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Stakeholders in Lao PDR plan ways to engage in VPA processes

Twenty participants in Lao PDR from government, private sector, civil society organisations and academic institutions participated in a workshop on stakeholder engagement in Siem Reap from 7 to 17 July. The workshop, Integrated Capacity Building on Stakeholder Engagement for the Laos FLEGT Process, was facilitated by the Collective Leadership Institute and supported by GIZ, the German agency for international cooperation.

The purpose of the workshop was to:

• increase stakeholder capacity to engage in the Laos–EU VPA process
• develop the structure and process for stakeholder engagement
• strengthen relationships among a broad range of stakeholders.

Significant progress was made on these objectives. Several issues, such as selecting civil society organisation representatives for stakeholder committees, are yet to be decided and are linked to the pending approval from the Government for establishing a National Steering Committee.

Participants organised themselves into working groups and identified key issues along the timber supply chain that stakeholder dialogue could help address. These were:

• using village forestry as a source for wood for subsistence consumption
• improving ways to transfer timber between log landings
• ensuring occupational safety and health in wood-processing companies
• improving procedures for exporting timber products.

The next step will be to discuss these four issues further by engaging other relevant stakeholders in focused discussions on timber legality issues and taking into consideration an existing draft legality framework for Laos. This will be under the leadership of the National Support and Development Committee supported by the ProFLEGT project of GIZ, the German agency for international cooperation.

Participants also identified the most important issues to be resolved to advance the VPA process. They were:

• establish a national steering committee for the VPA process
• build the capacity of stakeholders and clarify the roles and responsibilities for different kinds of stakeholders to engage in the process
• strengthen communication on FLEGT among stakeholder groups.

Members of the National Support and Development Committee for the Laos VPA process participated in the final sessions of the workshop to discuss the results and recommendations and agree on the next steps.