European Union External Action

2020 Human Rights and Democracy country update – Lao People's Democratic Republic (Lao PDR)

Vientiane, 28/06/2021 - 05:55, UNIQUE ID: 210628_28
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EU Council has adopted the EU annual report on human rights and democracy in the world for 2020. This report provides a snapshot of the EU’s engagement and actions to promote and protect human rights across the globe in 2020. The report is thematic and includes country-specific examples of EU action.

Access the annual report here

  1. Overview of the human rights and democracy situation: The overall situation of human rights and democracy in the Lao PDR has largely remained unchanged in 2020 with no particular sign of improvement. The country continued to lag behind in terms of effective implementation of its international human rights obligations in several areas. The rights to freedom of expression, association and peaceful assembly remain restricted. Laos has been repeatedly rated as one of the worst performing countries with regard to press freedom and is ranked 172nd out of 180 in the 2020 World Press Freedom Index. The state continued to exercise close control over media and civil society, while law enforcement and accountability are particularly weak. There has been no progress in investigating previously reported cases of enforced disappearances. The death penalty continues to be applied in the Lao PDR but no execution has taken place since 1989. Nevertheless, in January 2020, eight people were sentenced to death for drug trafficking. Although the Lao government continued its anti-corruption drive during the year, corruption remains widely spread. Lao PDR ranked 134th out of 179 in the 2020 Transparency International Corruption Perceptions Index. The number of confirmed COVID-19 cases was extremely low but the global crisis and the national lockdown exacerbated the existing deep inequalities within society and impacted the socioeconomic rights especially of the people belonging to the more vulnerable groups. Domestic violence against women and children increased over the year. Services for people living in remote areas or for persons with disabilities were disrupted.
  2. EU action - key focus areas: The EU's advocacy priorities for 2020 continued to be on protecting individuals through advocacy on behalf of human rights defenders, and empowering individuals through consultations with and support to Lao civil society. In terms of promoting a global system for human rights and democracy the EU also focused on Lao PDR’s action plan for the accepted recommendations under the third cycle of the Universal Periodic Review. The EU has also aimed to deliver by working together, both engaging with the Lao government in line with the follow-up action plan of previous human rights dialogue meetings with the EU as well as supporting capacity building for Lao ministries and National Assembly members relating to human rights conventions and related international obligations and commitments.
  3. EU bilateral political engagement: Several human rights related activities envisaged for 2020 did not take place due to the COVID-19 pandemic restrictions, notably the annual EU-Laos Human Rights Dialogue and the Civil Society Fair.As an active member of the Governance Sector Working Group (GSWG), a policy dialogue forum between the government and donors, the EU continued co-chairing in 2020 the Sub-Group on Legal and Institutional Oversight. The EU, together with Switzerland, the Ministry of Home Affairs and UNDP, also took a proactive role to identify the priorities and opportunities for engagement of local civil society within the GWSG. As a result, a growing number of civil society organisations were invited to actively participate in GSWG discussions and workshops, and, overall, a more diverse presence of CSO representatives is now observed in various meetings, workshops and consultations organised by the government. On 15 December 2020, the EU delegation participated in the commemoration of the eighth anniversary of the disappearance of the community development worker, Sombath Somphone.
  4. EU   financial   engagement: In   2020,   the   EU   provided   continuous   support   both   by   participating  in  and  financially  contributing  to  the  informal  Civil  Society  Working  Group  meetings  between  CSOs,  government  and  donors,  and  maintaining  its  engagement  and  dialogue with CSO partners.  Both the European Instrument for Democracy and Human Rightsand   the   thematic   programme   Civil   Society   Organisations-Local   Authorities   represent significant tools to support the activities of civil society and capacity building for CSOs. The EU increased  its  support  to  CSOs.  In  2020,  more  than  40  local  CSOs  and  INGOs  received  EU  financial support either directly or indirectly through sub-grants.  EU financial and operational support  for  the  governance  sector  has  continued  to  be  shaped  mainly  within  the  ‘Citizen Engagement for Good Governance, Accountability and the Rule of Law’ programme (CEGGA), co-funded  with  Switzerland  and  Germany,  in  order  to  support  civil  society  engagement,  strengthen core parliamentary functions, and enhance the implementation of the rule of law and human rights.
  5. Multilateral context: The third Universal Periodic Review ( UPR)  cycle for the Lao PDR took place in January 2020. Out of the 226 recommendations received, the government supported 160  recommendations,  and  noted  66  recommendations.  In  close  cooperation  with  the  UN  country  office  and  other  development  partners,  the  EU  provided  technical  support  for  the 
  6. 210 preparation of the national report, the participation of the delegation (government and CSO representatives) at the UPR Working Group meeting in January 2020 and aims to support the implementation of activities to address the UPR recommendations. Lao PDR remained non-committal  with  regard  to  calls  for: the  abolition  of  the  death  penalty;  the  signing  and  ratification of key international human rights treaties, including the International Convention for the Protection of All Persons from Enforced Disappearance (ICPPED); the facilitation of an enabling space for civil society; the establishment of a national human rights institution in line with Paris Principles, and standing invitations to all UN Special Representatives.
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