The American and Cambodian people share a common desire to protect the Earth’s valuable natural resources to achieve sustainable development, reverse trends leading to climate change, and conserve wildlife and biodiversity for future generations. The United States has invested more than $100 million in programs that combat these problems in Cambodia through the U.S. Agency for International Development (USAID).
Although Cambodia has made some important strides in environmental protection, the United States has repeatedly expressed concerns about persistent high deforestation rates in protected areas, particularly in the Prey Lang Wildlife Sanctuary where USAID has invested significant resources. We have urged increased cooperation between the Cambodian government and local communities and civil society to find solutions to protect Prey Lang and the natural heritage of the Kingdom for the benefit of all Cambodians and the world.
Unfortunately, the situation is worsening. Since 2016, despite USAID’s support for increased ranger patrols, training of law enforcement, and development of a national protected area management system, the Prey Lang Wildlife Sanctuary has lost approximately 38,000 hectares of forest, nearly nine percent of its forest cover. Well-documented illegal logging continues in and around the Prey Lang Wildlife Sanctuary, and Cambodian authorities have not adequately prosecuted wildlife crimes or put a stop to these illicit activities. In addition, the government continues to silence and target local communities and their civil society partners who are justifiably concerned about the loss of their natural resources.
As a result of these unresolved concerns, the United States is ending assistance to government entities under the USAID Greening Prey Lang project. This U.S. assistance will instead be redirected to support civil society, the private sector, and local efforts to improve livelihoods and expand climate sensitive agriculture. The United States will continue to engage the Cambodian government on climate change and environmental issues of mutual and global concern, including through the Mekong-U.S. Partnership.
As we celebrate World Environment Day this month, we are reminded that effective environmental management requires transparent and accountable governance. The United States affirms the indispensable roles that freedom of expression, peaceful protest, and government accountability to citizens play in maintaining strong democratic practices in all development sectors, including the protection of the Kingdom’s valuable natural resources.