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In a potential turning point for the future of Vietnamese forests, newly elected Vietnamese Prime Minister Nguyen Xuan Phuc urged a halt on forest conversion and the preservation of the remaining 2.2M ha of natural forests, during a UN-REDD Programme-supported conference in the Central Highlands province of Dak Lak.

The Prime Minister insisted, “There is no direction to convert poor and very poor forests to industrial crops.” He addressed the audience directly, and said, “This direction needs to be clearly understood, no excuse for misunderstanding. […] We have abused the policies.”

The Central Highlands region in Viet Nam is a major frontline in the national battle for forest protection and development. Despite the remarkable increase in national forest cover thanks to massive plantation efforts, Viet Nam has suffered significant depletion and conversion of its invaluable natural forests, and the region is the major contributor to this national loss. The Central Highlands enjoy favourable climate conditions and fertile soil for very dynamic cash crop industries, like coffee and rubber, which has taken a high toll on its natural forests.

Forest taken in VN Rehabilitation Forest in Lam Dong Mangore Forest Cape Ca Mau National Park Ba Be National Park
Forest area taken in Vietnam Rehabilitation Forest in Lam Dong Mangrove Forest,
Cape Ca Mau National Park
Ba Be National Park

 

The conference, supported by the UN-REDD Programme, aimed at promoting sustainable forest restoration and responding to climate change in the region. In a bold and committed manner, the Prime Minister seized the opportunity of this high-level gathering of multi-sector ministries and stakeholders to announce ambitious orientations and urgent need for the full protection of natural forests in the region.

Over the past years, there has been growing awareness in Viet Nam about the multiple services provided by natural forests, including the support of fundamental pillars of Vietnamese society and economy like agriculture, water, rural development, energy and trade. The Policy framework has been upgraded progressively, including remarkable decisions like the ban on logging in natural forests for non-certified operators in 2014. However, implementation has remained challenging.

Prime Minister Nguyen Xuan Phuc’s declaration is not a coincidence. It comes at a time when Viet Nam suffered its worst drought and saline intrusion in 90 years, damaging hundreds of thousands of hectares of crops and threatening the livelihood of millions of rural people. As the climate change threat intensifies, Viet Nam must increase resilience, and natural forest protection and development has turned into an urgent necessity.

The Prime Minister also set critical directions to achieve such goals, notably the mobilization of the entire political system, business community and population. State-owned agriculture and forestry companies will be restructured. Operating hydropower companies violating regulations on supporting afforestation and paying for environmental services will be shut down. Police, prosecutors, courts and army are urged to join in the fight against deforestation. Chairmen of People’s Committees at every level from province to commune are now directly assigned with the responsibility of forest protection and development, and each sector is requested to take responsibility and formulate its own specific contribution and action plan.

These are major transformations in the Vietnamese government’s approach to forests, echoing findings and recommendations from the UN-REDD Programme, such as the alignment of forest protection with sustainable development goals, the broad engagement of stakeholders and the inter-sectoral approach to comprehensively address drivers.

As Viet Nam revises its National REDD+ Action Plan, the UN-REDD Programme is creating the space for consultations, experts and policy dialogue to translate actions into concrete targets, policies and measures, and effective practices. 


To learn more about the UN-REDD Programme in Viet Nam, click here.

 

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