Cambodia by Geoffrey Payne and Dr Beng Socheat Khemro demonstrated the potential for innovative approaches to improving tenure security for the urban poor. On completion of the project, a request was made by the Royal Government of Cambodia for assistance in developing practical options for improving secure tenure and a proposal was submitted to Cities Alliance, UN-Habitat (Fukuoka) and GTZ (Cambodia) for funding. This was approved and work commenced in March 2003

The project is based on research undertaken as part of an international research project funded by DFID with support from UN-HABITAT to assess progress in the provision of secure tenure for the urban poor in ten countries. Cambodia was one of the major case study countries, together with the Philippines, and fieldwork for the research was carried out in Phnom Penh during March and April 2002. The research demonstrated that there is a wide range of land tenure and property rights systems in Phnom Penh each of which forms part of a continuum in terms of the degree of security and rights they provide. It also demonstrated that the present policy of relocating residents of unauthorized slum settlements has increased poverty by removing poor households long distances from the central locations in which they earn their livelihoods. It has also discouraged households able to afford improvements from doing so. A subsequent workshop involving representatives of central and local government, international donor agencies and local civil society groups accepted that a range of alternative approaches deserved to be tested to see if they could meet the needs of the urban poor, whilst encouraging investment in the city and improving its environment. The research report presented some initial proposals to the Ministry of Land Management, Urban Development and Construction and the Municipality of Phnom Penh.

On completion of the project, a request was made by the Royal Government of Cambodia for assistance in developing practical options for improving secure tenure and a proposal was submitted to Cities Alliance, UN-Habitat (Fukuoka) and GTZ (Cambodia) for funding. This was approved and work commenced in March 2003. This subsequent project was intended to build on the City Development Strategy currently in its final stages.
The project comprised proposals for four phases, as follows:

  1. Phase 1: Undertake a regulatory audit or review of the present planning regulations, standards and administrative procedures affecting access to legal shelter.
  2. Phase 2: Identify existing unauthorised settlements in environmentally hazardous or economically strategic locations and identify available sites for Guided Land Development projects.
  3. Phase 3: Issue Temporary Occupation Licenses and detailed plans prepared for a Guided Land Development.
  4. Phase. 4: Reports prepared on research studies in Siem Reap and Battambang and Guided Land Development. Workshops to be held and final reports prepared.

The project recommended that security of tenure be increased on an incremental basis for residents in informal settlements on selected state private land as well as state public land. The reason for this incremental approach, rather than the conventional approach of providing full individual titles to households in informal settlements was to prevent a dramatic increase in land values within inner city settlements. This was considered undesirable in that it would:

  1. Encourage many residents to sell their houses, probably for less than their new value to developers and speculators
  2. Encourage such sellers to invade other state land in an attempt to repeat the process
  3. Increase rents or lead to the eviction of existing tenants, who represented the poorest social groups
  4. Place an excessive burden on the existing administrative agencies responsible for surveying informal settlements and issuing titles.

For these reasons, an initial Moratorium on Relocations and Evictions (MORE) was proposed in order to guarantee residents in all informal settlements a minimum period of security for a period of up to nine months. During this period, criteria were developed and surveys carried out to identify any informal settlements which would need to be relocated because they are on land needed for a public purpose, or which is environmentally unsuitable for housing. Discussions were held with the relevant authorities to confirm the list. However, the Municipality considered that residents may interpret a moratorium as providing longer term tenure and the proposal was not adopted.

Following this decision, it was proposed to move directly to the second stage of providing a Communal Land Right (CLR) to designated informal settlements to be upgraded in-situ as part of the RGC policy announced in May, 2003 of upgrading 100 slums a year for five years. It was intended to introduce this in selected settlements during late 2003 and early 2004. This would have enabled the project objectives of providing practical improvements to tenure security to be realised within the project period and provided a framework for introducing longer term tenure arrangements (Communal Land Titles) within a five year period covered by the CLR. Any household still wanting to obtain individual titles would be free to do so provided they resolved any competing claims, agreed borders with their neighbours and paid the associated survey and registration costs.

After many discussions with key persons responsible for the legal framework on land issues at the Ministry of LMUPC, the conclusion was reached that a CLR could be issued once a sub-decree on registering urban poor communities was approved. Since Cambodia has no such sub-decree, it is recommended that this be drafted and approved by RGC as soon as possible.

The World Bank Asian Workshop on Land Issues

The 3 day workshop in June 2002 brought together an outstanding group of policy makers and experts in the land policy field and saw presentations by representatives from most Asian countries, international agencies and academic institutions from around the world. The workshop, held in Phnom Penh, Cambodia was to discuss land policy issues in Asia with a key note presentation by Professor Michael Lipton of Sussex University. Michael set the tone for the workshop with a paper which advocated increased support for rural areas and agrarian land reform. Most presentations that followed also had a rural focus (despite the fact that Asia has some of worlds largest urban conurbations and increasing levels of urbanisation). Geoffrey Payne responded to the only major paper on urban land issues, which was presented by Michael Kirk of the University of Marburg, Germany. The conference organisers are proposing to set up a network of professionals interested in the subject of land policy in Asia. Watch this space! 

You can check out the programme, topics and case studies of the World Bank Workshop on Land Issues here.

The book, ‘Land Rights and Innovation’ was also launched in Phnom Penh. Yet again all free copies went very quickly. If you are interested in obtaining a copy, and reading the back page blurb, see the GPA book section.