2018 Round Table Implementation Meeting
5 December 2018 – Vientiane, Lao PDR
Opening Address by Mrs. Kaarina Immonen
United Nations Resident Co-ordinator & UNDP Resident Representative for Lao PDR
Excellency Dr. Kikeo Chanthaboury, Deputy Minister of Planning and Investment,
Ambassadors and excellencies,
Ladies and gentlemen,
It is my very great pleasure to be able to offer some opening remarks on day one of this year’s Round Table Meeting.
The agenda set out before us provides the basis for what I believe will be two days of thoughtful and well researched discussion on some of the most important development challenges facing Lao PDR. It has been designed over many months to ensure that the senior leadership on both the Government side, and among Development Partners focus on how to best achieve development progress for the benefit of all Lao citizens.
The Round Table process has recently evolved in some important ways under the leaderships of Dr. Kikeo and his team:
· The dynamic of the consultations at the Round Table have become more open over recent years. This has facilitated an atmosphere of honest exchange, mutual learning, deepened respect and understanding among all development partners;
· An additional day has been added in order to expand the technical discussions in parallel among all partners. This ensures a higher quality policy input is delivered into the second day;
· The relationship between the sector working groups and the round table is gradually improving from year to year. I am especially grateful to all sector working group chairs and co-chairs for their dedication. Many of the projects and undertakings being pursued by the respective sector working groups are on display at the development exhibition – which in turn provides a further opportunity for more informal consultation with ministerial teams;
· Pre-consultations have added significantly to the process and to the product of the Round Table over the past couple of years. In this regard I was especially pleased with the excellent two-day pre-consultation meeting that took place on 29 – 30 August concerning LDC graduation. That workshop provided valuable insights into the implications and opportunities arising from graduation, including a detailed roadmap of issues for consideration. Policy products like these are extremely valuable for Government and Development Partners as they capture succinctly the key issues that confront the development community. Similarly impressive were the pre-consultations that took place in the recent Macro-Economic Sector Working Group meeting in seeking to define the critical issues that need to be addressed in that sector and concerning public finance management. We will hear substantively about these issues, and others, in our deliberations over the next two days.
· Another highly beneficial development that has taken place in the last couple of years has been the expansion and diversification of the development partnership. Greater emphasis is now placed on the role of the private sector, civil society, regional partners, provincial authorities and the national assembly. This can only help to broaden our understanding, enrich our discussions with new perspectives, and encourage greater learning and innovation;
· Not least, Round Table meetings held in Vientiane Province in 2015 and Champassak last year have proven extremely useful. This has brought the Round Table nearer to the people – which should be encouraged further. Visits to development projects linked directly to the Round Table agenda have provided important opportunities for all development partners to see what is being achieved in practice at the district and community level;
As you know, [as Dr. Kikeo has just outlined] this year’s Round Table Meeting is rightly dominated by the Mid-Term Review of the 8th National Socio-Economic Development Plan. The Government has invited all development partners to consider the progress that has so far been achieved as well as the challenges and recommendations generated from the review. Our agenda today and tomorrow creates ample space for discussion on each of the outcomes of the 8th NSEDP – namely, the economic, the social, the environmental, as well as some of the cross-cutting governance aspects of the plan.
The Mid – Term Review was supplemented by two other important reports prepared in the first half of 2018: First, the Voluntary National Review on implementation of the 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development and Sustainable Development Goals in Lao PDR; And second, the United Nations Committee for Development Policy assessment into Lao PDR’s graduation from Least Developed Country status. Both reports add significantly to the bank of analysis and data that is now available to the Government and Development Partners for the purposes of refining and accelerating development programmes.
From these three reports there are at least two inter-linked underlying themes that emerge. These relate on the one hand to the resilience of Lao PDR in being satisfactorily able to withstand risks and shocks, and on the other to persistent disparities and widening equalities that continue to exist despite a decade of sustained high - level growth.
Across all outcome areas of the 8th NSEDP Lao PDR is still exposed to vulnerabilities at many different levels. Strengthening its resilience in the economic, social, institutional and environmental domains and addressing disparities and inequalities even more proactively are two core areas that resonate most closely to the 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development. I look forward to further discussion on this as an over-arching theme over the next two days.
Excellency Dr. Kikeo, let me thank you once again for your vision, wisdom and passion for development. You and your Ministry’s leadership of the Round Table process has enabled it to grow over recent years into a stronger policy platform for strategic development consultation.
Once again, I would like to thank all excellencies and development partners for your commitment to the Round Table Meeting. I am absolutely confident we will have an informative and productive couple of days.