While there is an important body of research on environmental discourses and policy in Southeast Asia, the situation in the Lao PDR remains understudied. This paper builds on debates related to environmental change and knowledge production and examines the socio-political construction of the current mainstream discourse on land degradation in Laos. It highlights that, despite significant uncertainties as regard the extent and severity of the issue, land degradation in the uplands is represented by the Laotian authorities and many of their development partners as a major and imminent threat to the development of the country. The paper also examines the way this perspective is translated into policies specifically aimed at resolving the upland issue and proposes an alternative reading of this process where mainstream discourse and associated policy appear partly shaped by the subjectivities and political economic projects of Laos' policy-makers. Finally, drawing on the case of Laos, the paper provides a critical reflection on conventional approaches to assessing socio-environmental issues and defining policy interventions.
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The purpose of the Mekong Land Research Forum online site is to provide structured access to published and unpublished research on land issues in the Mekong Region. It is based on the premise that debates and decisions around land governance can be enhanced by drawing on the considerable volume of research, documented experience and action-based reflection that is available.