Tag Archives: United Nations

Revitalized Role: New United Nations Resident Coordinator Ms Sara Sekkenes Assumes Post in Laos

The United Nations in Lao PDR has a new Resident Coordinator, the most senior UN Official in Laos.

Ms. Sara Sekkenes a national of Norway succeeds Ms. Kaarina Immonen of Finland in the key diplomatic and development role.

Contributions Celebrated on International Day at UN House, Plus Laos’ PM hosts Volunteers

International Volunteers Day in Vientiane, Laos

Happy International Volunteer Day!

Countless and myriad. Such are the contributions of volunteers to making our communities better places to live, no matter where on the globe we call home.

Both Lao and international volunteers efforts in Laos were recognized for World Volunteers Day in the capital Vientiane Wednesday evening, with a celebration set to recognize efforts in building resilient communities.

International Volunteers Day in Vientiane, Laos

International Volunteers Day in Vientiane, Laos

Personal actions matter for community resilience.

At the event at Vientiane’s UN House, volunteers from multiple organizations were preparing to gather to share how they help build resilient communities.

Among these were official assistance volunteers in the form of United Nations Volunteers (UNV).

Joining them was Cuso International, is a non-profit development organization, whose goal is to work alongside local people in other countries, to improve the lives of people living with poverty and inequality.

Official assistance volunteers from France Volontaires and those of cooperation agencies from Japan (JICA) and the Republic of Korea (KOICA) were also in attendance as were members of Global Shapers Vientiane Hub, a World Economic Forum youth initiative.

Insights and inspiration from volunteers on the ground were set to be shared, along with dance performances and networking opportunities.

International Volunteers Day in Vientiane, Laos

International Volunteers Day in Vientiane, Laos


UN Representative’s Message

Addressing the gathering was UN Resident Coordinator and UNDP Resident Representative Ms. Kaarina Immonen.

“The International Volunteer Day (IVD), which was established by the United Nations in 1985, is an initiative to recognise contributions to development agenda made by volunteers, organisations and communities, joining by hundreds of thousands of people worldwide,” Ms Immonen said.

“Since 1983, more than 1,100 UN volunteers have served in Lao PDR from over 60 countries, and around 30 UN volunteers serve annually in various UN agencies, project offices and Lao government ministries.

“They devote themselves in constructing better future for the Lao population in different fields.

“This year, our campaign set a closer look on how local community volunteers contribute to building resilient communities.

“In the 2018 State of the World’s Volunteerism Report released lately, it stated volunteerism provides a mechanism for channeling individual actions into collective strategies for coping with risk.

“These strategies help build social relationships, forging bonds of solidarity, enhance trust, expand people’s support base and lessen their vulnerability to shocks and stresses.

“When Laos was hit by the worst flood in its history last July, UN volunteer was one of the members of our emergency response team to supply food donations and clothes to the affected communities.

“Our volunteers sustain their support to the communities by coordinating disaster relief tasks, educating rural communities and ethnic groups on disaster preparedness through community radio, assisting Unexploded Ordnance clearance in flooded areas, raising Lao population’s awareness on climate change issues, encouraging them to take climate actions and promoting environmental sustainability.

“We would like have our locals to learn how different sectors work on community resilience.

“Therefore, UN Volunteers Programme in Lao PDR decided to commemorate the International Volunteer day by inviting different partners to share their volunteer experience, encouraging the public to get involved in volunteerism in their own ways.”

PM Thongloun asks for insights from Japan’s volunteers

Earlier in the week, insights and impressions from experiences at the grassroots was the Prime Ministerial request.

Members of Japan Overseas Cooperation Volunteers (JOCVs) and Japan’s Senior Volunteers (SV) were hosted by Mr Thongloun Sisoulith and senior officials on for an annual courtesy call and informal exchange on Monday, December 10.

According to the Embassy of Japan, Mr. Thongloun expressed heartwarming appreciation for volunteers’ daily efforts. The volunteers also reported on their activities and challenges that they directly are facing on the ground.  In response, the Prime Minister made comments on the initiatives being made by the Government of Laos.

