The following documents provide key background information for the 2015 High-Level Round Table Meeting.
The following were the key recommendations from development partners resulting from the 2015 High-Level Round Table Meeting:
The Vientiane Partnership Declaration was unanimously approved. Action is now required for rapidly putting these principles into practice.
Participants support the 8th National Socio-Economic Development Plan (NSEDP 2016 – 2020). It pursues an integrated approach to inclusive and sustainable development that addresses the unfinished business of the Millennium Development Goals (MDGs) and the priorities to achieve graduation from Least Developed Country (LDC) status, and embarks on the new Sustainable Development Goal (SDG) targets. The NSEDP was formulated in a participatory manner. It is results and outcome, and builds on the lessons and successes of the 7th NSEDP.
We acknowledge the significant progress that Lao PDR has made in achieving the majority of the MDG targets—many ahead of schedule. Overall levels of poverty have been reduced from 46% to 23% in a generation. However, several MDG targets have not been reached—such as those for nutrition, school retention, infant and child mortality and deforestation. Geographic disparities persist and inequalities are now growing, especially between urban and rural areas. People living in remote areas and belonging to different ethnic groups are more likely to suffer from poverty, and more at risk of falling back into poverty. Promoting gender equality requires further efforts at all levels. Addressing these challenges development partners will support the Government’s efforts to localise the SDGs fully to the Lao context, integrating targets and indicators into national planning and monitoring.
Sustained economic growth of over 7% per year in recent years has been impressive. However, concern was expressed that growth is currently too dependent on the natural resource and extractive sectors and that growth has not proportionally reduced poverty because it has not been inclusively shared. Improvements to the business environment and competitiveness and a better linkage between higher education and skills training and the labour market are needed—with the ASEAN Economic Community and World Trade Organisation providing a major impetus. Quality FDI needs to generate more jobs, in particular for young people, and be socially and environmentally responsible. Pursuit of ‘green growth’ is a real prospect for Lao PDR, linking natural resources to conservation as a source of growth in itself. A stronger partnership with the private sector is recommended. Investing in critical infrastructure remains a priority for the country to become land-linked. Maintenance of existing infrastructure also requires more attention.
Continued efforts to promote macroeconomic stability are a precondition for inclusive growth and sustainable development progress. There is a significant exposure to external economic and financial shocks, risks and vulnerabilities. Efforts are needed to improve oversight of the financial sector, control public debt and enhance revenue generation. Prioritization within, and transparency of the national budget is also needed. A medium-term expenditure framework would provide greater clarity for Development Partners to align their assistance to achieve greater predictability, coordination and effectiveness.
Government has adopted SDG 16 in recognition of a number of core principles that are essential for good governance to serve as a catalyst for development. Partnership, participation, transparency, accountability and strong anti-corruption measures are prerequisites for inclusive, equitable and balanced nation-wide growth. Law enforcement, access to justice and people-centred justice delivery remain as important challenges. Follow-up is needed to the Universal Periodic Review and development of an Action Plan to address key issues. Development will not be sustainable if aspects of human rights are neglected, and the rights-based approach should be applied to development work.
In line with the Vientiane Declaration, the enabling environment for civil society (both foreign and domestic) should be improved, to help shape and implement sustainable development in Lao PDR under Government coordination and leadership. The registration process for civil society organisations should be reviewed in order to facilitate a faster approval process.
A significant and phased modernization in the agriculture sector is required to enable the country to proceed on its development path of transformation. Improving agricultural productivity, better linking it to climate change resilience and ensuring land tenure security are among the top priorities. Sustainable management of water resources and the careful consideration of the potential environmental and social impacts of hydropower projects on riparian populations including in downstream countries should be fully supported.
Partners expressed appreciation for the Government’s ‘convergence approach’ for Food and Nutrition Security. Tackling malnutrition will remain one of the foremost priorities of the Government, which is critical for human resource based economic growth.
Lao PDR can also benefit from targeting expenditures to priority social sectors to impact both the unfinished MDGs and longer-term SDG targets. Public investments in health and education should accompany formal social protection mechanisms to build resilience. Currently, government expenditures in these key social sectors are very low in comparison to neighbouring countries in the region. Enhancing productive capacities in rural areas through support for sustainable agricultural development and rural infrastructure will have direct development impact at the local level. In this context, Development Partners and Government can increasingly pursue co-financing of investments into these core sectors. In parallel to accelerating infrastructure development, budgeting for, and carrying out periodic maintenance will contribute to longer-term resilience and sustainability.
Participants acknowledged the centrality of efficiently working health systems and access to quality health services in contributing to graduation from LDC status, attaining the unmet MDG targets and pursuing the SDGs. While recognizing considerable gains, there are further critical targets ahead concerning infant, child and maternal mortality, and child malnutrition, especially stunting and underweight rates. Similarly, in the education sector, we noted MDG progress. However, dropout, repetition & survival rates and skills mismatch, as well as the quality of education remain a concern, as does the need to ensure a good supply of trained teachers across the entire country.
All stakeholders remain concerned with the levels of cultivation, trafficking and use of illicit drugs in Lao PDR. This issue affects so many of the country’s vulnerable youth and more attention should be given to promote a public health approach to the issue. Alongside the challenge of illicit drugs is that of illegal wildlife trafficking. Enforcement of international legal standards will further contribute to the fight against international organised crime.
Four ongoing priorities confront the environment sector: forest restoration and sustainable management; land reform, which is crucial for sustainable land management and investment; strengthening and enforcing protection of biodiversity and eco-systems; and climate change action, including enhanced preparedness for disasters. The government should be commended for taking early actions, learning from experiences in other countries. The social, environmental and economic price of ‘growing first and cleaning up later’ is too costly.
The introduction of the new evidence-based survey methodology has already yielded tangible results and will accelerate the efficiency of clearing contaminated areas linked to human settlements most at risk and development priorities.