The Department of Forest Inspection, Ministry of Agriculture and Forestry (MAF), brought together 80 key participants from various government agencies, private sector and civil society organisations to a one-day stakeholder consultation meeting, on 7 November 2014, in Vientiane Capital, to kick off the process of defining timber legality as part of the negotiations between Lao PDR and the European Union (EU) on a Voluntary Partnership Agreement for FLEGT (Forest Law Enforcement Governance and Trade) to promote legal timber trade and sustainable forest management.
“FLEGT, an initiative by the EU, offers multiple benefits to Lao PDR, in particular strengthening value-adding wood processing, growing the export of timber products, increasing state revenues and employment opportunities, promoting fair competition between companies and markets as well as improving sustainable forest management.”, said Mr. Khamphout Phandanouvong, Director General of Department of Forest Inspection, MAF. “The timber legality definition is the backbone of the Voluntary Partnership Agreement which helps Lao PDR to achieve its Forest Strategy target to increase the forest cover to 70% by 2020”, he added.
“A well-defined description of what legal timber is will generate advantages to a series of stakeholders, ranging from local communities to the private sector and related government agencies”, commented Mr. Francois Guegan, Interim Conservation Programme Manager at the World Wild Fund for Nature (WWF). “Forest-dependent communities in Lao PDR will be able to maintain their livelihoods in a sustainable way as they will be able to exercise their rights to access resources in areas as allowed and managed by the government. Company owners, especially in timber processing, furniture and handicraft industries, will be able to plan their operations more effectively thanks to a more regulated and sustainable supply of raw material”, he added.
“Definitions of legally-produced timber should incorporate laws applicable to not only a country’s forest sector, but also other relevant areas, namely industry and commerce, import and export”, said Mr. Heiko Woerner, senior international adviser to the GIZ project Support to the Lao EU-FLEGT process (ProFLEGT). “Conducting wide consultations with all interested parties ensures that the different stakeholders such as local and indigenous communities, private sector, and the government jointly benefit from legal trade in wood products”, he expressed.
The legal definition of timber forms an important component of Timber Legality Assurance Systems that are part of Voluntary Partnership Agreements (VPAs). VPAs are trade agreements between the EU and timber producing countries, aiming to stop illegal logging and its associated trade. The partnerships ensure that only legal timber products enter the EU market, promote good forest governance and law enforcement in the producing countries and take into account social and broader environmental considerations.
Lao PDR is one of the countries that has started to negotiate such an agreement with the European Union, with assistance from the GIZ project Support to the Lao EU-FLEGT process (ProFLEGT).
ProFLEGT is a joint initiative of the Lao Government and the German Development Cooperation. It is working closely with the Ministry of Agriculture and Forestry (through the FLEGT Standing Office under the supervision of the Department of Forest Inspection, DOFI), Ministry of Industry and Commerce, and Ministry of Natural Resources and Environment, as well as other Government agencies, civil society organisations, academia and timber processing industry.
Forests play an important role in climate change mitigation, economic development, securing livelihoods for local people and for biodiversity conservation in Lao PDR. Yet, forest cover has been lost over the past decades from 70% in 1940s to less than 40% in 2012, and the remaining natural forests are under severe pressure and widely degraded. The causes of deforestation and forest degradation are diverse, ranging from illegal logging to shifting cultivation and forest conversion. Among these, illegal logging is happening at a significant scale in Lao PDR.
You can download the press release HERE