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On 13 May 2019, the Council of the EU adopted the EU annual report on human rights and democracy in the world for 2018. This report provides a snapshot of the EU’s engagement and actions to promote and protect human rights across the globe in 2018. The report is thematic and includes country-specific examples of EU action.
Access the annual report HERE
The annual report does not include a geographic part with specific observations on all third countries but human rights updates for each country can be found on the European External Action Service's (EEAS) and delegations' webpages.
Lao PDR– Country Updates on Human Rights and Democracy 2018
1. Overview of the human rights and democracy situation: The Lao PDR has made limited progress towards the national objective to establish a genuine rule of law with the National Assembly gradually developing its oversight role over the government. Lao PDR has a weak regulatory environment and law enforcement. Corruption remains a main challenge for the government which has adopted (but enforced with uneven results) several reform policies regarding fiscal transparency, forestry and wildlife trafficking. Laos is lagging 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, 199 and the state continues to exercise a close control over media and civil society. There was no progress on investigations into a number of enforced disappearances. In 2018 Laos submitted state party reports to the UN Human Rights Committee, as well as to the CEDAW Committee and the UN Committee on the Rights of the Child. The Death Penalty still applies despite a de facto moratorium in place since 1989. The number of crimes punishable by capital sentence has been reduced from 18 to 12. The new Penal Code, adopted by the National Assembly in May 2017 but promulgated in October 2018, aims to better comply with international standards, in particular with regard to environmental crime and anti-money laundering, while the concepts of genocide and torture are now included in conformity with international definitions.
2. EU action - key focus areas: The EU's priorities for 2018 continued to focus on human rights promotion and advocacy with the Laos' government authorities and through support to the local civil society, good governance and rule of law. The 8th EU-Lao PDR Human Rights Dialogue took place in Brussels in March 2018. In the field of good governance and rule of law, the EU gave continuous support for the public administration reforms, capacity building and implementation of the judicial and legislative framework (Citizen Engagement for Good Governance, Accountability and the Rule of Law programme), as well as continuing institutional capacity building with special focus on the National Assembly and People Provincial Assemblies, citizens' participation and conductive environment for civil society.
3. EU bilateral political engagement: The EU developed close cooperation with Lao authorities in the run-up and follow-up to the 2018 EU-Lao PDR Human Rights Dialogue, this being evidenced, for example, by the joint organization of the 70th anniversary of the UN Universal on Human Rights (UNDHR) event in December 2018. The EU Delegation to the Lao PDR also organised a panel discussion jointly with the Ministry of Foreign Affairs of Laos, the UN office and the Australian Embassy. The focus of the workshop was the universality of human rights and the impact of UNDHR principles to the international human rights law as well as to the Lao legal framework.
4. EU financial engagement: In 2018 the EU has continued to mobilise funds to support its focus areas of engagement in Laos together with the EU Member States as well as Switzerland in the framework of the European Joint Programming. In particular, the EU and 5 Member States (France, Germany, Ireland, Luxembourg, United Kingdom) and Switzerland have financially supported the activities in the governance sector where European partners are among the main providers of development assistance with total indicative commitments of EUR 22.5 million in the planning period 2015-2020. The implementation of programmes is ongoing and will continue in 2019. The EU has also supported several initiatives to support local civil society organisations.
5. Multilateral context: Although Laos has renounced to draft a UPR Action Plan, it did not stop its implementation. Three years after the 2ndUPR cycle, the Lao authorities are now consulting all relevant stakeholders in the run-up to the next cycle in 2020. The Government's main concern is the lack of resources for implementing over 116 recommendations, some of which are particularly broad in scope. Lao authorities have extended an invitation to the UN Special Rapporteur on Extreme Poverty, who is expected to visit Laos in March 2019.