At a time of uncertainty and global economic disruption due to the COVID-19 pandemic, continued, concerted global effort is as crucial as ever to address illegality both at global and national levels to reduce the economic and environmental pressure on forests, protect livelihoods, and to secure a sustainable future.
The Lower Mekong basin is a globally important ecoregion that encompasses an incredibly high diversity of forest habitats. These forests are home not only to diverse and rare wildlife but are also relied upon by many communities for essential products and services. However, loss and degradation of natural forests in the middle-income countries of the region have displaced the growing demand for timber to the least developed countries of the region, and illegal logging practices and actors have followed.
The COVID-19 crisis may also create an opening to relax law enforcement to the extent of enabling large-scale illegal activities and fraudulent practices, while the attention is focused on immediate economic impacts. This risks undoing hard-earned achievements to increase legal and sustainable timber production and reduce deforestation and lead to increased unemployment, poverty and food insecurity.
The session will feature a lively discussion organized around the issues related to addressing illegal logging and trade through improving governance, legality and sustainability of value chains. The session will explore opportunities to address forest crime and reduce the pressure on forests in the region under the recently launched project “Addressing forest crime through improved governance in the Lower Mekong region”.
With the support from the Government of Norway, the UN-REDD Programme will support Lower Mekong region countries region (Cambodia, Lao PDR, Myanmar, Thailand and Viet Nam) in addressing these challenges through improved governance in the region. The session will gather project partners to explore current challenges and opportunities the countries encounter while trying to increase the effectiveness of systems designed to ensure legal and sustainable trade in timber.
The session will also address how by supporting the existing regional dialogues and forums, and addressing nationally-specific barriers to the implementation of their decisions, various initiatives can ensure that the post-COVID-19 recovery does not occur at the expense of the region’s forest ecosystems, nor of the substantial progress made by forest sector institutions to address climate change.