The European Union Delegation to Egypt

Lao PDR and the EU

12/05/2016 - 11:55
EU relations with Country

The European Union (EU) has long enjoyed a close relationship with Laos. Through substantial development assistance, support to the national reform agenda and a commitment to open markets, the EU helps Laos in its efforts to build a brighter future for its population and to play an active role regionally and internationally.

Close collaboration

At the heart of the relationship is the EU-Laos Cooperation Agreement of 1997. It provides the framework for relations, setting out areas for cooperation and formalising the commitment of the two parties. A Joint Committee, held every two years in Vientiane or Brussels, allows the EU and the Government of Laos to formulate recommendations and set priorities. Collaboration also takes place on the regional and international stage through organisations such as ASEAN and ASEM.

European Joint Programming in Laos

1. European JOINT PROGRAMMING

Joint Programming is the joint planning of development cooperation and external action by EU development/external action partners working in a partner country. It is a policy tool contributing to a stronger Europe and bringing together resources and capacities. Now, more than ever, the European Union, the Member States and other like-minded governments need to join forces, programme their development aid together and, if possible, develop a strategic and coordinated response to key challenges, such as migration and climate change. Working better together will enhance the EU's ability to decisively contribute to the partner country's national development plan and to support our partners in the implementation of the 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development and its Sustainable Development Goals, as well as the Addis Ababa Action Agenda.

For more information on how Joint Programming progresses in each partner country, please visit our website: http://capacity4dev.ec.europa.eu/joint-programming or contact us here: DEVCO-Joint-Programming-Support@ec.europa.eu ; JOINT-PROGRAMMING-SUPPORT@eeas.europa.eu ; NEAR-JOINT-PROGRAMMING@ec.europa.eu

2. EU JOINT PROGRAMMING IN LAOS

Joint Programming laid the foundations for European partners to join forces to provide a response that was well coordinated with other development partners' support to Laos. European partners (comprising the EU, Finland, France, Germany, Hungary, Ireland, Luxembourg, the United Kingdom and Switzerland) adopted in Vientiane in June 2016 the "European Joint Programming document for Lao People's Democratic Republic 2016-2020". This document aligns with Laos' national development strategy by using the 8th National Socio-Economic Development Plan (NSEDP) timetable, pursuing goals included in the NSEDP and promoting the use of government reporting, monitoring and evaluation. It is also the foundation for dialogue on fundamental human rights, environmental protection and the expansion of good governance practices in Laos.

This strategy document reflects the importance that Europeans attach to joint collaboration and partnerships as catalysts for achieving results and increasing the effectiveness of our development efforts.

European partners have jointly identified seven ‘priority sectors’ in which they have a comparative advantage and are active in policy dialogue. The sectors are aligned with the government of Lao PDR's policies and definitions. Coordination is ensured through the relevant working group mechanism, thus enabling ownership. European partners are harmonising their programming through this joint programming exercise with each sector contributing to a results framework linked to monitoring indicators included in the 8th NSEDP to enable mutual accountability for results.

The Joint Strategy focuses on the following 'priority sectors' for European development cooperation:

  1. Agriculture and Rural Development – the objective is sustainable development in rural areas through balanced agriculture development preserving the interests of small holders and contributing to poverty reduction;
  2. Education – focus is on basic education, comprising primary and lower secondary education;
  3. Environment and Natural Resources – the objective is for the rural and poor communities targeted by European support to benefit from healthy and sustainably managed forest ecosystems and secure access to land in line with the Voluntary guidelines on the responsible governance of tenure of land, fisheries and forest in the context of national food security;
  4. Governance – the objective is to contribute to good governance, the Rule of law and human rights in Lao PDR. People’s representation and participation and Rule of law are two of the four pillars of the Lao PDR Strategic Governance Plan 2011-2020;
  5. Health - support to the health sector is based on the Lao National Health Sector Reform Strategy 2013-25, the corresponding 8th Health Sector Development Plan (2016 – 2020) and relevant subsector strategies regarding maternal and child health (MNCH), health financing, nutrition and health personnel development;
  6. Nutrition - European partners align their support, with the vision statement of the Lao PDR National Nutrition Policy to 2025 ''to improve the nutritional status of children and women, especially the most vulnerable and hard to reach'';
  7. Private Sector Development, including Technical, Vocational Education and Training and Tourism - joint support of the European partners focuses on the development of the economy, especially value chains, trade and investment policy in the context of the ASEAN Economic Community (AEC);

In addition to this, European partners also committed to providing significant financial and technical support in complementary areas (sectors) and on cross-cutting policy priorities. These include:

  • Cross-cutting issues – protection of fundamental human rights, gender equality, protection and inclusion of disadvantaged minorities, democratic governance and combating corruption, sustainable environmental management and climate change mitigation and adaptation, resettlement practices on a voluntary basis;
  • Complementary sectors – support to civil society, climate finance, culture and heritage, disaster risk reduction/preparedness, democracy and human rights, lending from the European Investment Bank, energy, investment, support to the Mekong River Commission, migration, multilateral institutions, regional integration, research and innovation, scholarships and higher education, statistics, youth and un-exploded ordinances.

From May to September 2018, the European Partners conducted a midterm report of the European Joint Programming for Lao PDR 2016-2020. This exercise enabled European Partners to reconfirm the relevance of the European Joint Programming 2016-2020 to the European Consensus on Development, which constitutes the blueprint of the EU’s development policy with the 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development. Moreover, the midterm reporting process was synchronized with the 8th NSEDP midterm review process, thus making European Joint Programming more than ever a contributor to the national policy dialogue, ensuring more effective alignment and strengthening ownership.

A commitment to democracy and human rights

Our relationship covers many areas and also includes a yearly EU-Lao PDR dialogue on human rights and good governance. The EU supports a wide range of human rights initiatives carried out by International Non-Governmental Organizations INGOs, Lao Non-Profit Associations NPA and other Civil Society Organisations, in particular through the European Instrument for Democracy and Human Rights (EIDHR).

Trading together

In its economic relations with Least Developed Countries, the EU combines specific development cooperation with initiatives to help trade and boost sustainable economic growth. The 'Everything but Arms' initiative gives unlimited access for exports from Laos to the EU market, opening the door to the biggest single market in the world. EU countries also maintain their own economic relations with Lao PDR. Trade has been growing gradually and has reached EUR 362 million in 2015.

Cultural and educational exchange

The EU-Laos relationship is about more than just trade and development. Some EU countries have developed projects to safeguard and promote Laos' cultural wealth; from temple restoration, conservation of centuries old Buddhist palm leaf manuscripts, support to the concept of a Museum of Buddhist Art and a list of endangered art objects, or training of Lao authorities in cultural management and architecture. The EU Delegation works alongside them to support various events such as the EU Film Festival and the Vientiane boat race. Educational links are also important. Both EU countries and the EU offer scholarships for Lao students and academics to study at higher education institutions in Europe.

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