The Sustainable Development Goals in Lao PDR
The Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) are a global call to action to end poverty, protect the earth’s environment and climate, and ensure that people everywhere can enjoy peace and prosperity. In addition to 17 global goals, in 2016 the Government of Lao PDR has formally launched the national SDG18, ‘Lives Safe from UXO’ (unexploded ordnance), in the presence of the UN Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon. As UXO remains an issue affecting national development in multiple dimensions, Lao PDR's output under the SDG18 contributes to the national outcomes under all the other SDGs. On the present map, some of the activities attributed to Vientiane are those which are carried out across the whole country.
17 November 2021
Government of Lao PDR and United Nations sign 2022-2026 Sustainable Development Cooperation Framework, strengthening the UN’s support to the 9th National Socio-Economic Development Plan
The Government of Lao PDR, represented by H.E. Mr. Saleumxay Kommasith, Minister of Foreign Affairs, and the United Nations (UN), represented by Ms. Sara Sekkenes, UN Resident Coordinator to Lao PDR, officially signed the 2022-2026 Lao PDR-UN Sustainable Development Cooperation Framework (UNSDCF). The brief signing ceremony took place a day ahead of the 13th High-Level Round Table Meeting, at the Ministry for Foreign Affairs, in Vientiane, with limited physical participation, acknowledging the ongoing rise of COVID-19 infections in the country’s capital. Succeeding the 2017-2021 Lao PDR- UN Partnership Framework, the 2022-2026 UNSDCF is the first since the reform of the UN development system, ushered in by the adoption by UN General Assembly Resolution 72/279 in 2018, transforming the way the UN works, building a platform for greater coordination, coherence, effectiveness, and development impact. The implementation of the UN Reform through the UNSDCF is characterised by strengthened alignment to national development priorities, comprehensive and interconnected strategic priorities, a structure underpinned by results-based management principles, streamlined coordination mechanisms, and a practical and targeted monitoring and evaluation framework. The signing officially marks the end of a process that started in August 2020, with the adoption of an agreed roadmap between the UN and the Government of Lao PDR on the further elaboration of the new Framework. The formulation process was highly consultative, with numerous exchanges held between UN entities, together with the Government of Lao PDR, with development partners, civil society, and private sector representatives to seek and reflect broad-based views and aspirations. The signing also allows for the beginning of the implementation of the SDCF on 1 January 2022. The UNSDCF is aligned with the overarching directions and six pillars of the 2021-2025 9th National Socio-Economic Development Plan. Underpinned by the Common Country Assessment (CCA), the UN’s independent analysis of development opportunities and challenges in Lao PDR, and a thorough evaluation of the previous Partnership Framework, the UNSDCF also mainstreams UN guiding principles for development cooperation seeking to Leave No One Behind, through the application of a Human-Rights Based Approach, addressing Women Empowerment and Gender Equality, Resilience, Sustainability, and Accountability. The UNSDCF represents the contributions to sustainable development of twenty-five Agencies, Funds, and Programmes of the UN Development System. The Framework will be implemented through four transformational strategic priorities: People’s Wellbeing, Inclusive Prosperity, Governance and the Rule of Law, and Environment, Climate Change and Resilience. Corresponding outcomes anticipate that, by 2026, people, especially the most vulnerable and marginalised, … … will have more equitable and inclusive access to and will benefit from better quality health, nutrition, food, shelter, protection, water, sanitation, and hygiene (WASH), and education and learning, including during emergencies. … will benefit from more inclusive, resilient, transformative, and sustainable socio-economic and demographic opportunities to reduce poverty and inequalities. …are better served by public institutions at all levels in a transparent and inclusive manner, able to exercise their rights and obligations and the institutions shall be strengthened and more accountable while the rule of law and international human rights commitments made by Lao PDR are upheld. … and institutions will be better able to sustainably access, manage, preserve, and benefit from natural resources and promote green growth that is risk-informed, disaster and climate-resilient. To realise these ambitions, the UN country team will work collaboratively across twenty-one joint outputs, bringing together Agencies, Funds, and Programmes with specific expertise to help national counterparts advance development