New publication: Strengthening Voices for Better Choices in Vietnam

03 November 2008 | News story

Supporting the national dialogue on forest law enforcement, governance and trade

Over the past ten years, a growing body of studies and assessments has identified weak forest governance as a leading cause behind deforestation, degradation and illegal logging. Weak governance manifests itself in various ways, including a lack of links between forest policy and legislation, or between legislation and enforcement. In many countries, over-extensive or confusing regulatory frameworks raise the costs of compliance and provide opportunities for administrative corruption. Unclear or conflicting forest tenure arrangements also open the way to unregulated and unsustainable forest use, as does the exclusion of rural communities and other groups from the decision-making process for forest resources.

To a greater or lesser extent Vietnam, like other countries in Southeast Asia, has experienced many of these problems. And, in recent years, a new challenge has arisen as the wider impact of Vietnam’s rising timber consumption has come under intense scrutiny. For a various reasons, including limited domestic supply and growing demand from its construction and furniture industries, Vietnam depends heavily on imports. For example, the country’s furniture export industry (at US$2.4 billion the fifth-largest export earner), depends on imports for 80% of its roundwood supply. Efforts are being made under Vietnam’s Forestry Development Strategy (2006–20) to reduce this dependence through plantations. Nevertheless, by 2020 Vietnam still expects to import 20% of its large roundwood demand.

Growing questions about the legality and sustainability of Vietnam’s timber imports, whether for domestic use or export, pose a risk to the overseas image and growth of its important furniture industry. Increasingly, consumer countries in Europe, North America and East Asia are taking measures to filter out illegal or suspicious timber imports from their markets. If Vietnam’s furniture industry is to continue its strong growth, it must take steps to guarantee the legality of its raw material supply.

Strengthening voices for better choices In response to these forest governance challenges, the International Union for Conservation of Nature (IUCN) launched Strengthening Voices for Better Choices (SVBC). This global project, financed by the European Union (EU), aims to promote the development and implementation of improved forest governance arrangements that facilitate sustainable and equitable forest conservation and management. Vietnam, one of six SVBC project countries, is pursuing this goal primarily at the national level, using lessons drawn from participatory research at the field and community level.