Lao PDR is at an important stage of its national development planning process. 2020 marked the conclusion of the implementation of the 8th National Socio-Economic Development Plan (NSEDP 2016-2020) and the development of the 9th NSEDP 2021-2025, which would guide the country development for the next five years. This development has been dominated by the challenges associated with COVID-19 response and recovery, sustainability and climate change, quality and inclusive growth, human capital, infrastructure development and the graduation from Least Developed Country status, which Lao PDR hopes to achieve.
The conclusion of 8th NSEDP and the development of 9th NSEDP come in a time where the country is in the process of preparation for the second Voluntary National Review (VNR) of the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs). Therefore, when possible, progress of SDG implementation in Lao PDR since the first VNR (2018) will have key elements of COVID-19 on the top of various challenges that the country has already encountered for the past two years.
The National Steering Committee (NSC) for SDGs implementation was set up in 2017 chaired by the Prime Minister, with members of the Committee from all concerned ministries and agencies. The National SDGs Secretariat and focal points in line ministries were appointed to lead and take ownership of each SDG to ensure smooth coordination and collaboration. Since the first VNR in 2018, there have been some key milestones on SDGs as follows:
The SDG Roadmap including the SDG advocacy and communication was finalised and approved by the NSC in 2019. It includes the institutional strengthening and partnerships, awareness-raising strategies, multi-stakeholder consultations, mechanisms to create horizontal-vertical policy coherence, and budgeting and plans for monitoring, reporting and accountability.
In 2019, 238 SDG indictors or around 60% of indicators were integrated into 8th NSEDP (2016-2020), and the remaining indicators will continue to be integrated into the up-coming development circles, respectively.
The VNR was developed based on the principle of leaving no one behind, which its process also builds on key recommendations from the first VNR and the conclusion of 8th NSEDP. The Secretariat conducted series of consultations with different stakeholders. Public officials from all 18 provinces have also been engaged with the aims to increase their understanding of the SDGs and implement relevant strategies in each province.
Securing data on localized SDGs in advance of the VNR has been challenging as a result of COVID-19 disruption. While this second VNR provides snapshot of progress toward all SDGs, the detailed discussion is on selected Nine SDGs, which are also in-line with the theme of the 2021 High-Level Political Forum on Sustainable Development.
From LDC Graduation to the 2030 Agenda, it is a platform for the future. The country is on-track to graduate from the LDC status by having reached the threshold for graduation in the two consecutive Triennial Reviews in 2018 and 2021. This means that the country is eligible to be recommended for graduation in 2024. However, due to COVID-19 and the already existing challenges, a longer preparatory period of transition has been granted.
In addition, various SDGs have been greatly impacted. Therefore, some COVID-19 recovery measures will be implemented during the course of SDG implementation in-line with 9th NSEDP, including on the efforts to improve financing, macroeconomic management, business environment and investment, human capital development, job creation, macro-fiscal stability, and economic diversification to achieve more resilient, green, inclusive and sustainable growth.
Lessons Learnt and Way Forward
Strategically located in South East Asia, the Lao People’s Democratic Republic (Lao PDR) is a land-locked, multi-ethnic and mountainous country with a population of around 6.5 million. With a young population, Lao PDR is projected to benefit from the demographic dividend.Lao PDR is progressing towards graduation from Least-Developed Country (LDC) status.
The Lao PDR’s VNR report focuses on all 17 Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) andits own localized SDG 18while highlighting the prominent linkages between the 2030 Agenda and the national development Vision 2030 particularly the Eighth National Social-Economic Development Plan (NSEDP) of Lao PDR (2016 - 2020) and progress and challenges of each SDG.
The National Steering Committee for SDGs implementation has been set up by the Presidential Decree in 2017 chaired by the Prime Minister, with members of the Committee from all concerned ministries and agencies. The National SDGs Secretariat (the Secretariat) and SDGs focal points in line ministries have also been appointed to lead and take ownership of each SDG and to ensure coordination and collaboration within the Government while working with United Nations agencies and Development Partners to get necessary support.
The Government of Lao PDR is strongly committed to the 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development and the implementation and achievement of the SDGs.Lao PDR was among the earliest countries to localize the SDGs and integrate them into its national planning framework. Nearly60 percent of the Eighth NSEDP indicators are linked to SDG indicators.The remaining SDG indicators will be integrated into the Ninth and Tenth NSEDPs.
In September 2016, Lao PDR has adopted its own additional SDG 18 called “Lives Safe fromUnexploded Ordnance (UXO)”. Bombs dropped during the Indochina War (19641973) madeLao PDR the most heavily bombed country in terms of bombs dropped per capita.Given the impacts of UXOs contamination, SDG 18 is one of Lao PDR’s top priority goals.
Based on the principle of leaving no one behind and for an inclusive, participatory and transparent VNR process, the Secretariat organized a series of consultations in 2017 and 2018 with stakeholders from government, the National Assembly, private sector, academia, non-profit associations, international non-governmental organizations, the UN agencies and Development Partners. Additionally, SDGs discussion has been infused into the agenda ofthe Round Table Meetings over the past two years.
Recent years of high economic growth have helped Lao PDR to meet two of the three inter-related criteria for LDC graduation, in the 2018 review of the Committee for Development Policy. Progress towards the SDGs will fulfill the criteria for LDC graduation.
Lao PDR has made remarkable progress in many areas, among others, in poverty reduction with nearly 100% of citizens have gained access to electricity, 99% of net enrolment in primary schools, improved literacy rate, quality vocational training and health care, increased number of females holding important positions in public and private sectors andimplementing frameworks for environmental friendly economic growth. Despite such progress, there remain challenges including insufficient financial and human resources, the widening inequality and income disparities with challenging infant mortality and school dropout rate, difficulty of accessing to finance for SMEs, unavailability of updated data, especially disaggregated data, shortage of qualified staff undertaking monitoring and evaluation of the goals and inadequate knowledge and awareness of SDGs among public officials and citizens. Economic growth still largely relies on natural resources.