In Lao PDR, deforestation and forest degradation are two main issues that the Government has prioritised and attempted to tackle for decades. Forests are seen as invaluable resources to generate revenue for the state, support economic development, support livelihoods, mitigate climate change and protect wildlife and their habitats.
The drivers of forest loss in Lao PDR are illegal logging, shifting cultivation, forest conversion due to infrastructure projects, expansion of mining areas, plantations, and farming and settlements, among other practices.
The market demand domestically and especially in other countries, mainly Vietnam and China, unsustainable harvesting practices, livelihood activities and poaching have further added pressure to the forests of Lao PDR.
The consequences of these actions are threatening fauna and wildlife habitats. Additionally, millions of USD in revenues from illegal operations are lost to the government, the people and the economy of Lao PDR.
In a response to these activities, Lao PDR has recently joined the Forest Law Enforcement, Governance and Trade (FLEGT) Action Plan, initiated by the European Union (EU) in 2003 to promote good governance in the forest sector. Furthermore, the EU FLEGT Action Plan aims to support economic development and sustainable natural resource management.
The Voluntary Partnership Agreement (VPA), a bilateral trade agreement to improve governance and law enforcement in the forestry and timber sectors in Lao PDR, will be introduced. Importantly, this will include a Timber Legality Assurance System (TLAS), defining timber legality and providing a mechanism to issue FLEGT licences to timber and timber products to verify their legal compliance.
The Ministry of Agriculture and Forestry (via the FLEGT Standing Office under the supervision of the Department of Forest Inspection) leads the FLEGT process, partnering closely with the Ministry of Industry and Commerce and Ministry of Natural Resources and Environment, as well as other government agencies, civil society organisations, academia, the timber processing industry, and other stakeholders.