Round Table provincial meeting tackles poverty in the north


Representatives from Government, UN and development partners visit a vocational training school in Xieng Khouang Province. Photo: UNDP Lao PDR/Laophoto

To achieve the targets set under the 7th National Socio-Economic Development Plan (NSEDP), including the Millennium Development Goals (MDGs), better development results must be achieved in northern Lao PDR, the country's poorest region.


At the Round Table provincial meeting in Xieng Khouang province on 31 May 2012, government officials and development partners reviewed progress towards provincial development goals with a focus on two of the regions off-track MDGs, education and health. The consultation also addressed cross-cutting development challenges at the local level and how to improve coordination, between the central and provincial levels, as well as with development partners.

Highlights

  • Lao PDR's northern region is the poorest in the country.
  • Lao PDR has participated since 1983 in the Round Table Process.
  • High-level Round Table meetings are held every 3-years in the capital, Vientiane.


The meeting was opened by the Governor of Xieng Khouang province, Somkot Mangnomek, also present were Somchith Inthamith, Deputy Minister of Planning and Investment and UN Resident Coordinator and UNDP Resident Representative, Minh Pham.

The numbers of people living below the poverty line are highest in the northern region. In Houaphan province, for example, this includes 50.5 percent of the population compared to a national average of 27.6 percent. The area also has a high inequality gap and unique development challenges, such as unexploded ordnance (UXO) contamination, which negatively impacts on rural development initiatives.

UN Resident Coordinator and UNDP Resident Representative, Minh Pham, highlighted the importance of ensuring that the benefits of the country's growth are shared by all, “Only by addressing inequality will the country's rapid development be considered a real success. This means making sure that development efforts are effective here on the ground in areas of the country such as Xieng Khouang and across the northern region.”

To help address poverty in the Northern region, H.E. Somchith Inthamith, Deputy Minister of Planning and Investment, encouraged all development partners, including NGOs and the private sector, to provide further support to the area to achieve better and equitable development for the people, as well as to realize the aid effectiveness principles as per the Vientiane Declaration.

Participants at the meeting also took part in a field trip to watch UXO Lao operations in action, to a vocational training school, supported by Germany, and to the provincial hospital to observe health initiatives addressing maternal mortality and nutrition.

The focus on the Northern region will help government officials and development partners to grasp a better understanding of the causes driving poverty and inequality, as well as initiatives and resources needed to achieve development objectives. The lessons learned and recommendations from the Round Table provincial consultation will inform the Round Table Implementation Meeting to be held in late November in Vientiane.

Lao PDR has participated since 1983 in the Round Table Process, which is the national process for aid coordination and effectiveness led by the Government of Lao PDR and supported by UNDP. This comprises Round Table Meetings every three years to review plans, strategies and programmes and commit funding pledges, while RTIM meetings review achievements and recommend further actions. Sector working groups meet throughout the year and provide a forum for dialogue between government sector ministries and development partners.