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2013 Assessment Findings

The forest governance situation in Laos is poor, with limited transparency and accountability. There remain significant implementation and enforcement challenges. 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.

However, there are signs that the government is becoming more open to acknowledging the forest governance challenges that it faces. These include, above all, its recent recognition of the need for more inclusive land-use planning procedures, its engagement with FLEGT and the possible imminent start to the negotiation of a voluntary partnership agreement with the EU. There is some evidence of progress amongst the private sector too. The area of natural forest certified under the Forest Stewardship Council (FSC) scheme has been gradually increasing in recent years.

However, these changes have not yet resulted in any significant impact on the level of illegal activity in the forest sector. A key challenge for the sector is pressure on the country’s forests from agricultural plantations, mineral extraction and infrastructure development.