Under an updated protected forest area decree, Laos’ Department of Forestry is developing partnerships to sustainably finance and improve planning in coordination with local communities.

These are remaining obstacles for Laos’ forestry management and must be addressed to achieve long-term sustainable development for biodiversity conservation in protected areas.

From June 23-July 2, the department convened a consultation meeting to revise the Protected Area Decree following previous technical consultations with national and international agencies in Laos.

The consultation was attended by representatives of the Ministry of Justice, the Prime Minister’s Office, with the Wildlife Conservation Society acting as technical partner, and supported under a partnership between the EU and the French Agency for Development (AFD).

Based on the promulgation of the Forestry Law in 2019 and Laos’ renewed sustainable and green growth priorities and international commitments, the draft decree proposes changes for effective and modern protected area management, which has seen previous challenges.

The updated decree will promote a landscape management approach for better planning and coordination with other sectors, local communities, and the private sector to achieve long-term sustainable development and management of biodiversity.

The decree has been revised to empower protected area institutions with improved authority and institutional setup and will clearly describe the rights and obligations of guardian villages.

It will also facilitate partnerships to sustainably finance the management of protected areas.

Bounpone Sengthong, director-general of the department, recognised the progress made over the past three decades by the government and the conservation community towards setting up the protected area system in Laos since its establishment in 1993.

Today, the number of protected areas has increased from 18 to 24, of which five have been categorised as a National Park (IUCN Category II) for stricter protection.

However, Laos’ biodiversity is currently under threat due to climate change, illegal wildlife trade, hunting and poaching coupled with high rates of deforestation causing fragmentation and loss of habitats.

A strong regulatory framework such as the revised Protected Area Decree is a step forward in safeguarding Laos’ rich biodiverse landscapes for both people and nature.