Vientiane, 29 November 2015
UNDP Administrator and Chair of the UN Development Group Helen Clark speaks out on sustainable and inclusive growth for Lao PDR.
The occasion of UNDP Administrator Helen Clark's official visit to Lao PDR was the 12th High Level Round Table Meeting. Helen Clark made a keynote speech to the plenary session, emphasising Lao PDR's commitment to the new Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) in its 8th National Socio-Economic Development Plan.
"The national consultation on the post-2015 agenda in Lao PDR helped not only to obtain the views of government, but also those of civil society, the private sector, and citizens across the country", Helen Clark said.
World leaders, including Lao PDR President, H.E. Choummaly Sayasone, adopted the seventeen SDGs at the UN Sustainable Development Summit in New York in September. The SDGs aim, among other things, to end poverty, fight inequality and injustice, and tackle climate change worldwide by 2030.
The SDGs and their implications for Lao PDR were discussed at the 12th High Level Round Table Meeting, Lao PDR's foremost development forum, attended in Vientiane by more than 300 delegates from the Government, development partners, international organisations, civil society, and the private sector.
Helen Clark commended Lao PDR on its successes in meeting many of the Millennium Development Goal targets. She highlighted the importance of inclusive growth for human development, and stressed the need to address persisting challenges under the new agenda: "Rising inequalities, child nutrition and environmental sustainability are areas in need of continued focus in Lao PDR", she said.
At the Round Table Meeting, Helen Clark witnessed the endorsement of the Vientiane Partnership Declaration, a ten-year framework for development co-operation which aims to ensure the maximum impact for human and sustainable development in Lao PDR through to 2025. The 12th High Level Round Table Meeting broke new ground in its inclusion of civil society and the private sector in the discussion. Consultations with both sectors were held in the run-up to the Round Table Meeting. The Vientiane Declaration foresees close public and private partnerships for development.
During her visit to Laos, Helen Clark met with H.E. Choummaly Sayasone, President of Lao PDR, and H.E Thongsing Thammavong, Prime Minister, amongst other senior government represenatatives. "We discussed ways to strengthen the co-operation between the UN and the Government, especially in the light of the 8th National Social and Economic Development Plan and the new global sustainable development agenda. We also addressed how the unfinished MDG targets on nutrition and environmental sustainability can be taken forward through the SDGs," said Helen Clark.
The Administrator met with women leaders from government, civil society, and the private sector to discuss how the UN can support the empowerment of Lao women. While in Vientiane, Helen Clark also promoted the UN Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon's campaign to Unite to End Violence Against Women.
During her visit, Helen Clark travelled to the UNESCO World Heritage-listed city of Luang Prabang. There she visited development initiatives in Luang Prabang Province on livelihoods and UXO (unexploded ordinance) clearance.
In Huayman Village, Phonxay District, Helen Clark met with members of the village's Mushroom Cultivation Group, one of five community-driven groups established to help villagers sustainably grow mushrooms to improve their family's nutrition and income, and reduce pressure on wild forest species from foraging. These groups were established within the UNDP Agro-Biodiversity Project supported by the Global Environment Facility and FAO, aiming at improving livelihoods whilst conserving the rich biodiversity of Laos.
In Siao Village, Pak Ou District, the Administrator visited an unexploded ordinance (UXO) clearance and mine risk education site. Luang Prabang Province is one of the most highly UXO-contaminated provinces of Lao PDR. With the support of UNDP and other partners, UXO Lao, the national clearance operator, has removed huge numbers of UXO items since starting its work in 1998, improving the security of people living in the many impacted communities, and releasing cleared land for agriculture and development.
In her speech to the Round Table, Helen Clark said: "The national designation of an MDG 9 [Reducing the impact of UXO] was an important Lao national innovation. It highlighted an additional formidable challenge which the country faces - that of an estimated 8.7 million hectares of land contaminated by UXOs".
Helen Clark's visit also highlighted 60 years of UN-Lao co-operation and the 70th anniversary of the United Nations. The national landmark Patuxay in Vientiane was lit in "UN Blue" during the days around the High Level Round Table Meeting.