Japan has been dispatched Japan Overseas Cooperation Volunteers (JOCVs) since 1965 and Lao PDR is the first country in the world which received the volunteers from Japan.

Since then, 992 Volunteers have been making efforts to solve development issues in various sectors together with the people of the Lao PDR. The 1000th Japanese volunteer to Laos is set to arrive in early 2019.

Prime Minister Thongloun welcomes visit from Volunteers from Japan via JICA

Prime Minister Thongloun welcomes visit from Volunteers from Japan via JICA

PM Thongloun meets Japan Overseas Cooperation Volunteers (JOCV)

PM Thongloun meets Japan Overseas Cooperation Volunteers (JOCV) via JICA

PM Thongloun meets Japan Overseas Cooperation Volunteers (JOCV)

 PM Thongloun meets Japan Overseas Cooperation Volunteers (JOCV) via JICA

PM Thongloun meets Japan Overseas Cooperation Volunteers (JOCV) via JICA

Risk-Informed Development Road to Reducing Hazards Threatening Lives in Climate Change Age

Disaster Risk Reduction

“Hazards are not disasters (yet) they can wreak havoc and become disasters when people are vulnerable.

“Risk-informed development planning can ensure that vulnerability to natural hazards is minimized.”

This was the message as news media in Laos carried an opinion piece to mark International Day for Disaster Risk Reduction and the ASEAN Disaster Management Day on October 13 inked by the United Nations, European Union and World Bank.

It comes just a week after the landmark 2018 report of the UN Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) released on Monday. The report revealed the latest forecasts on a future expected to see the intensity and regularity of extreme weather events on the rise.

“This year’s theme of “Reducing disasters’ economic losses” is more relevant than ever, and a key agenda item for Lao PDR,” the article read.

The call to understand the true costs of disasters was previously reported by the Laotian Times in an article entitled “Counting the Costs: Disaster Needs in Laos Accumulate as Gov, UN, EU, WB Calculate Impacts in September.

Read the opinion piece for International Day for Disaster Risk Reduction in full below…


Risk-informed Development

Assessing damages, losses and needs following a disaster

is the first step towards preventing and reducing

the impact of future natural hazards

by UN in Lao PDR, World Bank in Laos, EU in Laos

“We mark the International Day for Disaster Risk Reduction and the ASEAN Disaster Management Day every year on 13 October.

In Lao PDR – in the aftermath of tropical storms Sontinh and Bebinca and floods across all provinces – this day gives us an opportunity to raise awareness on disaster risk reduction, while securing and sustaining the participation of all.

This year’s theme of “Reducing disasters’ economic losses” is more relevant than ever, and a key agenda item for Lao PDR.

One of the three criteria for the country’s graduation from Least Developed Country status by 2024 is the Economic Vulnerability Index, which measures resilience to shocks and instability. There are concrete opportunities for Lao PDR to achieve this target by making disaster risk reduction an integral part of its development trajectory.

We jointly support this ambitious goal by working in close partnership with national and international stakeholders, as well as local communities.

Building back better

After a disaster, the primary focus is on how to respond to the needs of the affected communities and recover quickly and effectively. Reconstruction needs to be aligned with the principles of building back better, not only to ensure that livelihoods can be restored quickly but also to reduce the risks of future disasters. Doing so ensures that people are better equipped and better prepared to withstand shocks.

Global evidence shows that when countries rebuild stronger, faster and more inclusively, they can reduce the magnitude of the impact of future disasters on people’s livelihoods. During disaster recovery and reconstruction, risk management can be integrated across many sectors. Examples include implementing climate-resilient agricultural practices, reinforcing critical infrastructure, integrating risk management into investment decisions and budgets, and strengthening risk reduction policies.

