Governing multifunctional forest landscapes in Vietnam

The on-going transition from a centralised planning economy to a market economy makes Vietnam an interesting case to examine how environmental discourses interact and drive the evolvement of national natural resources management regimes. While state ownership of resources has been predominant in decades, a neoliberal environmental policy has been emerging more recently, especially in the forestry sector. The Payment for Forest Environmental Services (PFES) and Reducing Emission from Deforestation and forest Degradation (REDD+) are among the most significant ones. Our research aims at analysing what environmental discourse has been applied in forest landscape governance in Vietnam and how emerging discourses based on neoliberal economic arguments are institutionalised in the given socio-political context and structure, particularly to address the issue of climate change mitigation through avoided deforestation and degradation. The study site is Bac Kan province - an important conservation landscape of the country with a forest cover of approximately 70 per cent. The province is implementing both REDD+ and PFES, making it an ideal learning site of how new approaches to forest policy can perform in a local politico-economic context, nationally dominated by a top-down socialist governance style. First, we will explore what environmental discourses have driven the use of policy instruments in managing Bac Kan’s forested landscape. Second, we will identify to what extent market-based instruments (REDD+, PFES) can be used as a way of translating a new environmental discourse into practice, and replace state-based arrangements in landscape planning and management for multi-functionality. Third, we will investigate how neoliberal economic instruments (REDD+ and PFES) are interpreted in provincial forest and land use planning and policy making, and offer a way to understand and manage trade-offs between different policy options.