This paper is part of a broader Chatham House study which assesses the global response to illegal logging and the related trade.
The government of Lao PDR has taken a number of steps to reduce illegal logging and associated trade. Most notably, it has made progress towards negotiations with the EU on a voluntary partnership agreement (VPA). This has prompted the establishment of a multi-stakeholder steering committee and a technical working group and the revision of several land and forestry laws to include provisions related to the Forest Law Enforcement, Governance and Trade (FLEGT) Action Plan.
However, significant implementation and enforcement challenges remain. The legal framework is unclear and, at times, contradictory. Implementation by central and local governments is inconsistent, and internal mechanisms to oversee government decisions are limited. Moreover, enforcement capacity is weak and there is a lack of transparency. The available evidence suggests that illegal practices are widespread in the forest sector.
Awareness of the issue of illegal logging has improved, including in the private sector. The area of natural forest certified under the Forest Stewardship Council (FSC) scheme has been gradually increasing in recent years. However, a key challenge for the Lao forest sector is pressure on forest resources from agricultural plantations, mineral extraction and infrastructure development.
In order to make further progress in tackling illegal logging, the government should push ahead with preparations for the VPA negotiations, ensuring that the lead agencies are appropriately engaged and resourced to implement a credible dialogue process. Data on the allocation and management of forest resources should be systematically collected and made available to the public in order to enable effective forest monitoring. In addition, accountability mechanisms, including anti-corruption strategies, should be clearly defined and implemented by all relevant ministries to ensure that forest resources are exploited legally and for the benefit of the country.