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Sustainable Forest Trade in the Lower Mekong Region

Lower Mekong Region Country Priorities

Different Strategies, Same Goals


The Lower Mekong Region presents diverse challenges that a 'one-size fits all' solution is never enough. Read  country's priorities and strategies to combat deforestation and build a sustainable forest trade in the region.

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01. Cambodia's Priorities


The goal is to reduce historical emissions from the Forestry and Land Use (FOLU) sector by 50% by the year 2030 when compared to the REDD+ baseline, as outlined in the Updated Nationally Determined Contributions (NDC). In addition, there is a Long-Term Strategy for Carbon Neutrality (LTS4CN) aimed at achieving carbon neutrality by 2050, with the FOLU sector serving as a substantial carbon sink, absorbing a total of 50 million tons of CO2 equivalent. Although numerous commitments have been identified across various platforms and efforts to advance Sustainable Forest Management (SFM), challenges such as deforestation, forest degradation, and illegal harvesting still persist. The current regulatory and technical support for small and medium-scale private plantations and wood processing facilities remains limited. As part of the overall strategy, the objective is to have 20 registered and thriving small- and medium-scale forest-based enterprises or cooperatives operating in each forestry cantonment, contributing to sustainable forestry practices and economic growth.


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Achievements under the UN-REDD Lower Mekong Initiative:

  

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Support the bilateral dialogue between Cambodia and Thailand to promote cooperation on technology for forest monitoring, and sharing timber trade requirements.

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A feasibility study on e-CITES permits has been carried out to assess the readiness of the relevant authorities for the implementation of issuance, control, and reporting of e-permits

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SEPAL Near Real-Time Monitoring tool has been introduced to build capacity to government partners and is piloted in 4 target provinces.

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Development of a national forest certification scheme initiated and supported in Cambodia.

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Cambodia prepared a communication campaign plan to raise public awareness and launch a video of substituting other hardwood for natural rosewood products.

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Study Report Current Production and Trade Pattern of Agarwood in Cambodia.

 

Lessons learned

 

Collaborative efforts in the forestry sector between the Cambodian government and neighboring countries within the Lower Mekong Region (LMR) hold significant relevance. However, it has come to attention that the specific details of these collaborations are not sufficiently disseminated among key stakeholders. To successfully develop a national forest certification scheme, there is a pressing need for enhanced comprehension and capacity within the government regarding Quality Infrastructure, with additional support from strategic partners. Additionally, the adoption of near-real-time monitoring technology presents an opportunity for Cambodia to enhance its forest area surveillance capabilities and promptly identify changes in forest land, offering a potential solution to more effective and proactive forest monitoring.

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02. Lao PDR's Priorities


Increasing bilateral cooperation between the Lao People's Democratic Republic (Lao PDR) and countries in the Lower Mekong Region (LMR) is crucial to promoting sustainable forest trade in the LMR region. One critical aspect is strengthening the National Development Framework (NDF) for rosewood in Lao PDR, which aims to facilitate the withdrawal of suspended trade in Dalbergia subspecies. It is also essential to raise public awareness about forest crime to combat it effectively. 

In addressing these challenges, it's imperative to scale up the existing Near Real-Time Monitoring (NRTM) system. The system should utilize the Provincial Deforestation Monitoring System (PDMS) data to inform decision-makers about the updated drivers of deforestation across the country. This includes strengthening the system for tracking environmental and social impacts and bolstering national certification standards.


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Achievements under the UN-REDD Lower Mekong Initiative:

 

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1.1. Lao PDR-Vietnam bilateral conference was organized to evaluate the results of the Memorandum of Understanding (MoU) implementation period 2017-2022 and the ministerial MoU on Forestry Cooperation period 2024-2028 was signed by two parties.

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1.1. Carried out bilateral dialogues with Thailand to promote cooperation on forest monitoring and timber trade requirements with a follow-up MoU action plan.

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1.6. The Training of Trainer (ToT) modules for border checkpoint officials have been developed and conducted ToT for national Department of Forest Inspection (DOFI), Provincial Office of Forest Inspection (POFI) and District Agriculture and Forestry Office (DAFO)

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1.6. A communication campaign to raise public awareness on combating forest crime has been developed and implemented through pilot testing in high-risk areas of forest crime.

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A communication campaign to raise public awareness on combating forest crime has been developed and is being implemented the pilot testing in high-risk areas of forest crime

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2.2. The Ministry of Agriculture and Forestry (MAF) has agreed to develop the Lao PDR national forest certification system with technical support from the UN-REDD - Sustainable Forest Trade in the Lower Mekong (UN-REDD-SFT-LMR) on standards setting and capacity building."2.3. Completed the conducting a forest inventory on rosewood species, which led to publishing a zero quota for the commercial export of wild specimen Dalbergia cochinchine and Dalbergia Oliveri

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3.1. NRTM- The deforestation drivers' analysis was completed using the PDMS data and recommendations to inform decision-makers on updated driver trends.

