Laos (officially the Lao People’s Democratic Republic – Lao PDR) is a least developed country with the ambition to reach middle-income status by 2024. While impressive economic growth rates of 7-8% have been achieved and poverty halved over recent years, poverty rates are still substantial. Laos is reported to have made significant achievements in access to primary education with the net primary enrolment rate at 98.7% in 2018.
The enrolment rate in lower secondary reached 83.1%, while enrolment in upper secondary education remains very low at 53.3%. Education quality remains a huge challenge as literacy and numeracy remain low (root of the problem: teachers are not qualified enough to deliver quality teaching and are not trained to modern pedagogical methods).
Malnutrition is also a major national development concern in Laos, resulting in about 1 in 3 deaths of children under 5 years. While the recent Lao Social Indicator Survey (LSIS II, 2017) reported a decrease of the prevalence of children under 5 years of age with stunted growth (low height for age) from 44% in LSIS-I (2011-2012) to 33% in 2017, significant disparities remain across the provinces: 8 out of 18 provinces record very high levels of stunting (≥ 40%).
Children in rural areas without road access, whose mothers have no education, are 2 to 3 times more likely to suffer from stunting than children in urban settings. Besides its nutrition challenges, the country is further exposed to natural disasters which impede sustained growth and are aggravated by climate change.
Most of Laos remains contaminated by explosive remnants of war that hamper agricultural and economic development.allenges, the country is further exposed to natural disasters which impede sustained growth and are aggravated by climate change.
The EU works closely with Lao PDR under the framework of the EU-ASEAN Cooperation Agreement. The EU is also a key development partner providing trade related assistance to Laos.
As a least developed country, Laos benefits from the most favourable regime available under the EU's Generalized Scheme of Preferences, namely the Everything But Arms scheme which gives Laos duty and quota free access to the EU for exports of all products, except arms and ammunition.
The EU aims to support basic nutrition in Laos whilst leaving no one behind. It is aligned to the National Nutrition Strategy (NNS) 2016-2025 and its National Plan of Action on Nutrition (NPAN) 2016-2020. At the level of EU-Lao PDR joint programming, it corresponds to sector response plan 6.6 Nutrition whilst adopting a cross-cutting approach which takes in other focal sectors: education, health, environmental protection, governance and agriculture.
The EU also aims to support basic education in Laos, in line with the Lao Government's Education Sector Development Plan 2016-2020 and the international targets articulated in the Sustainable Development Goals. The focus is on basic education (pre-primary, primary and lower secondary) and the objectives are to ensure equitable access and completion of basic education with a focus on disadvantaged groups (including girls and female adolescents), to improve education quality, and to improve governance of the education system by ensuring adequate resources allocation to sub-national level.
The EU’s programmes also aim to contribute to good governance, the rule of law and human rights in Laos. They are aligned with the priority of public service effectiveness and the implementing measures on revenue and expenditure management of Lao PDR’s 8th National Socio-Economic Development Plan 2016-2020.
The EU wants to strengthen Public Financial Management systems and the enabling governance environment to improve the use of public resources for better service delivery at subnational level. Its objectives are to improve domestic revenue mobilisation, enhance budget credibility and transparency, and strengthen public procurement.
There are currently 12 projects that are part of the Global Civil Society and Local Authorities programme, through which the EU supports civil society organisations in contributing to governance and development.
The EU is one of the most important development partners of Laos in terms of grant aid for development cooperation and humanitarian help, and we are also one of its most important trade partners.
The current EU programme for Laos is synchronised with the Lao PDR National Socio-Economic Development Strategy for the period of 2016-2020. It allocates €162 million in 3 sectors, nutrition, education, and governance, under the framework of the European Joint Programming 2016-2020 which sets out a common vision, priorities, approach, division of labour and planned spending of the EU, EU countries and Switzerland. Taken together, the EU and the countries are the 4th biggest development donor in Laos, committing around €70 million annually in grants.
- 361 ethnic teacher students (235 are females) from rural and remote villages have been trained as primary teachers. The first cohort of 212 student teachers successfully graduated and deployed to their villages. The second cohort of 124 student teachers will complete their studies and will be deployed to their villages in 2019, and 25 in 2020.
- approx. 17,000 primary teachers are being trained on the new primary curriculum and 171,000 textbooks and story books for grade 1 students are being delivered to primary schools across the country in time for the opening of school year in September 2019
- new classrooms and WASH facilities in 129 schools and 389 schools rehabilitated
- improved capacity of health workers, Village Health Volunteers and Lao Women’s Union to provide nutrition counselling support on IYCF/WASH practices for pregnant and lactating women and caregivers of children under 2 years of age