Risk assessment and management

By OUM Pisey
Ministry of Environment, Cambodia

Implementation of Article 19
Institutional Arrangement for Biotechnology
Capacity Development
Capacity Building
Regional Cooperation Mechanism

'Mr.OUM is a national Project Coordinator for NBSAP Add-On in Cambodia.

I. Introduction

Biosafety and Biotechnology is new for Cambodia, even though they have been applied partly in the country. The government is trying hard to put it into a formal framework for its implementation through the National Biodiversity Strategy and Action Plan, which consists of 98 priority actions and 17 thematic areas. Only one action among the 98 priority actions is dealing with a strategy for development and implementation of a biosafety.

In relation to the biosafety, humans have been manipulating organisms and exploiting their biological processes and characteristics for thousands of years. The earlier forms of biotechnology -selectively breeding animals and plants and using micro organisms to make, among other things, wine, beer, bread, cheese or soy products- have been adapted by societies around the world and have steadily improved over time. These traditional or conventional techniques are still used today in rural areas and industry alike and differ merely in sophistication and scale. In Cambodia, traditional biotechnology has been in use for hundreds of year for plant and animal selection, beer, soy products and rice and palm wine production.

In the last thirty years, new, more powerful techniques have emerged to supplement the traditional techniques. Some of these new techniques -tissue culture, cell fusion, embryo transfer, recombinant DNA technology and novel bioprocessing techniques- have enabled scientists to grow whole organisms from single cells, fuse, different cell types to create hybrids with the qualities of both parent cells, impregnate animals with embryos from other valuable animals, isolate genes from one organism to insert them into another and process things such as food and waste, more efficiently. Some modern biotechnological techniques are presently being used to help conserve biological diversity and sustainable use its components, in particular, genetic resources.

But to many people genetic engineering is biotechnology. With genetic engineering techniques, a gene for a particular trait from one organism can be directly inserted into another, even if the two organisms are not from the same species. The potential power of genetic engineering has captured the imagination of many, and heightened concern over the ethics of its use, safety for humans and the environment and the socio-economic impact of its product.

Biotechnology potentially offers benefits for human welfare, but many people are concerned that greater use of the products of biotechnology is not without risks to biological diversity and human health. Such risks will have to be identified and appropriately managed or controlled before new product enters the environment (Adapted from IUCN, 1997. Guide to the Convention on Biological Diversity).

The Convention on Biological Diversity and the newly adopted protocol on Biosafety require each contracting party to take steps to regulate, manage or control the risks to biological diversity and human health posed by the use and release of living modified organisms (LMOs) likely to have adverse environmental impacts. Parties may implement a program to address the risks through a hierarchy of measures - regulation, management or other means of control (Cambodia NBSAP, 2002).

Main Issues:
1. Lack of capacity in the field of modern biotechnology.
2. Lack of protection measures against living modified organisms.

The goals for biosafety and biotechnology is to:

· Develop biotechnology education while preventing environmental and health hazards associated with the use and release of living modified organisms.
· Protect indigenous Biodiversity from the introduction and use of living modified organisms.

to the top

II. Implementation of Article 19

In implementing the article 19 of the CBD Convention, the Royal Government of Cambodia, led by Ministry of Environment has formulated the National Biodiversity Strategy and Action Plan (NBSAP) in 2002. The NBSAP in page 53 clearly addressed the action for biotechnology and biosafety management. The NBSAP is positively signed by the government in May 2002. This is the first time for Cambodia to implement and pay a close look on biosafety and biotechnology even though its adoption of modern technology is low.

Under the NBSAP, it indicates the strategic objective for the government to take care and build the its own capacity for biosafety.

1. Develop a national strategy on Biosafety (decree adopted by Government).
2. Develop national capacity in the field of modern biotechnology (number of students or experts reached by training programs)

Because, most of biosafety and biotechnology is related to agriculture, priority action has been given to Ministry of Agriculture, Fisheries and Forestry to coordinate in implementing the action. It addressed that " Development and implementation of a Biosafety strategy and action plan in compliance with the international protocol on Biosafety (MAFF, MIME, MOE & MOC).

to the top

III. Institutional Arrangement for Biotechnology

The Ministry of Environment is playing a crucial role in setting a policy for biosafety and biotechnology including developing a number of action plans, rule and regulations in relation to the biodiversity protection and conservation of natural resources such National Wetland Action Plan and National Biodiversity Strategy and Action Plan. However, because most of genetic resource lies more within the agricultural sector than in the environmental sector, a coordinating role seems lying with Ministry of Agriculture Forestry and Fisheries (MAFF). MIME and MOC are also involved in implementing the biosafety and biotechnology as an assisting agency.