 

Lessons learned

Government organizations, particularly the Department of Forestry (DOF), actively engage and cooperate with the UN-REDD-SFT-LMR in implementing Letters of Agreement (LoAs), where the DOF has played a pivotal role in facilitating coordination.

Despite these efforts, the UN-REDD-SFT-LMR has encountered delays in implementing LoAs, primarily due to factors such as the impact of COVID-19, the limited capacity of officials, and the tight schedule of government activities.

Looking forward, the next steps involve designing new projects consistently with the government's strategy and action plan to ensure comprehensive support for these projects.

While entering into a LoA with the government can have advantages and disadvantages for project implementation, it can potentially foster ownership from the government. However, it is acknowledged that the process has been relatively slow, leading to delays in delivering results.

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03.Myanmar's Priorities


The concept of Community Forestry Enterprises (CFE) has been introduced in Myanmar in recent years, aiming to encourage local communities to transition from subsistence-based forest resource use to income generation. At the national level, Myanmar has focused on supporting Community Forest User Groups (CFUGs) to ensure sustainable access to timber resources and promote timber trade to bolster CFE initiatives. Notably, there is a substantial demand for timber by Small and Medium-sized Enterprises (SMEs), including furniture factories, sawmills, and veneer production facilities, within the domestic market. However, the supply of timber from the private sector is limited. Additionally, there is a lack of a specific legal framework to support small and medium-scale private plantations. While efforts have been made to encourage the establishment of SME-scale private plantations, more comprehensive support and regulations in this regard are still needed to ensure sustainable and thriving CFE in Myanmar.


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Achievements under the UN-REDD Lower Mekong Initiative:

  

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CFTLOPs (Community Forest Timber Legality Operation Procedures) have been revised and developed.

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Guidelines on simplifying legal procedures for enabling access to legal and sustainable timber trade by SME level private plantations have been developed.

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Capacity development and knowledge enhancement of CFUGs and SME-level private plantation investors to enable access to legal and sustainable timber harvest and trade.

 

Lessons learned

 

Community Forests occupy a crucial position in the supply of legally sourced timber for the domestic market, making their enhancement paramount in fostering economic stability and overall well-being. To ensure the sustainable management of these forests, it is imperative to establish a robust monitoring system that comprehensively assesses the social and environmental impacts. The development of agreed-upon impact frameworks, involving all relevant stakeholders, is pivotal in this process. Moreover, to further support legal timber production, it's essential to tailor the legal framework to accommodate smallholder private plantation owners by differentiating their requirements. This approach will not only promote responsible resource management but also empower smallholders to contribute to the legal timber supply chain.

 

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To continue reading and for more information, visit the links below:

Myanmar's Changing Mangroves | Storymap   Visit Link
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04. Thailand Priorities


Thailand is committed to its pursuit of reaching a 40% forest cover target by 2037, placing a strong emphasis on community involvement, collaboration, and legitimate trade. Nevertheless, the capacity of smallholders and small to medium-sized enterprises (SMEs) to embrace sustainable and legal trading practices has been severely impacted by the challenges brought on by the COVID-19 pandemic. To promote legal and sustainable value chains, the key enabler is forest certification, making it crucial to fortify the capabilities of these smallholders, particularly by facilitating their access to markets. Notably, agricultural encroachment remains the primary driver of deforestation in the country, underscoring the critical need for effective forest monitoring.


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Achievements under the UN-REDD Lower Mekong Initiative:

  

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Promoted group certification for the national standard with the rubber cooperatives and wood mills operators, and SME market access to China

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Carried out bilateral dialogues with Laos and Cambodia to promote cooperation on forest monitoring and timber trade requirements, resulting in MoU action plans

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Near Real-Time Monitoring and Time Series analysis of forest loss in hot spots areas resulting in improvement of forest law enforcement and tenure security.

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Sustainable Forest Trade in the Lower Mekong Region (SFT-LMR) provided a contribution to regional cooperation resulting in synergies and lessons learned, such as digital platform and capacity building.

 

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The design and operation of REDD+ Safeguard Information System (SIS) of Thailand are developed through inclusive stakeholder processes


Visit the link: Safeguard Integration System (SIS)

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Launched the Forest Enterprise Incubation Program which supported over 50 early-stage enterprises that have the potential to promote sustainable development practices in the region.

 

Lessons learned
 

The Forest Incubation Enterprise Program has proven to be a powerful tool for Small and Medium-sized Enterprises (SMEs). This program not only assists SMEs in developing sustainable business models but also imparts essential knowledge in areas such as certification, Non-Timber Forest Products (NTFP) models, traceability, and the intricacies of carbon credits.

