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On 3-5 April, RECOFTC and partners launched the five-year regional project ‘Strengthening non-state actors’ (NSAs) voices for improved forest governance in the Mekong region’ in Bangkok. Supported by the EU, the project’s objective is that “By 2021, empowered and networked NSAs in three transboundary landscapes assess, monitor and respond appropriately to strengthen forest governance, particularly in FLEGT-VPA (the EU Action plan for forest law enforcement, governance and trade – Voluntary partnership agreements) and REDD+ (Reducing emissions from deforestation and forest degradation)”.
Forty-three participants from the five Mekong countries and international partner countries participated in the project inception workshop. The participants represented the regional and national project partners, including RECOFTC, WWF, East West Management Institute – Open Development Initiative, NEPCon, NGO Forum on Cambodia, Lao Biodiversity Association, Myanmar Environment Rehabilitation-Conservation Network, Raks Thai, and PanNature Viet Nam.
The workshop aims to initiate country-specific baselines for the project and for participants to share updates and better understand the current status of FLEGT-VPA and REDD+ in each Mekong country.
“The EU is very proud to support this project. We are interested in community forestry and improved forest governance because of its link to reducing poverty and sustaining the environment. We see this project as an important contribution to the continued sustainable development in the region, reducing poverty through improved forest governance and in the end helping to prepare the ground for successful legal timber trade between the EU and the Mekong region,” said Jenni Lundmark, project manager at the EU delegation to Thailand, at the opening of the workshop.
At project opening, Chandra Silori, RECOFTC, welcomed and recognized project partners, “This project brings together a diverse group of regional and national partners on equal footing. It’s particularly exciting for RECOFTC because we have built capacities and worked with many of the national partners in the past, and now we are scaling up engagement with them to implement this project. This workshop aims to lay a strong foundation for all partners to work together for the successful implementation of this regional transboundary project.”
FLEGT-VPA and REDD+ initiatives are a significant opportunity for NSAs to become actively involved in government-led forest landscape dialogues and decision making processes. However, governments in the Mekong region still generally follow top-down approaches to forest management and governance. The Project focuses on fostering the active participation of a network of capacitated non-state actors recognized tackling the drivers of deforestation and forest degradation in the Mekong region. The project is working on regional, national and landscape levels, recognizing that efforts to address the challenges facing forest governance in the region need to take a holistic approach. The transboundary focus of this project covers three landscapes across five countries.