Co-creating a sustainable future


Partnering for Sustainable Foresty in Laos

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Degradation and fragmentation of forests in Laos has accelerated over the past decade, with negative repercussions for communities, biodiversity and the climate. The EU’s Forest Law Enforcement, Governance and Trade (FLEGT) Action Plan of 2003 invites major wood-producing countries in the tropics to enter into bilateral Voluntary Partnership Agreements (VPAs) for trade in verifiable, legally produced wood. Such bilateral agreements can help countries like Laos continue to access the international market, while channelling more revenues into state budget and community pockets. For that to happen, the definition of ‘legal timber production’ in Laos must be developed in a participatory and transparent manner involving all forestry stakeholders.


Weak governance permits an opaque and corrupt forestry sector, meaning that local communities remain entrenched in poverty. The agricultural and forestry sectors account for approximately 33% of the country’s GNP, while employing 75% of the workforce*. Export of illegal timber, however, is at least five times the sanctioned volume, with unprocessed wood sold mostly to Thailand, Viet Nam, and China. Processed wood products are then sold to other countries, especially to Japan, the United States, and the European Union (EU). In parallel with increased deforestation in Laos (after Myanmar, the most forest-dense country in Southeast Asia), international demand for wood that is sustainably produced, legally harvested, and traceable to its source has also increased.

Due to the country's political history there is a lack of experience with participatory processes, especially between government agencies, businesses and non-profit associations. Given that the economic stakes are so high, the forestry sector is politically sensitive, highlighting power imbalances between provincial governments and the central government, as well as antagonism between the government and non-profit-associations. The forestry business sector has a few players that carry considerable influence. Results-oriented and trust-based cooperation in such complex, politically sensitive, multi-stakeholder settings require dialogue and collaboration skills. Despite differences in interest, most stakeholders recognize the importance of cooperating for more sustainable forestry management.

*National Forest Products Statistics, Lao PDR. Available at:


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