IV. Capacity Development

Capacity development for biosafety and biotechnology is limited as it has happened in other sectors like the capacity to implement the NBSAP of involved line ministries in terms of individual, institutional and systemic capacity. The NBSAP Add-On (2002) is identifying the capacity needs for relevant line ministries including MOE and MAFF to implement the priority actions from NBSAP.

The capacity development will be built on individual, institutional, and systemic. The big problem lied within the institutional capacity to implement the NBSAP including the biosafety thematic area. There should be a commitment of policy change from the government side to ensure the effective implementing the NBSAP document.

Government institutions are facing many constraints both at national and local levels, both of which are hampered by the unstable political situation and lack of financial resources. More specifically constraints exist in the areas of human resources, law enforcement, management systems and finances:

Þ Inadequate knowledge, skill and experience among responsible persons, officers and staff in the provincial government institutions in the field of coastal resources and environmental management. Also at the village level there is generally a lack of awareness on causes and effects in the process of environmental degradation;

Þ Existing laws are not well implemented due to the following constraints; 'political' influence, uncontrolled development, wealthy people's interests and technical constraints (such as; human resources, monitoring equipment, local awareness of the laws and lack of provincial power in the control of natural resource use);

Þ There is a large degree of crossover in the existing management system whereby more than one ministry shares responsibility, leading to management overlaps and conflicts between and among the responsible authorities. The current move to centralization has added to the confusion, as the lines of authority are unclear; and

Þ The main income for the provinces and municipalities comes from the government budget, from tax collection. However, only a small amount of the taxes collected are used for the provinces and municipalities and typically only small amounts go to the provinces, and as such they have difficulty in collecting money for their budgetary needs. Currently Cambodia is generally dependent on foreign financial assistance. The lack of funds from both internal and external sources prevents the ministries and other agencies from fulfilling their mandates.

Individual capacity is increasingly developed within involved ministries on the assistance from foreign donors, however, low salary cannot keep overseas trained staff to work for the ministry for a longer period. Finance is also a problem since the government gives priority to human resource development and poverty alleviation. Biosafety and biodiversity is not in that priority except from external aid. Fortunately, it is one of 17 thematic areas in the NBSAP that the government would approve in late May 2002 for implementation.

This kind of risk can be well managed unless a policy change the from line ministries toward human resource development and institutional commitment for capacity development in this field.

to the top

V. Capacity Building

Capacity needs for urgent development to reduce risk for biosafety and biotechnology have to build on the individual capacity, the institution capacity and the capacity for the whole system.

Increase knowledge for involved ministries' officers to employ and avoid the risk from biotechnology. This should be addressed through regional and international cooperation human resource development or bilateral agreement. Learning-by-doing is an essential process to constantly build the capacity for officers to effectively use the biosafety in relevant sectors.

Institutional capacity should also be strengthened to reflect the capability to handle the biosafety in terms of technology transfer, ability to absorb the technology, national rules and regulations that can be enforceable. Sustainable finance is essential too to keep the institution working and ensure the effective implementation of biosafety priority action and the law enforcement.

Systemic capacity needs to be improved to avoid well trained officers quitting a job from the ministries, otherwise ministries would still need the capacity to implement the biosafety. Also, the government should make a strong commitment to make an administration reform to increase salary for government employees to ensure the keep employees work for the government, to promote transparency and accountability as an effort to elevate the capacity for its system. This would complement to build the capacity for the institution and individual as well.

to the top

VI. Regional Cooperation Mechanism

Biosafety and biotechnology is a new frontier for Cambodia to address through inter-ministerial and international cooperation. However, Cambodia more or less has achieved this through its commitment in accession to a number of international conventions.

Convention on Biological Diversity (CBD)

The United Nations Convention on Biological Diversity was adopted in June 1992 at the United Nations Conference on Environment and Development (UNCED) in Rio de Janeiro. Article 1 of the Convention specifies that; the objectives of the Convention, are the conservation of biological diversity, the sustainable use of its components and the fair and equitable sharing of the benefits arising out of the utilization of genetic resources.