Cooperation and innovation for response and recovery

Before reconstruction can start, it is crucial to assess damages, losses and needs, including the resources needed for the recovery phase. The Government of Lao PDR launched a nationwide Post-Disaster Needs Assessment on September 24th to inform the development of a Disaster Recovery Framework. This framework ensures that the response phase links up with early-, medium-, and long-term recovery activities and facilitates coordinated support from the international community, civil society, and the private sector.

The Post-Disaster Needs Assessment follows a well-tested methodology developed by the United Nations Development Group, the World Bank and the European Commission, and underpins cooperation mechanisms between agencies with complementary capacities.

It includes innovative approaches – such as satellite imagery to collect “big data” that can allow rapid geographic and spatial analysis.

The process is led by the Government out of the Ministry of Labour and Social Welfare and is inclusive of all stakeholders, including vulnerable social and ethno-cultural groups.

Risk-informed development

The shared goal is for Lao PDR to better address and contain the impact of future disasters.

Reaching this objective requires better integrating risk management into vulnerable sectors, strengthening preparedness and exploring innovative financial solutions, such as disaster risk insurance mechanisms.

Investing in resilience pays off at multiple levels: it saves lives and reduces the magnitude of destruction and losses. It also generates co-benefits, such as improving the quality of development and promoting sustainable approaches to tackle the impact of climate change.

The Post-Disaster Needs Assessment field work is currently underway across the country, with focus on the hardest hit provinces. Findings are expected by the end of October and will inform high-level discussions on both national planning and international development assistance.

Hazards are not disasters. They can wreak havoc and become disasters when people are vulnerable. However, risk-informed development planning can ensure that vulnerability to natural hazards is minimized. This, in turn, will increase the resilience of the people of Lao PDR, so that tragedies of recent extent are contained to the extent possible.”

This article was co-authored by the United Nations in Lao PDR, the World Bank Lao PDR and the Delegation of the European Union to the Lao PDR.

Ms Kaarina Immonen

Ms. Kaarina Immonen is the Resident Coordinator of the United Nations in Lao PDR and the UN Development Programme’s Resident Representative. Ms. Immonen started her career in the UN in 1991 and has been serving in the Lao PDR since 2014.

Mr. Nicola Pontara

World Bank’s Mr. Nicola Pontara is Country Manager for Lao PDR. He joined the World Bank in 2000, and has been based in Lao PDR since July of this year. Mr. Pontara holds a PhD in Economics from the University of London (SOAS).Mr Leo Faber

Mr. Leo Faber is the first resident Ambassador of the European Union to the Lao PDR and has been serving since 2016. Mr. Faber holds a Master’s degrees in Sinology, Classical and Modern Chinese Philology, and European History.


Climate, Peace, Development Desires Aired as Laos Meets World at Annual UN Assembly

Mr Saleumxay Kommasith

Between US President Donald J. Trump’s signature America First rhetoric and self-appraisals generating “spontaneous murmurs” and the attendance of New Zealand’s first baby and mum Jacinda Adern, you might be forgiven for missing Laos’ Foreign Minister in the international news reports generated at the United Nations (UN) General Assembly this weekend.

Yet crucial issues of climate change, support for vulnerable communities and countries, sustainable development, peace on the Korean peninsula and beyond and the unilateral imposition of sanctions were among those issues raised by Laos when it had the opportunity to speak directly to the international community.

Laos’ Foreign Minister Saleumxay told the UN General Assembly on Saturday in New York that Laos supported and urged the international community to uphold and further strengthen multilateralism. “This remains one of the core values of our only universal organization, the United Nations,” he said.

Realizing the goals of the 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development at a time of a changing climate requires national governments and the international community to work “hand-in-hand’ with extra thought to the vulnerable, particularly Least Developed Countries and Small Island Developing States. “Against this backdrop, it is more crucial than ever for world leaders to honour the commitments pledged in the Paris Agreement.”

Laos also highlighted the critical importance of peace and security for socio-economic progress in all nations. “Past experiences have shown that settling disputes by peaceful means is the best way to ensure durable peace that is essential for sustainable development of a nation.”

The international community must help build mutual trust and confidence among countries to support them overcome challenges between them and resolve disputes peacefully, he said.

