at the Lao PDR’s 2019 Round Table Implementation Meeting
Luang Prabang, 26 November 2019
The Lao PDR has definitely embarked on the journey to LDC graduation and we look forward to 2024 when this important development milestone will be achieved. We want to congratulate the people of Laos and the Government for their efforts in this regard. The closer the country gets to graduation, the more important it will be to ensure a smooth transition by adapting to new forms of ODA that will evolve over the years.
Laos has wisely chosen to use the 2030 Agenda and to integrate the SDGs into its own development strategy, including SDG 18 on the evacuation of UXOs. It has adopted an internationally recognized and approved tool that will allow the people of Laos together with all Development partners to track progress on the implementation of this plan - including emerging regional donors that we would appreciate to be also present at this gathering.
In order to keep the momentum to the 2030 agenda, commitments to and ownership of this agenda, mobilise national resources and invest in all sectors, including the social sectors (health and education) in order to guarantee equitable and inclusive growth.
Looking from a broader perspective, as a responsible member of the international community that subscribes to the multilateral rules-based order Lao PDR has also devoted considerable efforts to become a full-fledged member of the regional and international communities, along the call of the PM to implement "The Three-Open Policy", namely, to further open doors, open minds and open barriers.
The European Development Partners (the EU, the EU Member States and Switzerland) have come together and we consolidated our approach in the European Joint Programming, which we see as mutually beneficial because it brings more coherence and effectiveness to our dialogue and cooperation. We would like to express our gratitude to the Government for the successfully held meeting on September 27th this year.
We want to assure Laos of our continued support and partnership. We attach indeed also great importance to SDG 17 whose goals are to bring together national governments, the international community, civil society and the private sector.
While overall our top priority for the coming years will certainly remain the fight against poverty, and governance and the establishment of the rule of law. We will keep investing into nutrition, health, education, agriculture and rural development, environment and natural resources, private sector development including TVET We will continue to remain amongst the biggest providers of ODA to the Lao PDR.
Crucial to the success of our future cooperation will be the continued efforts to strengthen the institutional capacity, the increase of Government budgets to the social sectors and the increased transparency of Government allocations. These can ensure the sustainability of our cooperation.
We would like to commend the efforts that the Government has made in the area of Public Financial Management, and in particular the Public Expenditure and Financial Accountability report that was published in September. We know of the difficulties to mobilise domestic resources, and together with other partners the EU stands ready to implement programmes that will help to mobilise domestic resources and maintain macro-economic stability. Moreover, these programmes would also aim at strengthening the national institutions that are at the core of a modern State that is ruled by law.
We support the efforts put in place by the Government in its path towards a ‘Rule of Law State’. Pursuing key reforms and ensuring that domestic laws and their application are in line with all international treaties and human rights standards the country has committed to are of utmost importance for an inclusive, equal and vibrant society, leaving no one behind. We support considerations to set up an administrative court system.
We look forward to the upcoming third UPR review of Laos which will give useful reference tools to measure the 2030 Agenda progress. We take note of the legislative and policy efforts to improve the legal framework, stressing the importance of all rights, economic, social, cultural, political and civil rights. We will remain supportive of all efforts to bridge the gap between the adoption of the laws and their enforcement. In this context, we would also like to reiterate our call for a speedy conclusion of the all cases concerning enforced disappearances in Laos or of Lao nationals.
Civil society is an important partner and a key player for sustainable development. We therefore welcome the increased participation of civil society in sector working groups, including in the RTM discussions. In a similar vein, we would also like to encourage more involvement of the civil society organizations in the UN special procedures' mechanisms by notably allowing so-called "shadow reports".
The private sector development is an important stakeholder in the national socio-economic development. The need to ease doing business in Laos, necessary to improve trade and attract foreign investment, has been set as a clear priority by the government. We are keen to step up European support and focus in this critical area, in close coordination with the European Chamber ECCIL. We commend the Government for holding the 12th Lao Business Forum and encourage a continued dialogue with the private sector while giving appropriate follow-up to the recommendations formulated at the event which would inter alia include setting up a robust system of economic dispute resolution in the Lao PDR.
The national green growth strategy, which was endorsed by the Lao government earlier this year, offers the right pathway to help maintain a strong, inclusive and sustainable economic growth. A social and economic development whereby Lao PDR leaves behind unsustainable exploitation of its natural resources capital, and instead fosters the protection of its rich biodiversity, forests and rivers, while promoting sustainable production and consumption practices and the resilience of its people to impacts of climate change and increased volatility.
Climate change continues to exert its hazardous impacts on Laos, with widespread floods having ravaged once again southern provinces and the on-going drought affecting many parts of the country. Attention must therefore be paid to the importance of disaster risk reduction and preparedness, as rural livelihoods have been increasingly at risk. We congratulate the Government on the two recently approved GCF projects as well as on the creation of the Climate Change Funding Window under the Lao Environment Protection Fund (EPF), as stipulated in the Climate Change Decree. This is an important step to concentrate climate finance in a robust fund.
Of significant importance is also the aspect of Dam Safety and the sustainable development of a hydropower sector, which minimises environmental and social impacts, manages the safety of infrastructure investments and adapts to the evolving dynamics of the energy market. To strengthen the dam safety institutional setting a dam safety authority should be established and a dam safety strategy be developed. We propose to integrate the energy sector into the RTM.
We would like to encourage the Government to consider ratifying the ECE Water Convention and of becoming a member of the International Commission on Large Dams to safeguard the quality of investments. This would certainly benefit the Lao PRD in the ever more important issue of water diplomacy. We encourage the Government to work closely with partners in the Mekong River Commission on water resource management and translate the important results of MRC studies and strategies in national frameworks and activities.
We look forward to the swift promulgation of the revised National Land Law, by the Government of the Lao PDR. More equitable land governance, with tenure security, is also an essential component of a sustainable development process which promotes a sound management of natural resources and prevents exacerbating inequalities.
We note the recent adoption of the ODA decree 357, on which Development Partners were unfortunately not sufficiently consulted after the initial exchanges in 2017. The decree stipulates a clearer set up of the respective roles and responsibilities of the Ministry of Planning and Investment, Ministry of Foreign Affairs and Ministry of Finance as it relates to ODA approval and implementation. It raises however concerns with respect to the countries to which it applies – it should ensure instead a level-playing field for all development partners.
We look forward to working closely with other Development Partners and the Government in preparation of the 9th NSEDP. Considering the great amounts of human and financial resources necessary for this process, we would appreciate efforts to make the Round Table Mechanism as effective as possible. In our opinion, we should define clear targets in an overall more results-oriented dialogue, especially at the level of the Sector Working Group that we can easily follow-up with. We also pledge for an improved coordination between the SWGs as they cover fields that are strongly interlinked. Synergies among the SWGs would enhance the definition of development policies and increase the coherence of DP support for their implementation.