On 9 February 1995, Cambodia ratified the Convention on Biological Diversity (CBD). The Ministry of Environment views the CBD as a framework to achieve sustainable development through the sustainable use and protection of biodiversity. Currently a GEF funded Enabling Activity is working to assist Cambodia to meet the requirements of the CBD, and develop the Cambodian Biodiversity Strategy and Action Plan, which will guide the country's approach for achieving sustainable development.

Convention on Climate Change (CCC)

Cambodia ratified this Convention on 18 December 1995. The Convention's objective is to regulate levels of greenhouse gas concentrations in the atmosphere so as to avoid a change in the global climate to a degree that would be harmful to economic development and that would impede food production activities. Currently a GEF funded Enabling Activity is working to assist Cambodia meet the requirements of the CCC.

Convention on Wetlands of International Importance (Ramsar Convention)

In 1996 Cambodia's National Assembly approved a ministerial request to accede to this Convention, and in 1999 became a Contracting Party to the Convention. The Ramsar Convention has the aim of stemming the progressive encroachment upon, and loss of, freshwater and coastal wetlands. There are 3 proposed Ramsar sites that have been nominated in Cambodia: Boeung Chhma and the associated river system (Siem Reap/Kampong Thom); Kaoh Kapik and associated islets (Koh Kong); and the upper Mekong River to the border of Laos PDR (Stung Treng).

Convention on International Trade in Endangered Species (CITES)

Cambodia signed the CITES Convention in December 1975, but did not adhere to it until 1999. CITES establishes lists of endangered species for which international trade is either prohibited or regulated through a permit system. The objective is to combat illegal trade and overexploitation.

United Nations Convention on the Law of the Seas (UNCLOS)

UNCLOS came in to force in 1994. This convention establishes numerous rights and obligations for conservation of marine living resources and biodiversity, and protection of the marine environment in a way, which complements the Convention on Biological Diversity. For the conservation of living marine resources (article 61), Cambodia's UNCLOS obligations are:
Þ To determine the allowable catch of the living resources in the Exclusive Economic Zone (EEZ);
Þ To ensure proper conservation and management measures to avoid overexploitation of living resources in the EEZ;
Þ To take such measures to restore populations of harvested species at levels which can promote the maximum sustainable yield; and
Þ To contribute and exchange available scientific information, catch and fishing effort statistics and other data relevant to the conservation of fish stocks through competent international, regional and local organizations.

Convention Concerning the Protection of World Cultural and Natural Heritage (World Heritage Convention)

Cambodia became a signatory in January 1994. The World Heritage Convention has the objective of creating international support for the protection and maintenance of sites demonstrating outstanding cultural and natural heritage of universal value. The temples of Angkor are on the World Heritage list as a cultural site of international significance.

Convention on the Prevention of Marine Pollution from Ships (MARPOL)

Cambodia ratified the MARPOL convention in November 1994. The Convention deals with various forms of marine pollution from ships and other vessels. In Cambodia's case the implementation of MARPOL is the responsibility of the Harbor Master Office of the International Port of Sihanoukville.

International Plant Protection Convention (IPPC)

The purpose of the IPPC is to secure common and effective action to prevent the spread and introduction of pests of plants and plant products and to promote measures for their control. Cambodia adhered to the convention in 1952.
Cambodia has also joined various regional agreements with surrounding countries, which are of relevance to biodiversity management, use and protection. These agreements include: specific country agreements with Laos PDR, Thailand and Vietnam; ASEAN - Agreement on the Conservation of Nature and Natural Resources; Mekong River Commission (MRC); COBSEA - Coordinating Body of the Seas of East Asia; and PEMSEA - Partnerships in Environmental Management for the Seas of East Asia.

ASEAN - Agreement on the Conservation of Nature and Natural Resources

Cambodia became a signatory to ASEAN in April 1999. ASEAN has called for measures to combat climate change and ozone depletion, protect ocean and marine ecosystems from pollution, protect freshwater resources, ensure sustainable management of all forests and conserve biological diversity.

