CIPL came about after a UNDP program to research the information and media needs of indigenous peoples in southeast Asia. Research in Cambodia in 2010-2011 was done in a participatory way. It found that indigenous people were hugely disadvantaged and marginalized by lack of information (or too much information from sources wishing to undermine indigenous communities, without a balance of independent information). With women and elders, who had/have lower literacy in the national language, Khmer, were particularly marginalized and this affected overall community cohesion.

Whole communities were also unable to access information from other communities or from outside. Communities also lacked a voice going outside.

The research recommended that indigenous people set up their own information and media NGO, governed by and staffed by indigenous peoples. This is why CIPL was set up.

CIPL established itself despite an environment of growing suppression of the civil society sector in Cambodia. Just the drafting of by-laws with community input and the getting approval of them from the Ministry of Interior has been a huge and difficult task. Along with establishing CIPL an indigenous people’s Board and staff were recruited.

To start the work, CIPL selected two villages and supported them with training on media production. Indigenous community media youth volunteers were trained in audio production and interviewing techniques. Community advisory groups with elders and women were established in order to provide oversight and direction to the youth volunteers. In the two initial target villages, community information centers were established with community contributions. CIPL has helped equip those centers so youth can work there and media can be shown.

Has changed

In discussion with indigenous communities and Building Community Voices, work began in mid-2015 to phase out the activities of Building Community Voices, and transfer staff to a new independent indigenous-led NGO.  The former indigenous staff of Building Community Voices have transferred to become staff of the new Indigenous Peoples Voices.

With the establishment of Conserve Indigenous Peoples Language Organization in 2016, an indigenous-led and staffed organization, one its key aims is to ensure indigenous community leadership and ownership of communication and media activities.  The priorities and activities of Conserve Indigenous Peoples Language Organization will be shaped and guided by the indigenous communities that it supports.

Conserve Indigenous Peoples Language Organization has an important and unique role in Cambodia in strengthening indigenous people’s access to information in remote parts of Cambodia and in their own languages.  It has a role in strengthening indigenous voice on matters impacting on indigenous rights, livelihoods and culture: namely the loss of indigenous lands through illegal land grabbing and the Government’s granting of economic land concessions on indigenous homelands.