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On 7th of March, the 9th round of the annual EU-Lao PDR Human Rights and Governance Dialogue took place in Vientiane.
During the Dialogue, both delegations had the opportunity to discuss on a wide range of issues of mutual interest in an open and constructive manner. Topics ranged from civil, political, economic, social and cultural rights to fundamental freedoms and the rights of women, children, ethnic and vulnerable groups. The Dialogue also touched upon the three UN Treaty-Bodies’ reviews undertaken by Laos in 2018 and upcoming UPR cycle. In this regard, the European Union reaffirmed its commitment to continue to support the Lao PDR through its development programmes in implementing UPR and Treaty-Bodies’ recommendations, especially in the field of the rights of the child, elimination of discrimination against women, and the rule of law.
While the Lao Government has recently promulgated the amended Penal Code, as well as other laws and sub-laws, additional efforts are needed for the country to attain the goal of a Rule of Law State in line with the National Master Plan on the development of the Rule of Law by 2020. The EU will also continue to provide support for an inclusive and constructive engagement between the Lao authorities and all stakeholders in the implementation of the said National Master Plan. The Lao PDR shared the information on its presentation of the Initial report under ICCPR. In this respect, including as regards the freedom of expression and freedom of association and peaceful assembly the EU encouraged the Lao PDR to uphold its commitments under international human rights law and to ensure the implementation of the recommendations of the UN Human Rights Committee in 2018 in its concluding observations.
During the Dialogue, individual cases of persons of concern, some of which had been discussed in previous meetings, were raised by the EU. Against this backdrop, the EU requested updated information on the measures adopted to protect people's rights, according to the norms stated in the international Conventions that the Lao PDR has ratified or signed, whereas the Lao PDR provided information on its legal and policy frameworks, as well as measures on the safeguarding of human rights and fundamental freedoms for all without discrimination on whatever grounds. The Lao PDR also called on the EU to ensure human rights and non-discrimination while dealing with migration and fighting terrorism and to look into possible global causes of the migration issues facing the EU.
The EU also stressed the importance of ratification by the Lao PDR of the International Convention for the Protection of All Persons from Enforced Disappearance, as well as of issuing invitations to UN Special Rapporteurs. In this regard, the EU acknowledged the upcoming visit of the UN Special Rapporteur on Extreme Poverty and Human rights that will take place soon after the Dialogue. The Lao PDR reaffirmed its goodwill and cooperation with Thematic Special Procedure, but will consider inviting Special Rapporteurs on a case-by-case basis.
The jointly-organised celebration in December 2018 to mark the 70th anniversary of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights paved the way for closer cooperation between the EU and the Lao PDR; this could be done notably in bilateral and international fora, including through engagement within UN human rights mechanisms.
Ahead of the Dialogue, the EU Delegation and the Ministry of Foreign Affairs jointly organised a workshop on freedom of expression and the challenges posed by fake news and disinformation. The workshop provided an opportunity to present the recent EU Action Plan against disinformation.
The Delegation of the European Union was headed by Mr David Daly, Head of South East Asia Division at the European External Action Service, while the Delegation from the Lao PDR was led by Mr Phoukhong Sisoulath, Director-General of the Department of Treaties and Law of the Ministry of Foreign Affairs. The meeting was attended by representatives from several Ministries and Institutions of the Lao PDR, the EEAS and the European Commission, as well as the EU Member States' Embassies.
The next meeting of the EU – Lao PDR Human Rights and Governance Dialogue will be held in Brussels in 2020.