Democratic Governance: In-depth

Service with a smile at the One Door Service Centre in Sekong town. Photo: UNDP Lao PDR/Philippe Pernet

Governance and public administration reform

Achievement by Lao PDR of its national development goals depends largely on effective implementation of development initiatives at both national and sub-national levels. Our flagship governance programme addresses the challenges of local development and poverty reduction by strengthening capacities of district administrations in planning, management based on results, monitoring, and effective delivery of services.

Through its District Development Fund initiative with UNCDF, UNDP fully uses the Government’s own  systems to provide district administrations with small grants for development of much-needed infrastructure such as health centres or access roads. This strengthens the role of local administrations in service delivery, helping more people to have access to services and, in turn, reducing poverty and supporting achievement of the Millennium Development Goals.

This initiative contributes to the broader National Governance and Public Administration Reform Programme, or N-GPAR, which aims to help achieve an effective, efficient, well-trained, honest and ethical public service that is able to meet the needs of the  Lao people, including in remote areas. The N-GPAR programme, led by the Government, also focuses on large-scale and complex reform processes common to all parts of the “machinery” of central government, including legal and institutional frameworks.

Strengthening the legal sector and the rule of law

UNDP is helping to develop a more coherent, effective, transparent and responsive legal system that protects and advances access to justice and the full exercise of rights by all people of Lao PDR. It offers policy advice and technical assistance to a number of core reform initiatives in the legal and judicial sector. This supports implementation of the Government’s plan for law development to 2020, known as the Legal Sector Master Plan, which innovatively involves all main actors at  national, provincial, and even district and village levels.

Among other initiatives, we are helping to assess whether national law is in line with Lao PDR’s obligations under international standards relating to human rights, anti-corruption initiatives, or financial and commercial relations. We offer technical assistance to develop measures to strengthen the independence and accountability of the judiciary, including for cases to legally secure land rights for Lao families and communities, especially in rural areas. We also help strengthen the Village Mediation System and the provision of public legal aid.   

People’s participation

Participation by the people in the institutions and systems that govern their lives is a basic human right and essential for social and economic development. Strengthening people’s participation serves as an important mechanism for promoting effective governance and development that is nationally “owned.”

In Lao PDR, UNDP focuses on three areas: supporting a more effective National Assembly; opening up space for civil society to enhance more open and informed debate; and giving all people, especially women ethnic minorities, more public voice and information through the establishment of community radio stations, thereby help them better their lives.

 Our management of a joint United Nations programme of assistance to strengthen the National Assembly develops enhanced capacity for lawmaking and oversight as well as wider opportunities for interaction with the people. UNDP also supports the Government to develop national policies and legislation for the establishment of local councils by 2015 as sub-national representative institutions.

UNDP’s advocacy to strengthen the Government’s partnership with civil society and achieve the Millennium Development Goals has led to formulation of the first national law on associations. Civil society organizations can now officially register in Lao PDR and help the country reach its ambitious development targets.   

Lastly, UNDP also is deepening Government-civil society partnerships by providing resources to build on successful pilots and scale up the establishment of community radio among the poorest districts of the country. This will allow communities to take more informed decisions, increase the voice of local people and share knowledge, particularly strengthening the understanding of the equality of women and men, and enhancing positive portrayals of women.