Legal Aid Funding in Cambodia

            One of the main challenges of working in legal aid is the lack of steady funding.  IBJ has consistently shown that its work is surpassing the goals set out for it, yet still has much trouble securing funding for the future.  One of our most significant grants will finish at the end of this year, and the donor is changing their focus for where their grant money will be spent, and as a result there is no chance at renewing for the future. Currently, at work we are spending a lot of time working on final reports and presentations for this grant.  The report is a summary of how the project met its goals based on a series of interviews that have been conducted over the course of the last three years.  

             In Cambodia, it is really difficult to find specific statistics of how situations have changed, especially in provinces,  so as a result we have to rely heaving on qualitative information.   Twice a year, several IBJ staff go to each province and speak to a spectrum of justice stakeholders who work there.  As part of my work I went through and analyzed the results of the interviews and created a form that would show how interview answers have changed over time.  Despite my skepticism over qualitative results initially, it has been really interesting to see how over time justice stakeholders answers have changed and you can really see where actual change has occurred.  Further, in some instances the changes shown have been unexpected.  A community legal awareness program was meant to educate people on the law so they could be more aware and able to advocate for themselves, but also had the side effect of decreasing crime as people were either more deterred or simply more aware of the laws.

             It is a condition of most grants that upon completion they receive a report on how the program they funded went and whether it was successful.  These reports also help in hopefully helping adding to IBJ's reputation, so that if funds are available in the future it will look like a good choice.

            This week I went to the world bank office in Phnom Penh to ask them a few questions about a potential source of funding that I had been reading about online, but had not got any responses back about when I emailed and called them.   I biked down the street to their building about three miles away, got a pass from security to go inside, and a few people spoke to me about it within fifteen minutes, it was remarkably simple.   Unfortunately, they told me that right now they did not have money to give out,  as they did not use the funding program I wanted to speak about,  and were not able to help me.  The World Bank used to lend very heavily to Cambodian development,  but in 2010 stopped lending after a very publicized dispute at Boeung Kak Lake where thousands of people were evicted from their land.   The World Bank had been lending to an organization expected to secure land rights for these people, however clearly they were unsuccessful in this regard.  There is talk of this ban being lifted in the future,  hopefully if this occurs there is more guidance over the how the money is spent and it can go to organizations who have consistently shown really positive efforts like IBJ.