Strengthening the Lao PDR – United Nations Partnership for the Future We Want
Op-Ed in commemoration of the 75th Anniversary of United Nations
“We the peoples”, the first words of the founding Charter of the United Nations (UN) adopted in 1945, give the UN its vision and mission. The ideals of the UN – peace, equality and dignity — serve as beacons towards a better world for all and still hold true today.
These commitments have produced results. Over the past 75 years, the UN has combated hunger and poverty, immunised millions of children, strengthened universal values and rights and advanced gender equality. The UN has shown leadership in peace negotiations, fought for stability and alleviated the suffering of those affected by conflict and natural disasters.
Here in the Lao PDR, the Government and the UN have built a long-standing cooperation in partnership to reduce poverty rates and undernourishment, improve primary school enrollments and since 1990 halved the mortality rate of children under 5-years-old. We continue to work together on strategic areas such as governance, promoting inclusive growth, addressing the multi-dimensional obstacles posed by unexploded ordnance (UXO) and securing livelihoods and basic services for all; strengthening resilience to shocks and natural disasters and advancing human development.
However, the history of the UN is not linear and many of these achievements are intertwined with setbacks and adversity. Whilst there have been important gains, the world has also been plagued by growing inequality, armed conflicts, terrorism, insecurity and climate change. People in different corners of the world are forced to make dangerous journeys in search of refuge and safety and many of the globe’s Least Developed Countries (LDCs) continue to fall behind.
It is this complexity, combined with the resolve to uphold the core values of the UN Charter that continues to drive the Organization and its membership forward, seeking new and innovative ways to progress a sustainable development agenda that leaves no one behind.
The UN’s 75th Anniversary affords us an opportunity to not only reflect on what has been achieved, but to ask questions about what future we want and how we collectively can ensure a UN fit for purpose in building a more sustainable, equitable and peaceful world.
COVID-19 has touched everyone, everywhere – precisely the kind of global challenge for which the UN must show leadership and strength. The multifaceted impact of the pandemic has laid bare the world’s fragilities and once again highlighted when we are unable to solve global challenges, those most vulnerable are disproportionately affected. It further reaffirms multilateral cooperation and solidarity that stretches across borders and generations is essential for a shared prosperity.
How well we work together in overcoming this pandemic is likely to be a precursor for the even greater challenges of the climate crisis, the collapse of diverse ecosystems, increasing inequalities, new forms of violence, and rapidly changing technology and population shifts. Our response will determine how fast the world recovers and whether we achieve the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) that remain the blueprint for a better human-centered development.
It is critical that we take this time to reaffirm our shared commitment to the roadmap and aspirations the SDGs provide in achieving our development priorities; shaping the future of the five critical dimensions of the 2030 Agenda, the 5Ps of People, Prosperity, Planet, Partnership, and Peace.
The 5P’s give us a way to re-think development. For too long, the dominant economic growth model has driven our decision-making priorities, leading to unsustainable and exclusive advancement at the cost of our environment and socio-economic wellbeing. To ensure that we are in the best position to meet the challenges of tomorrow and secure a prosperous quality of life for future generations, society must broaden its understanding of progress, investing in the complexity and intersectionality that builds resilient and connected communities and taking a people-centred and -oriented approach to decision making.
In the Lao PDR, there is great potential for such a vision as the Government moves towards cementing its commitments for a greener, quality ensured, focused, and sustainable national development - the 9th Five Year National Socio-Economic Development Plan. This intent is evident in the recent launch of the National Social Protection Strategy 2025 that sets out a vision for all Lao people to be protected by a basic social protection floor. The country’s Green Growth Strategy and engagement in the UN Framework Convention on Climate Change further position Lao PDR to capitalize on its natural assets through a sustainable and inclusive growth model. Lao PDR is also acutely aware of its obligation to catalyse investments for the younger generation, focusing on improved nutrition and education outcomes for children, whilst scaling digital infrastructure investments and key sustainable growth industries, including tourism.
As we contend with the COVID-19 crisis and the call to ‘build back better’, Lao PDR can drive investments targeting the 5Ps, unlocking a prosperous and sustainable future for all. It is crucial that we work together in shaping an inclusive growth model and cultivating a pathway towards a sustainable graduation from the Least Developed Country (LDC) status.
The UN has for the last 75 years stood tall in building international cooperation and promoting multilateralism, whilst upholding and driving the normative agenda and universal human rights, in pursuit of the founding ideals set out in the UN Charter. No other global organization gives hope to so many people for a better world. It is with this history, experience and insight that the Government of the Lao PDR and the UN continues to embrace the possibilities and challenges in front of us, learning from our partnerships and multilateral frameworks to find innovative ways in shaping the world the way we want.
This Op-Ed is co-authored by H.E. Mr. Saleumxay Kommasith, Minister of Foreign Affairs of the Lao PDR and Ms. Sara Sekkenes, UN Resident Coordinator to the Lao PDR.