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Illegal Forest Conversion in the Mekong: Policy Implications for Land Investments, Climate, and Forest Legality Initiatives

Novotel Vintage Park Resort, Phuket, Thailand


This two and a half day workshop aims to bring together experts from five focal countries (Cambodia, Laos, Myanmar, Thailand and Viet Nam) and a range of relevant policy processes (REDD+, FLEGT, corporate responsibility) to engender a regional discussion about the conversion of forests in the Mekong region for commercial agriculture and infrastructure. Much of this conversion is highly correlated with land rights abuses and recent Forest Trends research suggests that a substantial proportion of these lands, and in some countries the majority, are being illegally deforested. Facilitation will emphasize regional policy synergies and key themes, with a focus on problem solving. Participation of local, national, and regional experts in REDD+, FLEGT, economic development, land use planning, FDI, poverty alleviation, and land rights/land use issues will be integral to a fruitful and results-oriented dialogue. Relevant international agencies from the forests, development and agricultural sectors will also be invited to participate. 

It is hoped that the workshop will be part of an on-going process of building relationships between stakeholders operating in the REDD+ and FLEGT processes across the region, and exploring policy options for improving legal compliance and enforcement as, for example, Mekong countries establish VPA negotiations and implement REDD+ national strategies. 


• Disseminate new findings on the characteristics and extent of illegality in land conversion to relevant policy processes;

• Share information about tools and political opportunities for leveraging credible legal compliance in land conversion across the Mekong region;

• Begin to build a network of experts across countries and policy processes to identify and support synergies; and

• Identify opportunities to facilitate Ministerial level dialogue and advocacy


Workshop Summary


Welcome and Overarching Questions

Kerstin Canby, Forest Trends

Session 1 – Forest Conversion: Global and Regional Trends and Defining Illegality

Forest Conversion Trends in the Mekong Region

Keith Barney, Crawford School of Public Policy, Australian National University

Defining Illegality in Land Conversion

Clare Brogan, The IDL Group

Community Forest Tenure in the Mekong: Links to Forest Conversion

Bryson Ogden, RRI

Session 2 – Presentations of Country Case Studies on Land Conversion

Nguyen Vinh Quang, Forest Trends

Forest-Land Conversion and Conversion Timber Estimates: Thailand Case Study

Alexandra Banks, NEPCon

Forest-Land Conversion and Conversion Timber Estimates: Cambodia Case Study

Koy Ra and Alexandra Banks, NEPCon

Expert Workshop on Illegal Land Conversion in the Mekong Region: Lao PDR

Sidavone Chanthavong and Aidan Flanagan

Agribusiness and Agro-Conversion Timber in Myanmar: New Drivers of Deforestation and Land Grabs

Kevin Woods, Forest Trends, Research Analyst – Myanmar, and UC-Berkeley, Ph.D. Candidate

Session 3 – Land Conversion and Implications for REDD+: Differentiating Between Legal and Illegal Drivers of Deforestation

Session 4 – Conversion Timber and Commodities: Implications for Global Supply Chain Initiatives

Vietnam’s FLEGT Experience from a Civil Society Perspective

Vu Thi Bich Hop, Executive Director of SRD and Chair of VNGO-FLEGT Network

Session 5 – Engendering Corporate Responsibility and Accountability in Land-based Investments

Corporate Accountability and Land Rights: Relevant International and Regional Instruments and their Limits

Megan MacInnes, Campaign Leader – Land, Global Witness

Regional Corporate Accountability: A Rubber Case Study

Megan MacInness, Campaign Leader – Land, Global Witness

Corporate Voluntary Standards in Land-based Investments

Courtney Lowrance, Environmental & Social Risk Management, Citi Institutional Clients Group