As such, Minister Kommasith welcomed the thawing of relations in the Korean Peninsula and between the Democratic People’s Republic of Korea and the United States.“We hope that such positive momentum will be strengthened, thereby, contributing to the maintenance of peace and stability, and denuclearization in the region as a whole.”

He also called for the end to the economic blockade of Cuba, given that the enforcement of isolation and sanction measures imposed on any country may not bring about benefits to the international community. “On the contrary, it will cause a loss for all and lead to increasing hostility,” the minister said.

The Lao minister expressed his country’s concern on the continued lack of progress on the Isreal-Palestine front.“We hope that this long overdue issue on Palestine will be resolved by peaceful means in order to achieve a two-state solution where Palestine and Israel can live side by side in peace, security and within internationally recognised borders as stipulated in the relevant UN Security Council Resolutions,” Minister Saleumxay said.

Mr Kommasith also underlined the need to address the scourge of transnational crime, at all levels, noting Laos’ commitment with regional countries at the Association of South East Asian Nations (ASEAN) and the international community in the fight against illicit drug trafficking, illegal wildlife trade, human trafficking and other serious crimes.

Counting the Costs: Disaster Needs in Laos Accumulate as Gov, UN, EU, WB Calculate Impacts

Child flood victims

The tragic loss of life and heavy impacts on livelihoods amid disaster triggered by pounding rains and rushing waters means there is no doubt 2018 has proved a challenging and heartbreaking one for too many people in Laos.

This rainy season has impacted on lives and livelihoods, and nowhere more than in Sanamxay district in Attapeu province, site of the impact of the water released by the collapse of Saddle Dam D at Xe Pian Xe Namnoy project still under construction.

An assessment of the total impact is being conducted as a concerted effort by the government, supported by the United Nations, the World Bank and the European Union – EU and is meant to provide in-depth insight on the damage the floods have caused, as well as to define what is needed to fully recover from such impacts.

The importance of accurately and timely measurement of impacts and recovery efforts saw the launch of the 2018 Post-Disaster Needs Assesment Monday attended by some 150 including government representatives led by the Minister of Labour and Social Welfare.

The effort will cover the entire country, and focus will be put on the most affected, Minister of Labour and Social Welfare and Chairman of the National Disaster Prevention and Control Committee (NDPCC), Dr Khampheng Saysompheng told the opening ceremony of the orientation on the Post Disaster Needs Assessment (PDNA).

Disasters reduce development gains & hamper economic growth, meaning that planning and building in resilience are essential in an era of climate change and to achieve Laos National Socio-Economic Development Plans and the United Nations’s Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs), the meeting heard.

A total of 2,409 villages with 113,507 families have been affected by disasters nationwide in 2018, the NDPCC reported.

Around 17,000 people are currently evacuated from their villages, and 500 kms of damaged roads are making access to these areas difficult.

Some 62 million dollars’ worth of crops and farmlands have been hit and more than 100,000 hectares of paddy fields have been damaged.

Authorities have arranged temporary accommodation for 3,616 families whose homes were damaged or destroyed.

As the figures suggest, accurately gauging the extent of the impact nationwide is an ongoing challenge.

As such, government officials met with counterparts of development partner bodies to hold a brainstorming session on ways to best assist flooding victims nationwide and estimate damages and losses caused by the slew of recent disasters across the country.

The objectives of the meeting were to assess costs and losses caused by the recent floods across the country, to identify recovery needs to develop a sustainable recovery strategy and to guide donors funding, aiming to build back better and safer and ensure a more successful, resilient and sustainable recovery.

Dr Khampheng called on the participants to share lessons learned from other natural disasters for the successful implementation of relief and rehabilitation measures.

UN Resident Coordinator and UNDP resident representative, Ms Kaarina Immonen said while the Asia–Pacific region experienced rapid economic growth, disaster risk is outpacing resilience.

For Laos, the emphasis on strengthening disaster risk management is particularly important as this will build resilience to future extreme weather events, Ms Immonen said.