A key challenge for reducing emission from deforestation and forest degradation (REDD) in developing countries is to balance the power of various stakeholders in decision making. This study explores the forms of stakeholder participation in the implementation of three pilot projects in Laos, with a focus on who actually makes decisions on project activities. We found that stakeholder roles in making decisions were imbalanced. The central government and development partner organizations were the ones who actually fulfill the roles of decision-makers in most project activities. Although local communities were not the key stakeholders in decision making in most activities, their roles seem to have increased in the activities where participatory approaches were applied. Participation of the private sector, non-governmental organizations, academic and research institutes and mass organizations was limited. Opportunities to reach decision-makers regarding project activities came through service contract agreements. Our findings suggest that an understanding of who fulfills the key roles will support a decentralization of decision making by balancing power and redistributing the roles from dominant to weaker stakeholders. In addition, the private sector's participation may enhance opportunities to harmonize their investments for supporting REDD+ development and reduce the negative impacts on the forests and the environment.
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