In Viet Nam, conversion of forests means a change in the purpose of primary use of the forest that results in a change in the forest classification of the forest. Conversion of natural forests, therefore, means a change in the purpose of primary use of the forest that results in a change in the classification of the forest from natural forest to a non-forest or plantation forest classification (e.g. to plantation or to agricultural land). The requirements and conditions for repurposing of forests and the powers to convert forest use are regulated by Vietnamese law.
Under the Law on Forest Protection and Development (2004), changing the use purpose of natural forests to another use purpose must be based on the conversion criteria and conditions prescribed by the Government. The recently approved Law on Forestry (2017, effective 1 January 2019), explicitly prohibits the conversion of natural forests (except in cases of nationally important projects, national defence projects, or other critical projects approved by the government). The requirements for Environmental Impact Assessment and Social Impact Assessment in the development of master land use plans and assessment of potential REDD+ benefits and risks for Provincial REDD+ Action Plans (PRAPs) also prevent planning for the conversion of natural forests. Implementation guidelines have not yet been issued for the new Forestry Law (2017); these will be prepared for consultation, revision and approval.
The Ministry of Agriculture and Rural Development (MARD) is the focal point for implementation of forestry laws in Viet Nam. The Ministry of Defence, the Ministry of Public Security, the Ministry of Natural Resources and Environment, and other ministries and ministerial-level organizations are responsible for collaborating with MARD in performing state management of forestry within the scope of their tasks and powers.
At the provincial level, the Departments of Agriculture and Rural Development are responsible for developing PRAPs for appraisal and approval by the Provincial People’s Committees. The Ministry of Natural Resources and the Environment, and provincial Departments of Natural Resources and the Environment within their respective localities, are responsible for oversight, appraisal and approval of social and environmental impact assessments.
 The Law on Forestry (2017), Articles 18-21
 The Forest Protection and Development Law (2004), Article 27; see also Government Decree No. 23/2006/ND-CP, and the Prime Minister’s Decision No. 34/2011/QĐ-TTg.
 The Forestry Law (2017, effective 1 January 2019), Article 14.
 Government Decree No. 18/2015/ND-CP; MARD Decisions No. 5414/2015/QD-BNN-TCLN.
A number of potential benefits and risks related to the non-conversion of natural forests, and their biodiversity and ecosystem services, have been identified through REDD+ planning processes at the national and subnational levels. These benefits and risks, and measures suggested to enhance benefits and reduce risks, are discussed in detail under Safeguard E3.1.2, which looks at the conservation of natural forests and biodiversity. Safeguard E3 also provides information on National REDD+ Programme policies and measures that support conservation of natural forests.