Mekong River Commission (MRC)

The Agreement, signed on 5 April 1995, immediately established the Mekong River Commission (MRC) replacing the former Mekong Committee (1957) and the subsequent Interim Mekong Committee (1978). The MRC is an intergovernmental organization, with the mandate "to cooperate in and promote, in a constructive and mutually beneficial manner, the sustainable development, utilization, conservation and management of the Mekong River Basin water and related resources for navigational and non-navigational purposes, for social and economic development and the well-being of all riparian States, consistent with the needs to protect, preserve, enhance and manage the environmental and aquatic conditions and maintenance of the ecological balance exceptional to this river basin".

The four members agree "to cooperate in all fields of sustainable development, utilization, management and conservation of the water and related resources of the Mekong River Basin, including, but not limited to irrigation, hydro-power, navigation, flood control, fisheries, timber floating, recreation and tourism, in a manner to optimize the multiple-use and mutual benefits of all riparian countries and to minimize the harmful effects that might result from natural occurrences and man-made activities".

COBSEA - UNEP Coordinating Body of the Seas of East Asia

COBSEA was established in 1981, at the same time as the action plan for "the protection and management of the marine environment and coastal areas of the East Asian region" was adopted. The present coverage includes the marine and coastal environments of; Australia, Brunei, Darussalam, Cambodia, China, Indonesia, Malaysia, Myanmar, the Philippines, Singapore, Thailand and Vietnam. Cambodia became a member of COBSEA in 1995 but for political and economic reasons, Cambodia has not paid the Environmental Trust Fund to COBSEA since 1997.

PEMSEA - Partnerships in Environmental Management for Seas of East Asia

PEMSEA, a project of the Global Environment Facility, is an initiative supported by the United Nations Development Program (UNDP) and the International Maritime Organization (IMO). PEMSEA was launched in April 2000 and is made up of 11 countries including; Brunei, Darussalam, Cambodia, China, Democratic People's Republic of Korea, Indonesia, Japan, Malaysia, Philippines, Republic of Korea, Singapore, Thailand and Vietnam. PEMSEA was organized to protect the life support systems, and enable the sustainable use and management of, coastal and marine resources through intergovernmental, interagency and intersectoral partnerships, for improved quality of life in the East Asian Seas region.

Country Agreements

There is a range of cooperative agreements between the Governments of Cambodia, Thailand, Laos and Vietnam, on a variety of regional issues. These agreements include; natural resource management and capacity building and typically cover cross-boundary issues as well as specific cooperation, such as between educational institutions.

to the top

VII. Recommendations

Based on the current status of the biosafety and biotechnology of Cambodia, following recommendations are eventually raised to improve the biosafety and biotechnology:

§ Initiate research and studies on microbial Biodiversity.
§ Use of biotechnology to reduce the use of chemicals.
§ Use of biotechnology to control pollution and to improve environmental health and other aspects of environment.
§ Utilize biotechnology to produce protein rich products that could be used as animal feed organic fertilizers, soil conditioners and soil stabilizers.
§ Promote sound genetic manipulation to increase fish and crop production.
§ Promote the production of biogas, bio-fertilizers, and energy as a by-product of fermentation processes.
§ Establish a national directory of human resources working on subjects concerned with biotechnology and Biosafety.
§ Development of biotechnology training program.
§ Increasing university resources in biotechnology research and development.
§ Include in the educational curricula the concept of genetic diversity, its importance and application in genetic engineering and technology.
§ Develop a National Code of Ethics and Guidelines for the use of biotechnologies, LMO's and GMO's (Cambodia NBSAP, 2002).