The implementation of Near Real-Time Monitoring has opened up a new frontier in forest conservation. By enabling the prompt analysis of hot spot areas, this technology has significantly improved the response time of law enforcement agencies in detecting encroachments. It's a remarkable example of how modern technology can be harnessed to protect our forests and preserve vital ecosystems.

Furthermore, in the age of digital transformation, there is a growing recognition of its potential to promote inclusivity. One striking area where this is evident is in the empowerment of women. Digital transformation offers them new opportunities, particularly in leadership roles. Women are now better equipped to mediate in the sustainable utilization of forest resources and to enhance responsible sourcing within the supply chain. This not only supports gender equality but also contributes to more sustainable and socially responsible forest management practices. These lessons, rooted in experience and innovation, serve as beacons guiding us toward a more sustainable and balanced coexistence with our forests.

 

 

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To continue reading and for more information, visit the links below:

Safeguard Integration System (SIS) | Website   Visit Link
Regional dialogue and WFC report national session and event report | Report   Coming Soon
Program photos   Coming Soon
Forest Enterprise Incubation Program   Visit Link
LDD website, SFT-LMR consultation | Website   Visit Link
e-Tree; wood traceability platform and forest management system

  Visit Link

  Read Article

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05. Viet Nam Priorities


Illegal and unsustainable logging and trade pose significant challenges in the Lower Mekong Region (LMR) as a whole, with Vietnam experiencing particular concerns. Most national REDD+ strategies and Sustainable Forest Management (SFM) plans identify illegal logging and forest conversion as the primary drivers of deforestation and degradation.

A key issue lies in the governance of forests and forestland, where the legal framework and tenure rights often must be clarified, consistent, or contradictory. Additionally, weak law enforcement and unclear accountability further contribute to promoting or exacerbating illegal activities within the forestry sector.

Recognizing these challenges, the government has set ambitious goals for the wood processing industry by 2030. These goals include establishing the industry as a crucial economic sector, developing a reputable brand for Vietnamese wood products domestically and internationally, and targeting export values of USD 20 billion by 2025 and USD 25 billion by 2030. The increasing demand for sustainable wood products, driven by consumer preferences and public and private procurement policies, has led many countries to adjust their market access regulations to prevent illegal timber imports.


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Achievements under the UN-REDD Lower Mekong Initiative:

  

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Enhanced Sustainability Standards: The VFCS ST 1003:2023 Revision

The latest iteration of VFCS ST 1003:2023 represents a well-researched and comprehensive update that aligns with the current state of knowledge in sustainable forest management. This revised version not only embodies the latest insights but also demonstrates a steadfast commitment to continuous enhancement. VFCS is dedicated to evaluating and improving the standards and Chain of Custody (CoC) procedures based on feedback and emerging developments in sustainable forest management and supply chain practices within Vietnam.

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Revitalized Vietnam SIS Webpage: Empowering Safeguard Monitoring

The Vietnam SIS webpage has been meticulously restored to a state of full functionality. This revitalized platform is now equipped to offer current, pertinent, and precise information, encompassing all modifications and advancements. Its robust capabilities are poised to enhance the monitoring and reporting of social and environmental safeguards in REDD+ projects, furthering the cause of sustainable development in Vietnam.

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Empowering Forest Rangers: Strengthening Capacity and Monitoring

Essential training courses recently equipped more than 250 forest rangers from 61 provinces, the FPD Central, and four FPD regions with the skills and knowledge required to monitor forests effectively. This comprehensive training, focusing on forest loss monitoring in alignment with the updated national Forest Resources Monitoring System (FRMS V4.0), included data collection, analysis, field inspections, and reporting. Notably, these initiatives also updated geographic data on forest fluctuations within FRMS 4.0, which will serve as a vital tool for forest management and administration, enabling the utilization and sharing of critical forest change data at all levels of governance.

 

Lessons learned
 

The government of Vietnam has strongly committed to the protection and sustainable management of forest resources with ambitious targets such as by 2025, there will be 500,000 hectares of certified forests and by 2030, one million hectares of forests with sustainable forest management certificates. By 2030, fundamentally reverse deforestation, forest degradation, land degradation and desertification, ensuring harmonious development of sustainable agricultural and forestry production associated with agricultural and rural development; effectively contribute to the implementation of nationally determined greenhouse gas emission reduction commitments (NDC)

 The UNREDD-LMR project worked closely with project partners to develop a comprehensive project work plan with clearly defined objectives and outputs, outlined the scope, timeline, budget, and resources required for the project. Make sure that all team members and stakeholders have a shared understanding of what the project aims to achieve.


 

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To continue reading and for more information, visit the links below:

Safeguard Integration System (SIS) | Website   Visit Link

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