FAO boosts support to promote legal timber trade in Lao PDR

The Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations (FAO) is stepping up support for the legal timber trade in the Lao People’s Democratic Republic with the official launch of two new projects that will strengthen the roles of civil society and the private sector in improving forest law enforcement, governance and trade (FLEGT) in the country.

Laos forests by EU FLEGT Facility

Implemented by local partners with support from the FAO-EU FLEGT Programme, the projects will further the development of a bilateral trade agreement between Lao PDR and the European Union (EU) known as a Voluntary Partnership Agreement (VPA). While VPA negotiations have only recently begun, once they are concluded, signed and ratified, FLEGT-licensed timber products from Lao PDR will eventually enjoy “green-lane” approval, which gives them access to enter the EU market. 

VPAs are a key element in the EU’s FLEGT Action Plan, which aims to combat illegal logging and ensure forests contribute to sustainable development, including efforts to address climate change.

Bringing stakeholders together

The first new project, implemented by the Participatory Development Training Center (PADETC) in partnership with the Lao Biodiversity Association (LBA), will conduct a series of consultations with forest-dependent communities who rely on, and could be impacted by, the forest and timber management system in Lao PDR. Consultations should lead to a focused and coordinated feedback to the VPA negotiations. In parallel, the project will build the capacity of the Lao Civil Society Organization (CSO) FLEGT network, to ensure that both CSOs and communities can provide input into national-level technical meetings and the development of VPA documents.  

The second new project, implemented by the Lao Wood Processing Industry Association, will deliver a comprehensive training program for wood processing enterprises on efficient production management and improved supply chain control. The project will help these enterprises to develop the necessary skills to comply with the Lao legal framework, while improving their competitiveness and market access.

The two projects were launched in Vientiane on 28 July at a Lao PDR-FAO-EU FLEGT networking event co-hosted by the Lao PDR FLEGT Standing Office of the Department of Forest Inspection of the Ministry of Agriculture and Forestry and FAO.

The event responded to the need to develop closer coordination and relationships between FLEGT stakeholders in Lao PDR and will promote dialogue while also providing an opportunity to showcase new activities and partnerships.

“Lao PDR will need to demonstrate effective forest law enforcement and governance and instill confidence among buyers that progress is being made in efforts to manage forests sustainably,” said Thongphanh Ratanalangsy, the Deputy Director General of the Department of Forestry Inspection.

“Several stakeholder groups in Lao PDR have already approached FAO with ideas on how to actively contribute to the VPA process, improve forest governance and law enforcement and enhance legal compliance and competitiveness of forest sector enterprises,” said FAO Forestry Officer Bruno Cammaert.

The networking event featured presentations from ongoing and new FAO sponsored projects, the EU FLEGT Facility, GIZ’s ProFLEGT project, the EU Delegation to Lao PDR, and the Ministry of Industry and Commerce.

“We are very encouraged by the FLEGT Standing Office’s interest in FAO’s new and ongoing FLEGT projects in Lao PDR,” said Stephen Rudgard, the FAO Representative to Lao PDR. “It is a recognition of the important role of the private sector and civil society in the FLEGT process and we look forward to contributing to a more cohesive approach to FLEGT in Lao PDR.”

The FAO-EU FLEGT Programme is already supporting two ongoing projects in the country to improve the competitiveness of domestic small-and-medium sized wood enterprises, and to build technical capacity in timber species identification.

Read original article on the FAO-EU FLEGT Programme website.

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