Lao government continues in placing its priority on combating illegal logging, promoting trade in legal timber products and sustainable forest management. Purposely, the meeting on “Negotiation Support and Development Committee (NSDC)” brought together multiple stakeholders from line ministries, civil society organisations and private sectors, to review the progress and roadmap after the third round of face-to-face negotiations on a Voluntary Partnership Agreement (VPA) on Forest Law Enforcement, Governance and Trade (FLEGT) between Lao PDR and the EU in Belgium in June 2019.
Part of the NSDC meeting was devoted to presenting and discussing the updated versions of the Timber Legality Definitions (TLDs) for timber from conversion areas, plantation and village use forests, as well as gathering feedback from stakeholders on further improvement. The European Forest Institute (EFI), who provides support to the implementation of the FLEGT Action Plan, also presented examples from other countries of how TLDs can be tested in the field and gave suggestions for the application in the Lao context. Field testing of TLDs, trial testing of procedures following timber from the forest to the point of export along the supply chain and related verification by government authorities will be essential next steps of the FLEGT work in Laos.
Laos shows full commitment to strengthen its forest governance. The promising advancement in the formulation of the countries’ TLDs form a very good basis for a functional nationwide Timber Legality Assurance System (TLAS). FLEGT remains a unique process in Laos by applying a multi-stakeholder dialogue and giving also civil society organizations and the private sector the opportunity to be involved and to support the direction of the formulation of the VPA. In the past Laos has been a major source of illegal timber for neighboring countries, particularly Vietnam which led to an export ban in 2016. The FLEGT process in both countries has led to strengthening of legal compliance and rule of law whereby both seek to improve the coordination of their TLAS and better coordination of supply and demand of legal timber products.