Forum on "Promoting cooperation for sustainable and responsible investment in agricultural and trade" was co-organized by the Center for People and Nature (PanNature) and the Vietnam-Laos-Cambodia Association for Economic Cooperation Development (VILACAED) in Vientiane, Laos on October 20, 2017. At the invitation of the Organizing Committee, CIRUM sent a representative to participate and contribute ideas at the forum.
The Forum focuses on holding cross-border investors responsible for social, environmental, economic aspects. The PanNature presentation has emphasized that, investment or economic activity in one place will have an impact not only on that place, but also elsewhere on Earth. Environmental and social responsibilities should therefore be attributed to investors. Representative of CIRUM and other civil society organizations raise the issue of ensuring the right to land, forest and livelihoods of the people who lose land or be resettled, and ensure people’s better or equal living standards after being affected or relocated. These are not just statements and commitments of the Government of Vietnam, but a recognized standard and practice in the world.
Representatives of VILACAED said that Laos ranks first among 72 countries and territories having Vietnam's investment. There are 276 Vietnam investors’ projects in Laos, with the first registered capital of about $ 3.9 billion, and the additional capital of $ 1.1 billion. Although Vietnam's investment has shown several positive results, there are some limitations and obstacles. For instance, some projects are slow in progress; others are not compliant with the two countries' regulations, or not much paying attention to the environmental protection. Enterprises are recommended to have a long-term investment strategy and simultaneously pay attention to well performing the social security and environmental protection in the investment area. Representatives of investors proposed to reduce the procedures for investment licensing, labor licensing, and import export procedures to reduce burdens on investors and provide additional resources for social and environmental responsibility.
In order to create the pressure for commitment of social and environmental responsibility of investors, the Forum has created a good platform for representatives of government, investors and social representatives to dialogue openly and frankly. In addition, in order to raise investors’ awareness and commit to implementing social and environmental responsibility, more activities are needed, such as the development of a guideline setting up criteria for responsible and sustainable investment, or encouragement of community and civil society in monitoring responsible investment. Participation and monitoring processes need to be particularly focused on ensuring the community's rights to land, forests, water, environmental protection and biodiversity throughout the investment cycles.