Vientiane, 1 November 2016
UNIDO’s first project in the Lao People’s Democratic Republic dates back to 1968, focusing on enhancing industrial productivity. In the 1970s and early 1980s, UNIDO’s work in the country consisted of sectoral support, especially on the agro-processing and wood processing sectors. After a hiatus of some 10 years, UNIDO came back to the country, and its work in the 1990s concentrated on providing support in both sectoral development and industrial policy research.
From 2001 to 2008, UNIDO implemented the Integrated Programme. During the first phase, support focused on studies on sub-sectors such as food-processing, wood-processing, textiles and garments, handicrafts and construction materials, as well as on promoting the country’s small and medium-sized enterprises (SMEs) and facilitating foreign direct investment. A SWOT (strengths, weaknesses, opportunities and threats) analysis was prepared on the country’s industrial sectors, and recommendations for the country’s industrial development in general and the promotion of SMEs in particular were drafted. The Programme’s second phase focused on four priority areas: industrial policy and management and ease of doing business; private sector development and SME promotion; manufacturing resource efficiency and cleaner production; and ease of market access, trade facilitation and investment promotion. Capacity-building initiatives were undertaken, such as training at the Ministry of Industry and the country’s business associations, e.g. the Lao National Chamber of Commerce and the Lao - India Entrepreneurship Institute.
During this period, the Lao Cleaner Production Centre was established, and capacity-building activities aiming to create national standards for trade promotion and accredit laboratories started. Many national standards were drafted and are now in use, and a number of national laboratories are ready for accreditation.
The period since 2009 has seen a continuation in trade capacity-building projects, including the third phase of the regional Mekong Trade Capacity-Building project and a joint UN project on trade capacity-building, which has seen the successful pilot launch of the quality mark for safe food and tourism services in Luangprabang. This period has also seen a strong growth in environmental sustainability projects. In the context of the support of several Global Environment Facility (GEF)-funded projects on climate change and eliminating persistent organic pollutants (POPs), the country’s National Implementation Plan on POPs has been regularly updated, Best Available Technologies/Best Environmental Practices for boilers are being demonstrated, and a curriculum on green boiler technologies has been introduced. A new regional project to reduce POPs emissions from open burning was recently launched.
Being a landlocked country and having a small domestic market means that Lao PDR’s needs to focus on increasing trade as an imperative for the country’s economic development. The recently established ASEAN Economic Community is a new opportunity for the country to increase trade with its neighbours. The country’s national quality infrastructure therefore needs to be strengthened. UNIDO can offer its expertise in implementing national quality standards, creating national certification mechanisms, and accrediting necessary laboratories and other bodies.
Sustainable industrial development is another priority of the country, and UNIDO, with its expertise in green industry, could play an important role in this area. The country is also looking to grow its agricultural sector. Although a number of actors are already involved in this area, UNIDO could focus its interventions on agri-business development in which it has a clear competitive advantage.