First ever digital Technical Working Group in the Lao VPA Process

Amongst  the 8 annexes that form an important part of the Voluntary Partnership Agreement (VPA), the Annex VII-Public Disclosure of Information, also known as “Transparency Annex”, is a commitment of the VPA signatory parties to ensure that the VPA operations by the Joint Implementation Committee (JIC) is transparent, the disclosable information is conveniently accessible by the relevant stakeholders, and finally the functioning of the Laos Timber Legality Assurance System (Laos-TLAS) is strengthened by making sufficient information available for independent monitoring.

To draft the annex under restrictions of Covid 19, a Technical Working Group (TWG) meeting was organized virtually between 9-10 September 2021 by FLEGT Standing Office (FSO), technical supported by ProFEB-FELGT and European Forest Institute (EFI) and participated by 22 representatives from relevant government line ministries, private sector and CSOs.

Based on the active participation and constructive interactions between all stakeholders, the first draft annex has been developed following EU standard format and experiences from Indonesia and Viet Nam. At initial stage of the development, the participants were able to identify types of information to be disclosed by Laos, the respective levels of disclosure and responsible disclosing bodies.

For the next step, the 1st draft annex which is prepared based on the results of this TWG meeting, will be consulted with the meeting participants and the relevant experts for further feedbacks. Subsequently, the feedbacks will then be incorporated into the second draft that will be presented during the next TWG meeting. Following the VPA roadmap, the final draft annex is expected to be negotiated in JEM5 which is foreseen to happen at the beginning of 2022.

In conclusion, despites the limitations from Covid 19, the meeting was organized successfully with satisfactory results and following the provisionally approved FLEGT VPA Roadmap. That gives a clear indication that working with digital tools such as video conferences is well suited in multi-stakeholders’ process and enable good progress in the Lao VPA process.