to the top


1. National Biodiversity Strategy and Action Plan, 2002. Ministry of Environment, Cambodia.

VIII. Annex

List of Contact Persons And Line Ministries for Biodiversity

Name Institutions Positions contacts
Mr.Tong Saru MoE.Dep A
Mr.Un Chhaley Koh Kong coc
Mr. Thao Sokunthia Royal University PP
Mr. Eam Nga CDC
Mr.Nop Nimol MoE.Dep E
Mr.Pech Sithan Prek Leap
Mr. Chan Narith Chamkardong
Mr. Texier Fermand PP Inst Tech
Mr.Vong Sarun Forestry Institute
Mrs.Cheng Chanthol MB
Mr.Joe Walston WCS
Mr.Ouen PMMR
Mrs.Tine Feldman UNDP
Ettiene Cambodia Bird news
Mr.Asier Segurd UNESCO
Mr.David Ashwell Global Witness
Mr.Men Phimean WPO
Mr.Nao Thouk Fisheries
Mr.Chay Samith MoP.Director B
Mr.Pen Vuth Deputy DirectorAgronomy
Mr.Em Samy Dep.Fisheries
Mr.Samreth Chedtha Phirum CDC
Mr.Sam Khandy MoE DepE
Mr.Frank Momberg FFI
Mr.Seng Kim Hout MRC Wetlands
Mr.Jake Brunner CI
Mr.Mem Soriyun WCS
Mr.Meng Monyrak MoE Dep
Mr.Heng Kim Chay WPO
Mr.Lay Khim MoE GEF/Biodiversity
Mr.Chak Sokha Vicheaboth MoE DepB
Mr.Neou Bonheur TCU
Mr.Chea Chan Ton MoP
Mr.Net Neath WCS
Mr.Dave Mead CI
Ms.Pum Vichet WB-Virachey
Ms.Suwana Gauntlett Wild Aid
Ms.Tan Sokhom NGO Forum
Mr.Jack Hurd WWF
Mr.Hunter Weiler FFI
Mr.Mam Kosal Wetlands International
Mr.Tysokhun Director Forestry
Mr.Patrick Evans FAOSR
Mr.Srum SimSong Fisheries
Mr.Lieng Sopha Capture Fisheries
Mr.Nuth Sakhan Director Agronomy
Mr.Rob Nugent IPM
Mr.Kol Vathanna MoE Dep B
Mr.Danny Harvey Concern
Mr.Peth Kun Hel CIAP/CARDI
Mr.Seang Teak WWF
Mr.Theng Tara MoWRAM Dep Conser-
Mr.Jurgen Fichtenau GTZNR
Mr.Kim Sovann WB-Virachey
Mr.PatLyng Forest Crimes
Mr.Mean Thauverak MoP Chief office
Mr.Prak Marina FAOSR
Mr.Kong Sakhan MRD
Mr.Brian Lund APHEDA
Mr.Prak Sary MOWRM
Mr.Mao Kosal IUCN
Mr.Sok Kung Chamber of Commerce
Mr.Sak Choeun Oxfam
Mr.Tin Ponlok Climate Change
Mr.Chean Thayuth Concern
Mr.Ouk Siphan MoT Planning
Mr.Kesaro Loeung Coastal Zone
Mr.Ngin Ventha PMMR


1.CARDI : Cambodian Agricultural Research and Development Institute
2.CBD : Convention on Biological Diversity
3.CBEA : Cambodia Biodiversity Enabling Activity
4.CITES : Convention on International Trade in Endangered Species of Wild Fauna and Flora
5.CSD : Council Social Development
6.IUCN : The World Conservation Union
7.EEZ : Exclusive Economic Zone
8.EIA : Environmental Impact Assessment
9.EMS : Environmental Management System
10.FCMU : Forest Crime Monitoring Unit
11.GIS : Geographic Information System
12.GPS : Global Positioning System
13.IMSCEE : Inter-Ministry Steering Committee on Environment Education
14.IRRI : International Rice Research Institute
15.MAFF : Ministry of Agriculture Forestry and Fisheries
16.MARPOL : International Convention for the Prevention of Pollution from Ships
17.MCFA : Ministry of Culture and Fine Arts
18.MCRA : Ministry of Cults and Religious Affairs
19.MEF : Ministry of Economy and Finance
20.MIME : Ministry of Industry Mine and Energy
21.MLMUPC : Ministry of Land Management Urban Planning and Construction
22.MOC : Ministry of Commerce
23.MOE : Ministry of Environment
24.MOEYS : Ministry of Education Youth and Sports
25.MOH : Ministry of Health
26.MOI : Ministry of Interior
27.MOP : Ministry of Planning
28.MOT : Ministry of Tourism
29.MOWRM : Ministry of Water Resource and Metrology
30.MPWT : Ministry of Public Works and Transport
31.MRD : Ministry of Rural Development
32.MWAV : Ministry of Women Affairs and Veteran
33.NBSAP : National Biodiversity Strategy and Action Plan
34.NCDM : National Committee Disaster Management
35.PA : Protected Area
36.RUPP : Royal University of Phnom Penh
37.UNCED : United Nations Conference on Environment and Development


to the top