Sustainable forest trade in the lower Mekong region
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We invite you to read eight stories that highlight some key milestones and learnings from the UN-REDD Lower Mekong initiative in 2021, as well as insights into 2022.
Across Cambodia, Lao PDR, Myanmar, Thailand, and Vietnam, surging global and regional demand for timber, forest products, and agricultural products are mounting the pressure on forests and land resources in the region.
The UN-REDD Programme supports countries in the Lower Mekong Basin and China to strengthen their forest governance, and to ensure that trading of wood products is legal and sustainable.
By 2050, the gap between global supply and demand of wood products will have increased significantly, estimates say, pushing source areas to extract more wood. This will only add more pressure on already scarce and degraded forest resources.
Forests are under pressure
Illegal logging and conversion of forest land have become widespread across the Lower Mekong Region.
Yet only a small fraction of reported violations are investigated, and even a smaller proportion get prosecuted. The ongoing loss of forest cover threatens the region’s ecosystem services, including carbon sequestration, water and soil conservation, and flood risk reduction.
Between 1990-2015, the region lost about 4.7 million ha of forests. Illegal logging, mining, forest fires, infrastructure, and commodity crops have been some of the biggest drivers of forest loss and degradation, threatening local ecosystems and livelihoods. Often these drivers reinforce each other, leading to even more forest loss.
Regional investments and trade are often the main triggers of forest degradation and deforestation in the Lower Mekong Basin.
Across the region, wood processing and export have grown fast in several countries. Thailand is a major timber processing hub. Vietnam is now the second-largest exporter of wooden furniture in Asia and the Pacific and the 5th exporter globally. China is the world’s largest exporter of wooden furniture.
Yet their lack of enough domestic wood to supply their industries has led to a rise in trading stolen forest products, extracted illegally from forest-rich Lao PDF, Cambodia, and Myanmar.
UN-REDD works to promote sustainable trade of forest products in the lower Mekong region
The Sustainable Forest Trade in the Lower Mekong Region Programme is working with key institutions across the five LMR countries and China to strengthen forest governance and the systems designed to ensure legal and sustainable trade in timber.
The project supports countries to create standards and systems that can effectively and sustainably regulate forest products’ trade in the LMR and reduce the share of illegal, unsustainable products in regional and international value chains.
Tracking wood products
Wood-exporting countries and businesses relying on forest wood products increasingly recognize that their supply chains must use only legal and/or sustainable sources of wood. Key importing countries now ask for proof of legality and/or sustainability. This means that wood export hubs depend more and more on meeting higher standards of legal and sustainable forest use.
Promoting responsible investments
Investing in wood-related products and industries must abide by the law and support sustainable trade. Understanding regional trade and investments in raw wood and forest products, as well as regional cooperation are critical to turning around illegal forest exploitation and to boost financial support for sustainable projects.
Stronger regional cooperation supports legal, sustainable forest-products trade across the Lower Mekong Region and China
Improved forest governance ensures legal and sustainable production of forest related products.
Improved monitoring of forest and land use due to better data accessibility and management
Forest Administrations, Ministries of Agriculture and Environment, Ministries of Planning, and others. The programme will promote dialogue, coordinated policies, and boost dialogue and cooperation between LMR countries and China.
Private and public companies
All companies along wood products supply chains, from harvesting all the way to processing and sellers, plus actors in the finance sector. Forest related companies will be critical to ultimately drive the change needed.
Improvements in forest governance will lead to more secure, transparent, and consistent tenure and use rights, and will also provide opportunities for local communities to engage in forest product value chains for livelihood improvement. The project partners with RECOFTC (The Centre for People and Forests) at regional level.