Territorialising sustainable development: the politics of land-use planning in Laos

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Since the emergence of the sustainable development paradigm in the late 1980s, land-use planning has become a key arena for political debates over society-environment interactions and, in practice, an important means for territorialisation projects. The paper reviews the main planning approaches that have been employed over the past three decades in the Lao People's Democratic Republic, a country that has long been viewed as a valuable policy testing ground for the proponents of sustainable development. It highlights three concurrent territorialisation projects that have shaped the history of land-use planning and have fuelled tensions between central and subnational governments and local actors, national and foreign institutions, and land suitability and sustainability approaches. The paper argues that the latter tensions reflect an important dynamism and reactivity in the planning arena. It concludes that the capacity of land-use planners to adapt to specific contexts and evolving socio-environmental challenges should be harnessed in order to reconcile conflicting approaches to planning and, perhaps, to achieve sustainable development.

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