The National Steering Committee is a special unit recently established by the Government of Lao PDR, with a mandate to coordinate, plan, and direct the Negotiation Team and the Technical Working Group in order to ensure a fruitful Voluntary Partnership Agreement (VPA) negotiation process.
The National Steering Committee consists of the Minister of Agriculture and Forestry (Chairman); the Vice Minister of Industry and Commerce, the Vice Minister of Natural Resources and Environment; the Director General of the Department of Forest Inspection (Member of the NSC and the Head of the Negotiation Team); and other Directors General and Deputy Directors General of related departments.
The National Steering Committee has been set up based on Decision No. 65/PMO and meets on a six month or yearly basis.
The mandates for the National Steering Committee are:
- Suggest a proposal to the Vice Prime Minister who is responsible for economics and traffic to consider strategy, long-term plan, and annual plan on the preparation of FLEGT VPA negotiation and lead a fruitful implementation.
- Study and implement appropriate measures to take the lead in the preparation process of FLEGT VPA.
- Establish a negotiation team, design methods, format and the implementation for VPA negotiation round between the Lao PDR and EU.
- Consider agreements and steer the organizational structure, human resource placement for the implementation of FLEGT in an appropriate and effective manner particularly a negotiation team, National Support and Development Committee (NSDC), Technical Working Group and FLEGT Standing Office.
- Agree on the implementation of FLEGT between the Lao PDR and EU including the annual work plan and activities in the pilot provinces.
- Supervise, monitor and inspect the implementation of FLEGT between the Lao PDR and EU including the annual work plan and activities.
- Introduce Timber Legality Assurance System (TLAS) and Timber Legality Definition (TLD).
- Consider and endorse a preliminary draft of VPA as well as its annexes and propose to relevant ministries for further consideration and seek for the government’s approval.
- Disseminate the progress and results of the negotiation rounds to relevant agencies to elaborate them in each period.
- Summarize and submit the report of its activities to the government frequently.
The National Support and Development Committee (NSDC) has the ownership on the consultation, review and verification the Timber Legality Definition (TLD), Timber Legality Assurance System (TLAS) and other Annexes documents which are drafted by Technical Working Group (TWG) and VPA committee.
The Negotiation Support and Development Committee consists of the Director General of the Department of Forest Inspection (Chairman); the Director General of the Department of Forestry, the Director General of Department of Industry and Handicraft, the Director General of the Department of Import and Export (Deputy heads) and deputy heads of other Deputy Director General of related departments associations and CSO Coordinator.
The Negotiation team drafts a legality definition based on inputs from the multi-stakeholder consultation process. The concrete approach differs from country to country.
The Vice Minister of MAF has been appointed as the Chief Negotiator to lead the Lao delegation in the negotiations. The Vice Minister of Industry and Commerce and the Vice Minister of Natural Resources and Environment have been selected as Vice Chief Negotiators. The Director General of Department of Forest Inspection functions as the secretariat for the Negotiation Team. Representatives of the Negotiation Support and Development Committee and the Technical Working Group are selected to be members of the Negotiation Team and join according to the topics of each negotiation.
To support the FLEGT VPA negotiations between Lao PDR and the EU, Technical Working Groups (TWGs) have been set up based on Decision No. 1915/MAF and revised based on the Agreement 3711/MAF (2019). The TWG now represents the work on the technical level and replaces the former Technical Expert Groups.
The Technical Working Groups (TWGs) comprise individuals and organizations which have specific expertise on certain areas along the timber supply chain and therefore get involved into the elaboration of the Timber Legality Definition (TLD).
Each TWG analyses existing laws and regulations to identify which ones are most relevant for defining timber legality for Lao PDR. Also, possible gaps in the legal framework are being identified. Based on this recommendation are given whether improvement on laws and regulations is needed. After draft TLDs from all TEGs have been put together, field tests will be carried out to assess the practicability of verification against the TLD. Findings from the pilot areas will be fed back into the process of finalizing the TLD.
The FLEGT Standing Office is a secretariat established to provide coordination support to all stakeholders working with FLEGT, including the EU. It has been set up and is equipped with trained international and national staff, who work closely together on the preparation of a future VPA.
As an additional entity to the Department of Forest Inspection, the FLEGT Standing Office has the important task to engage, coordinate and build bridges between all relevant stakeholders.