Leave No One Behind - Establishing the Basis for Social Protection Floors in Lao PDR

Learn more about the UN Joint Programme on Social Protection in Lao PDR.

Over the past decade, Lao PDR has seen high economic growth and poverty reduction. And yet, a fifth of the population continues to live around or below the national poverty line. Maternal and child mortality are high compared to other countries in Southeast Asia. Malnutrition and stunting affect many children. A fifth of all students do not complete school, due to financial barriers. The country is in the beginning stages of developing its social protection system, and as such current coverage is low, at just 15% of the working-age population.

To tackle these problems, in April 2020, the Government adopted its first National Social Protection Strategy for 2021-2025. The Strategy is built around three main pillars: improving social health insurance, extending social security and establishing the groundwork for social assistance programmes. To support the Government in the implementation of the Strategy, the UN Joint Programme on Social Protection was established under joint operation of ILO, UNICEF and UNCDF. The Programme has two integrated components: institutional development support to the Government of Lao PDR and design and pilot of the Mother and Early Childhood Grant to demonstrate the benefits of social protection The interventions proposed have multiplying effects in several SDGs, expecting to directly impact on poverty reduction, nutritional gains, reduction of socio-economic inequalities, improvement of gender equality markers, and overall system sustainability.

“We do believe that to deliver the results that are needed to achieve the Sustainable Development Goals and truly “leave no one behind”, we have to go at scale. And the only way to go at scale is to work with national structures and to build-up a national programme,” shared Ms. Sara Sekkenes, UN Resident Coordinator for Lao PDR.

Funding the pilot test of the Strategy in two of the poorest districts in Lao PDR, Mr. Jean-Bernard Carrasco, Ambassador of Australia to Lao PDR for 2018-2021, said on behalf of the Australian Department of Foreign Affairs and Trade (DFAT): “We are providing funding so that we can test the social protection pilot in the south of the country. And our hope is that what has been tested is something that the Lao Government will be able to, with others support, roll-out nationally particularly to help women and young children to be able to benefit the most and particularly poor children and poor women.”

“This will be an early and important step to benefit people, especially women and children who have health and nutrition problems. The best practices learned from this programme will be a model for scaling up to broader areas of the country,” said Dr. Yangkou Yangluexay, Director General, Department of Planning and International Cooperation, Ministry of Labour and Social Welfare.

The UN Joint Programme on Social Protection supports the Government of Lao PDR to plan, prepare, implement and monitor the National Social Protection Strategy 2025. It aims to generate evidence to show that social protection is feasible and impactful even in low-income countries and in this way, to secure greater domestic investment in social protection. This Programme allows UN agencies to pool their expertise and reduce overlaps in their support to the Government of Lao PDR. It will accelerate progress towards SDG1 (No Poverty), SDG2 (Zero Hunger), SDG16 (Peace, Justice and Strong Institutions) and SDG17 (Partnerships for the Goals). The Programme is financed by the Joint SDG Fund and DFAT Australia.

The story was created by UN Joint Programme on Social Protection and UN Resident Coordinator in Lao PDR.

UN entities involved in this initiative
ILO
International Labor Organization
RCO
United Nations Resident Coordinator Office
UNCDF
United Nations Capital Development Fund
UNICEF
United Nations Children’s Fund