The long, winding road to widespread and deep-rooted socio-economic development for the benefit of all people in Laos passed a milestone yesterday with the 2018 holding of the annual Round Table Implementation Meeting of Lao policymakers, stakeholders and partners including the United Nations streamed live on YouTube.
The calamitous collapse of the Xe Pian Xe Namnoy Saddle Dam D that claimed the lives of many folks downstream in flash flooding loomed large in discussions involving hundreds of participants at the two-day meet.
The disaster was among the factors that have seen Laos’ growth rate revised downward from 7 to 6.5 percent with impacts upon the targets in the nation’s 8th National Socio-Economic Development Plan, the country’s key policy document on development strategy and implementation.
Live-streamed, Plastic-free, Partnerships
The multi-stakeholder meeting was notable as the first such gathering in the country to be streamed live via popular video streaming site Youtube.
This year’s Round Table Meeting was also notable for being a paper and single-use plastic-less event.
Delegates received reusable cups and bottles instead of the usual single-use plastic bottles, and paper printouts were minimized.
The move to streaming of the discussions online comes amid a bid for increased transparency and accountability, permitting the public airing of the many frank, open and inclusive discussions and constructive comments for the benefit of the country and its people.
The importance of partnerships for development was underlined by speaker after speaker.
These included Deputy Prime Minister Mr. Somdy Douangdy, Director and Head of UNDP’s Regional Office for Asia and the Pacific in Bangkok and UNDP’s Deputy Regional Director for Asia and the Pacific, Mrs. Valerie Cliff, and Dr. Souphanh Keomixay, Minister of Planning and Investment.
Heavy Rains Nationwide, Dam Disaster Reveal Risks
“In 2018, the Lao PDR faced great challenges from heavy rainfalls and the resulting flood in addition to the Xepien-Xenamnoy Dam break Incident,” Mr. Somdy said.
“According to the Post-Disaster Needs Assessment, the total damage is estimated at 371 million US Dollars.
“The Government of the Lao PDR has mobilized all of its available resources into the rehabilitation of the affected areas.”
The United Nation’s Mrs. Cliff highlighted the importance of focusing on the most vulnerable.
“The cruel consequences of major natural disasters repeatedly show that it is the poorest and the most vulnerable members of the communities that suffer the most.
“If we are to be sincere to the objective of ‘leaving no-one behind’ and ‘reaching the farthest first’, our approaches to risk assessment and mitigation must be strengthened in those provinces and districts where vulnerabilities are greatest.”
Fiscal impacts of disasters
The fiscal impacts of were aired by H.E. Dr. Souphanh Keomixay, Minister of Planning and Investment.
“As a result of internal and external factors, in addition to the Xepian-Xe Namnoy dam break incident as well as the heavy rainfalls throughout the country, the Lao PDR could achieve a GDP growth rate of 6.5% for the year 2018, which lower than the expected rate of 7%.
“Despite the ongoing challenges from the natural disaster mentioned above, we are still able to maintain a relatively high economic growth rate compared to other countries in the region.
“In particular, the Government of the Lao PDR is able to maintain political stability, solidarity among its people and stable improvement of their livelihoods.”
Vulnerabilities in trajectory from Least Developed Country
Highlighting the need to address persistent inequalities, Ms. Kaarina Immonen mentioned the results from Lao PDR’s first Voluntary National Review on Sustainable Development, presented at the United Nations in July
“Across all outcome areas of the 8th National Socio-Economic Development Plan, 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.”
The Ministry of Planning and Investment is set to accompany heads of development partner delegations to pay a courtesy call to the Prime Minister of Lao PDR to report on the outcomes of the Round Table Implementation Meeting 2018.
The contribution of volunteers was also celebrated in line with International Volunteers Day with the contributions of volunteers have been crucial to development nationwide including helping communities get through this year’s devastating floods around Laos.
A Development Exhibition held alongside the meeting provided an opportunity to showcase such efforts.
The role of volunteers is seen as one crucial contributor in building up the country’s resilience to climate-related disasters as a prerequisite for Lao PDR’s graduation from LDC status.