Fostering Green Exports through Voluntary Sustainability Standards in Developing Countries, Vanuatu and Lao PDR

UNCTAD is implementing a project “Fostering Green Exports through Voluntary Sustainability Standards in Developing Countries” that aims to strengthen capacities of developing countries to make the best use out of voluntary sustainability standards (VSS) as a tool to foster green exports which can also contribute to the SDGs.

The project intends to establish a dynamic network surrounding VSS that would lead to more communication and coordinated efforts among stakeholders and can strategize how VSS could contribute to inclusive economic growth and sustainable development.

As a first step of this project, start-up workshops have been held, one in Vanuatu and another in Lao PDR which brought together various stakeholders to discuss VSS.

As the next step, UNCTAD will be conducting a country survey on the “preparedness” of different stakeholders in identified value chains (coconut and cocoa sector for Vanuatu, organic agricultural sector for Laos) towards sustainable production. The survey will be completed in the first half of the next year, and will form substantive inputs to the next phase of the project which is to establish a national multi-stakeholder platform and agreeing on a National Action Plan.


The workshops in Vanuatu, one in Port Vila and another in Santo, brought together over 50 stakeholders including experts, producers’ associations, the private sector, and the national government to discuss how VSS could support the country’s plan to establish a national sustainability brand (NSB) for their coconuts and cocoa exports. The stakeholders



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In Lao PDR, the project’s workshop was organised as an extension of the Lao Organic Agriculture Forum (LOAF). On December 14, over 100 stakeholders joined in on the 6th LOAF “Expanding Organic Exports through Sustainability Standards” in Vientiane, Lao PDR to share their views and experiences on these challenges, and introduced Voluntary Sustainability Standards (VSS) as a potential channel to mitigate these challenges. The forum was jointly organized by UNCTAD and the Lao Ministry of Agriculture and Forestry and brought together producers, manufacturers, traders, exporters, government agencies, development partners.


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The United Nations Forum on Sustainability Standards (UNFSS) is a joint initiative of 5 UN Agencies (FAO, ITC, UNCTAD, UN Environment and UNIDO) that seeks to address these challenges. It is a demand-driven forum for intergovernmental actors to communicate among each other and engage with key target groups (producers, traders, consumers, standard-setters, certification-bodies, trade diplomats, relevant NGOs and researchers) to address their information needs and influence concerned stakeholders. It aims to provide impartial information, analysis, and discussions on VSS and their potential contribution to facilitate market access, strengthen public goods and achieve Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs). Most importantly, the UNFSS focuses on potential trade or development obstacles VSS may create, with particular emphasis on their impact on SMEs and less developed countries.