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

Whether Lao PDR achieves 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 jointly implemented with United Nations Capital Development Fund, 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, with the key approach being to introduce good governance systems at the local level. This strengthens the role of local administrations in service delivery, helping more people to gain 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 mainly relating to human rights. We offer technical assistance to develop measures to strengthen the independence and accountability of the judiciary. We also help strengthen the Village Mediation System and the provision of legal aid to the poor and vulnerable.   

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 and ethnic minorities, more public voice and information through the establishment of community radio stations, thereby helping them better their lives.

Through UNDP’s support, several initiatives are underway to help the Lao National Assembly’s capacity for lawmaking and oversight as well as wider opportunities for interaction with the people.

UNDP’s advocacy to strengthen the Government’s partnership with civil society is a big part of this pillar. UNDP advocates for public consultations in revising and implementing the decrees that govern the functioning of civil society organizations in the country. Extensive efforts are made to create wider space amongst policy platforms such as the Round Table Mechanism to influence dialogue and policy reforms. 

Lastly, UNDP is also 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.