progress and tackle Lao PDR’s development challenges. In UNICEF’s capacity as co-chair of the results group on People’s Wellbeing, Representative Dr. Pia Rebello Britto noted that “The UN team will be working towards ensuring quality services for all, especially the most vulnerable groups, including children, in an equitable and inclusive manner. Our goal is to achieve the wellbeing of the entire Lao PDR population, leaving no one behind”. Representing the Inclusive Prosperity results group, ILO National Coordinator Ms. Khemphone Phaokhamkeo added “under the new Cooperation Framework, the UN will be working more effectively with the government, private sector and workers’ representatives to support the shift to a more inclusive economic model- addressing the impacts of the pandemic and building forward better”. The UN is a longstanding partner of the Government and people of Lao PDR with WHO as its first entity to establish in-country offices in 1962, and with many more in the years that followed. With an estimated USD 500 million of development investments across the next five years, the UN will work with partners to seize development opportunities and tackle some of the most pressing issues of our time, including COVID-19 recovery, the triple planetary crisis of climate change, loss of biodiversity and environmental degradation, securing a sustainable LDC Graduation, and necessary investments in social sectors for an inclusive, prosperous, and equitable future for all and that leaves no one behind. On this occasion, H.E. Mr. Saleumxay Kommasith, Minister of Foreign Affairs expressed his appreciation to the continued cooperation and support by the UN to the Lao PDR for the past years, which significantly contributed to the economic-social development in the Lao PDR, and hoped that the UN would continue to provide support and assistance in the future, in particular, in the areas of response to the outbreak and the Covid-19 recovery efforts, climate change, sustainable development, support the Lao PDR to graduate from the LDC status as well as other relevant development areas.  Department of Economic and Social Affairs of the UN Secretariat (DESA); the Food and Agriculture Organisation (FAO); International Labour Organisation (ILO); International Fund for Agricultural Development (IFAD); International Organisation for Migration (IOM); International Trade Centre (ITC); Office of the UN High Commissioner on Human Rights (OHCHR); Joint UN Programme on HIV/AIDS (UNAIDS); UN Capital Development Fund (UNCDF); United Nations Commission On International Trade Law (UNCITRAL); UN Convention on Trade and Development (UNCTAD); UN Development Programme (UNDP); UN Office for Disaster Risk Reduction (UNDRR); UN Environment Programme (UNEP); UN Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organisation (UNESCO); UN Population Fund (UNFPA); UN Human Settlements Programme (UN-Habitat); UN High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR); UN Children’s Emergency Fund (UNICEF); UN Industrial Development Organisation (UNIDO); UN Office on Drugs and Crime (UNODC); UN Office for Project Services (UNOPS); UN Volunteers (UNV); World Food Programme (WFP); World Health Organisation (WHO) under the overall lead and coordination of the UN Resident Coordinators Office (UN RCO)
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13 May 2021
Ensuring vulnerable populations have access to essential healthcare during the COVID-19 pandemic
Supported by the UN COVID-19 Response and Recovery Multi-Partner Trust Fund, the technical assistance led by UNFPA and UNAIDS, and UNICEF in maintaining essential health services during COVID-19 crisis has been a crucial element to the Lao PDR response. One key element has been the pilot aimed at introducing tele-health capabilities at the sub-national level, enabling all people flexible and responsive healthcare even in times of isolation or where remote access limits direct face to face services. The pilot was designed to enable pregnant and lactating mothers to safely access health services and information, whilst also ensuring that people living with HIV could gain access to lifesaving medication and healthcare information. Ms. Khekko Saysanadeth, Head of Phakeng Health Center, Phoukhoun district, Luang Prabang province shared that “We gained new knowledge through trainings and received the necessary equipment and supplies, such as hand sanitizer, sterilizing supplies and communication equipment including loudspeakers and mobile phones to follow up on maternal and child health. After the training, we practice social distancing and set up the screening point and hand wash sinks in our center. We continue to maintain infection prevention and control and encourage visitors to wash their hands.” The technology now exists in Lao PDR for all sectors to consider how they can best deliver services to communities. This innovative approach is part of the programme to maintain essential reproductive, maternal, newborn, child