Finland – Laos – 40 years of diplomatic relations celebrated

On Tuesday, 22 September, the governments of Lao-PDR and Finland celebrated 40 years of diplomatic relations and cooperation, reports the Embassy of Finland, Hanoi.

The two nations commemorated the positive bilateral relationship and celebrated development progress achieved together through a seminar. This was held t the International Cooperation and Training Center in Vientiane, with representatives from the Lao Ministry of Foreign Affairs, the Finnish Embassies in Bangkok and Hanoi, the National University of Laos, and Finnish development projects in Laos attending. The event was also attended by the Finnish Embassy in Hanoi.

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The co-chairs, Mr. Yong Chanthalangsy, Director of the Institute of Foreign Affairs at the Ministry of Foreign Affairs, and Ms. Kirsti Westphalen, the Finnish ambassador, Bangkok, opened the morning by reflecting on the cooperation between their two nations, and congratulating some of the joint development projects on their successes, while acknowledging the challenges that have been faced.

The introduction was followed by presentations from Finnish-supported development projects in Lao PDR on the topics of Forestry, National Geographic Services and Mapping, Environment, and Energy. Mr. Esa Puustjärvi, Chief Technical Advisor of the SUFORD-SU project, was presented on the Forestry sector, which has historically been a sector of Finnish support to Lao PDR. The first forestry development project started back in 1994.

Mr. Puustjärvi’s presentation covered the history of Finnish support to Lao PDR in the forestry sector, from the FOMACOP project in 1995-1999, through the various phases of the SUFORD projects, from 2003 until the present day. He highlighted some of the major successes of these projects, which include the completion of Sustainable Forest Management Plans for 16 Production Forest Areas and 1.2 million hectares by 2012, revised timber revenue sharing regulations, capacity building of government staff to handle core project activities, and 81,600 hectares of forest maintaining FSC certification. In addition to these accomplishments, regulations for timber sales and forest law enforcement strategies have been improved, as well as poverty reduction efforts to ease pressure on project forest areas.

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Mr. Puustjärvi also touched upon the challenges the project had in implementing facing sustainable forest management, many of which are external, such as commercial agriculture expansion, and illegal logging. He stressed the importance of ‘thinking outside the box’ in order to address these challenges moving into the future.

Following the presentation, the co-chairs reaffirmed the significance of forestry, as it will be a crucial area for Lao PDR going into the future, and is also a sector of commonality between the nations of Lao PDR and Finland, as both are rich in natural resources, and depend largely on the sustainable use of these resources for livelihoods. Audience members from both development projects and the university expressed interest, following up with further questions in the Q&A segment before the meeting’s close.

In closing, the seminar’s co-chairs expressed enthusiasm for further ‘new forms’ of cooperation in the years to come.

Source: Embassy of Finland, Hanoi

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