New publication from IUCN Lao PDR : “Review of Statutory and Customary Law in the Xe Champhone Ramsar Site, Lao PDR - Implications for a rights-based approach to conservation”

IUCN’s research into rights-based approaches (RBAs) to reduce poverty and benefit conservation has been focused on the development of tools to better inform conservation strategies.

Community workshop on Customary Law, Taleo village, Lao PDR

The purpose is for conservation organizations to be able to formulate strategies based on human rights principles that also contribute to the achievement of the Millennium Development Goals, particularly MDG 1 to eradicate extreme poverty; MDG 3 to promote gender equality and empower women; and MDG 7 to ensure environmental sustainability.

Rights-based approaches can be seen as the integration of rights considerations within any policy, programme or initiative and can serve to work towards ensuring that the protection of rights and biodiversity conservation become and remain mutually reinforcing.

After developing a step-wise approach for implementing RBAs to conservation, the IUCN Environmental Law Centre in collaboration with the IUCN Lao PDR Office, the IUCN Regional Office for Latin America, and the IUCN Regional Office for Mesoamerica initiated the project “Applying rights-based approaches to conservation – from theory to reality”, in order to apply different steps of the step-wise approach in practice at the national as well as international levels.

In order to gain further experience on RBAs to conservation, the Lao component of the project focused on undertaking a situation analysis – in the Xe Champhone Ramsar Site in Lao PDR, Savannakhet province.

It examined the under-researched issue of customary law governing natural resources, including its relationship with statutory law. For this, the team undertook a desk study on laws governing natural resource use in Lao PDR as well as comprehensive field work with communities in and adjacent to Xe Champhone Ramsar Site to collect information on customary rights and to ensure the communities’ participation and involvement in the different outputs from the project.

This publication summarizes and analyses the findings of the field work.  It also provides recommendations on how to incorporate customary law governing natural resources into the governance of Ramsar sites in the country. On the basis of the recommendations and at the request of the government, the project also drafted two decrees – one national-level decree on management of Ramsar sites in Lao PDR generally, and one for the management of Xe Champhone Ramsar Site. This work complements Lao government research and opens the door for similar research in other parts of the country.

We gratefully acknowledge the financial contributions to this IUCN project and the production of this publication provided by the German Federal Ministry for Economic Cooperation and Development (Bundesministerium für Wirtschaftliche Zusammenarbeit und Entwicklung) and by the Ministry of Foreign Affairs of Finland through the Mekong Water Dialogue project.

This publication can be downloaded here, hard copies are available at IUCN Lao PDR office in Vientiane.

For more information  please contact our Water and Wetlands Programme Coordinator_Mr. Raphael Glemet at and Thomas Greiber, Senior Legal Officer at the IUCN Environmental Law Centre at


Work area: 
Environmental Law
Project and Initiatives: 
Mekong Dialogues
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