and adolescent health services. The pilot provided some positive results and the health providers consider the tele-health capabilities as an effective and efficient way to provide care, especially in Phonthong district where access is often difficult, also without the COVID-19 pandemic. It is very useful for patients to get immediate assistance or a referral as needed and for health care providers to develop knowledge and skills with regard to early detection of at-risk pregnancies and children with danger signs. To date, 1,762 pregnant women have received telehealth consultations for ante- and postnatal care and 35,988 women have received adapted essential reproductive services. Ms. Khekko Saysanadeth added: “We make video calls and regular calls to mothers after birth and to pregnant women so they can ask questions and check in with the clinic staff, even when it is impossible to travel. If we cannot contact them, we make a call to village authorities to make an appointment to follow up on their pregnancy progress or breastfeeding after birth. The telehealth is an effective way to maintain contact with mothers and children to ensure their safety.” The tele-health consultation for antenatal and postnatal care Whilst the telehealth service is highly appreciated by both health care providers and their patients, some barriers remain including the limited telecommunication networks in remote areas and language barriers when working closely with ethnic groups like Hmong or Khmu. Hence, where internet is not available, care can still be provided over landlines and through village health volunteers or husbands to translate where there is a language problem. To further test telehealth services, the pilot has been integrated into the Reproductive, Maternal, Newborn, Child and Adolescent Health Plan of Action 2021 to enable another five provincial areas, including Savannakhet, Bolikhamxai, Bokeo, Champasack and Oudomxai, to receive appropriate trainings and resources and commence implementation. The telehealth function has also been recommended to continue as part of the routine health services beyond the COVID-19 pandemic, especially during seasonal flooding when women might become isolated. For people living with HIV, access to care was improved through the support of two Civil Society Organizations. Approximately 1,000 people living with HIV in Lao PDR were supported to receive their regular antiretroviral medication (ARVs) via three dispensing modalities to reduce the crowding at clinics and ensure those in remote locations could still access medication during provincial border closures, including fast track, individual and group modalities. People living with HIV could receive their medication in group distributions, utilizing local networks or by working with providers to ensure fast-tracked and early orders could be delivered ahead of any COVID-19 outbreak. A community guideline to provide telehealth services for people living with HIV in 11 ARV therapy sites was also developed. Approximately 50 participants including people living with HIV peers, nurses and doctors working in the treatment sites received the training on the guideline to provide remote support on ARV medication uptake and adherence, care and psychosocial support during the pandemic. The participants were trained on the techniques for provision of telehealth services, including providing updated messages on the COVID-19 situation and latest healthcare information for targeted groups. Ms. Daovone Outhaivong, a volunteer from Luang Prabang province, shared that “Before the pandemic, all patients came to get the antiretroviral medication themselves. But during the lockdown, this was not possible with the border closures. We have around 30 patients who were mainly from disadvantaged and low-income groups and live far away from Luang Prabang town. So to make sure they all received their medication, we delivered the medication to them using motorbikes and local couriers. After the lockdown, we continue to provide information and knowledge to prevent COVID-19 transmission. We also received a training on how to provide tele-health services to targeted groups and I found it very useful”. “The project took a sustainable approach, building ownership and fostering innovation. Local actors were supported to plan actions based on global good practice. National capacities built under this project maintained and increased in some cases essential health services such as ante- and postnatal care, despite the COVID-19 crisis. Based on the findings, the practices will progressively be scaled up to expand healthcare services to the most vulnerable populations throughout the country.” said Ms Mariam A. Khan, UNFPA Representative.
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30 April 2021
Leave No One Behind - Establishing the Basis for Social Protection Floors 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.
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