The Department of Forest Inspection, Ministry of Agriculture and Forestry (MAF), and the European Union (EU) recently held talks on the process of defining timber legality under the FLEGT process. The Lao government has entered into a Voluntary Partnership Agreement for FLEGT (Forest Law Enforcement Governance and Trade), with the latest talks centring on certifying timber legality to ensure a sustainable supply of raw materials for the wood industries as well as promoting sustainable forest management.
The negotiations took place at a one-day stakeholder consultation meeting which was attended by 80 key participants from various government agencies, private sector and civil society organisations. FLEGT is an initiative by the EU which can offer multiple benefits to Laos, in particular strengthening value-adding in the wood processing sector, the Director General of Department of Forest Inspection, Mr Khamphout Phandanouvong explained.
It will help grow exports of timber products, thereby increasing state revenues and employment opportunities, promoting fair competition between companies and markets as well as improving sustainable forest management. Mr Khamphout added that the definition of timber legality is also the backbone of the Voluntary Partnership Agreement which is helping Laos to achieve its Forest Strategy target to increase forest cover to 70 percent by 2020.
Interim Conservation Programme Manager at the World Wild Fund for Nature (WWF), Mr Francois Guegan commented “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.”
“Forest-dependent communities in Laos 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.
Senior international adviser to the GIZ project ‘Support to the Lao EU-FLEGT process,’ Mr Heiko Woerner said that 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.
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 explained. The definition of legal timber forms an important component of Timber Legality Assurance Systems that are part of the Voluntary Partnership Agreements (VPAs). VPAs are trade agreements between the EU and timber producing countries, aiming to stop illegal logging and its associated flow on industries.