17th July 2012
Troubled Australian aid project to restart in Cambodia: AusAID dodging transparency
AID/WATCH condemns the restarting of the troubled Cambodian Railways Project just months after Toll Royal Railways suspended it, without any meaningful resolution to the problems it has caused.
In February, AID/WATCH released a report on the Cambodian Railways Project that detailed these problems including a botched resettlement process that had put families in danger and landed many others in debt. Civil society organizations that had raised issues with the project had been threatened with closure by the Cambodian Government and in one case shut down.
“We have yet to see any meaningful resolution to the issues identified by AID/WATCH and Cambodian civil society” said AID/WATCH Manager Gareth Bryant.
“Families who were relocated forcibly and lost much of their income are still struggling after taking on crippling loans – all of which is against AusAID policies. The Asian Development Bank has demonstrated its inability to manage the project, with a leaked report showing workers living in terrible conditions and lacking even basic facilities – Toll’s only accountability is to its shareholders, not to the communities the project is displacing – this is why development and profit should not mix”.
AID/WATCH is also calling for key documents concerning resettlement in the project to be released. AID/WATCH put in a Freedom of Information Request to access an independent consultant’s report on the resettlement process but was denied access by AusAID on the grounds that the release of the documents would threaten Australia’s relationship with Cambodia.
“If these documents damage the international relations of Australia, it will only be through the revelation of bad development practice. It is not reasonable to Australian taxpayers to not be informed where their tax dollars are going, especially in large infrastructure projects” said Mr.Bryant.
Last year AusAID signed a transparency charter that stated Australia’s commitment to releasing project documents in order to achieve effective aid that helps people to overcome poverty.
“Denying the release of these documents flies in the face of Australia’s commitment to transparency. These reports would allow civil society to hold AusAID and others to account for their actions. By withholding them, AusAID are encouraging poor development practice and blocking an opportunity for victims of the botched relocation process to gain justice”.
For further information, contact Gareth Bryant on 0432 050 722