OREANDA-NEWS. FAO together with the European Union (EU) is stepping up support for the legal timber trade in the Lao People's Democratic Republic through  two new projects that will strengthen the roles of civil society and the private sector in improving forest law enforcement, governance and trade in the country.

Implemented by local partners with support from the FAO-EU FLEGT Programme, the projects will further the development of a bilateral trade agreement between Lao PDR and the EU known as a Voluntary Partnership Agreement. Once the partnership negotiations are concluded, signed and ratified, FLEGT-licensed timber products from Lao PDR will eventually enjoy "green-lane" approval, which gives them access to enter the EU market.

Voluntary Partnership Agreements are a key element in the EU's FLEGT Action Plan, which aims to combat illegal logging and ensure forests contribute to sustainable development, including efforts to address climate change.

The first new project, implemented by the Participatory Development Training Center in partnership with the Lao Biodiversity Association, will conduct a series of consultations with forest-dependent communities who rely on, and could be impacted by, the forest and timber management system in Lao PDR. In parallel, the project will build the capacity of the Lao Civil Society Organization FLEGT network, to ensure that both civil society organizations  and communities can provide input into national-level technical meetings and the development of VPA documents. 

The second new project, implemented by the Lao Wood Processing Industry Association, will deliver a comprehensive training program for wood processing enterprises on efficient production management and improved supply chain control. The project will help these enterprises to develop the necessary skills to comply with the Lao legal framework, while improving their competitiveness and market access.

The two projects were launched in Vientiane on 28 July at a Lao PDR-FAO-EU FLEGT networking event co-hosted by the Lao PDR FLEGT Standing Office of the Department of Forest Inspection of the Ministry of Agriculture and Forestry and FAO.