This is the Laos update for Forest watch special: VPA update November 2016.
Official VPA status: in negotiation since 2012
Technical discussions have started on the timber legality definition. Stakeholders have agreed to recognize four timber sources: natural production forests, village use forest, conversion area and plantation. The inclusion of conversion is a good starting point as it offers opportunities to discuss the legality of timber coming from concessions where tenure rights issues are the most sensitive and subject to land conflicts. Conversion timber and tenure issues have yet to be discussed but the department of Forestry seems committed to address conversion. Stakeholders have also agreed to include all export markets and the domestic market, the chain of custody will be applied for all processing companies and ministries involved (commerce and industry, agriculture and forests) seem committed. The challenges around capacity and genuine civil society participation remain. While Lao CSOs have a seat in the working groups preparing the timber legality definition, they haven’t been able to provide meaningful contributions yet due to lack of resources and understanding of the role of civil society in the FLEGT-VPA multi stakeholder process. Lao civil society is relatively new and vulnerable and the Government of Laos sees them mainly as public service providers. Hence it remains to be seen as to whether or not Lao CSOs will be able to provide critical opinions into the process. Nevertheless, a first draft of the timber legality definition is expected before the end of the year.
This is an entry from the latest Forest Watch special VPA update, an occasional publication by LoggingOff and Fern. The VPA update provides a roundup of developments across countries involved in VPA processes, from a civil society perspective. This edition is from November 2016.