Lao PDR is a landlocked country in Southeast Asia, sharing its borders with Myanmar, Cambodia, China, Thailand, and Viet Nam. Eighty percent of the country mountainous and the remaining 20% is low lying plains along the Mekong River. 

With a population of only 8 million, Lao PDR’s ecosystems and relatively intact compared with other Asian nations. Almost 60% of the country is forest covered, which the government aims to reach 70% by 2035. Twenty-five National Protected Areas, including six National Parks, cover 17% of the country and the government plans to nominate Hin Nam No National Park as Lao PDR’s first natural WHS in 2023.

As part of its ambition to become the Battery of Asia, the government has invested heavily in hydropower, mostly through foreign-finance build-own-transfer schemes. Between 1990 and 2020, GDP growth averaged almost 7%/year, moving the country close to middle-income status. But since 2020, covid, which hit the tourist sector particularly badly, and debt-distress have severely reduced GDP growth. The government is seeking to diversify the economy with a greater focus on sustainable natural resource management, including tourism and forestry.

IUCN started working in Lao PDR in 1988 and opened an office in 1992. Lao PDR has been a State member IUCN since 1969.

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Currently, IUCN Lao PDR has one state member, the Ministry of Foreign Affairs, and no NGO members.

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Programme of Work

IUCN works mainly in two programmatic areas: Water & Wetlands and Species & Protected Areas. Projects include gibbon conservation in Phou Hin Poun Wildlife Sanctuary, Green Listing of Hun Nam No and Nakai-Nam Theun National Parks, peatlands conservation, Ramsar support in Beung Kiat Ngong, and starting in 2023 water and environmental security in the Ma and Neun/Ca transboundary river basins. IUCN also runs the Critical Ecology Partnership Fund (CEPF) and the Lao Ecology small grant making programs.

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All of IUCN’s projects in Lao PDR are implemented in collaboration with government, particularly the Department of Forestry of the Ministry of Agriculture and Forestry and the Department of Water Resources of the Ministry of Natural Resources and Environment.