Laos (officially the Lao People’s Democratic Republic – Lao PDR) is a least developed country with the ambition to reach middle-income status by 2026. While impressive economic growth rates were achieved before the COVID crisis, these rates have now significantly reduced.
Laos is reported to have made significant achievements in access to primary education with a net primary enrolment rate of 99% in 2019/20. However, enrolment in upper secondary education remains very low at 54.8%. Education quality remains a huge challenge as literacy and numeracy remain low. Teachers are not qualified enough to deliver quality teaching and are not trained in 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. 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.
The European Joint Programming Strategy (EJPS) for 2021-2025 outlines EU cooperation priorities for Lao PDR. The strategy serves as the EU’s Multi-annual Indicative Programme (MIP) for Lao PDR from 2021-2027. The European partners participating in the joint programming are the EU, Finland, France, Germany, Hungary, Ireland, Luxembourg and Switzerland.
The EJPS strategy is based on the 9th National Socioeconomic Development Plan 2021-2025 of the Government of the Lao PDR. It takes into account the Sustainable Development Goals and the main strategic priorities for EU external action, with a particular focus on three areas
- Green and inclusive economy
- Human capital
- Good governance
Indicative financial commitments of all European partners for 2021-2025 amount to €477,68 million. For the EU specifically, the foreseen allocation is €83 million for the first phase of the MIP from 2021-2024.
Green and inclusive economy
Programming under this priority area promotes sustainable, climate-resilient, nutrition-sensitive, competitive agriculture, while preserving the interests of smallholders. It fosters rural development through improved rural infrastructure and ensures that natural resources are effectively, equitably, and sustainably administered through accountable and transparent public institutions for the benefit of the people of the Lao PDR.
This will strongly contribute to reducing poverty in rural areas, by creating economic opportunities and decent jobs. It will address key challenges related to climate change, forestry, and natural resource management (including land and water resources and dam safety), which have effects on both regional and global scales.
Programming under the second priority area contributes to the improvement of inclusive education and training, responding to market needs, and more efficient health care, especially for women and children. It will enrich quality human capital by integrating digital technologies and responding to labour market needs while strengthening primary health care.
This priority area gives special emphasis to education planning, reduced regional disparities in education access and quality, and the strengthening of skills relevant to labour market needs, including the green economy and digitalisation.
Education and sports sector development plan
The EU supports education in Laos in line with the new Education and sports sector development plan (ESSDP) 2021-2025.
The ESSDP was developed at a difficult time due to Covid-19. The main focus of the plan is to reduce disparities and improve the quality of primary education outcome. Intensive support will continue to focus on the 40 most educationally disadvantaged districts of the country where education outcomes are the lowest. Due to regular occurrence of natural disasters, the new ESSDP includes disaster preparedness and system resilience as one of its key intermediate outcomes.
The third programming priority ensures the promotion and assistance of the establishment of a genuine and well-functioning rule of law state, one of the overarching objectives of the European partners in the Lao PDR. It reflects the strategic priorities of the National Socioeconomic Development Plan to strengthen public administration effectiveness.
This priority area will support improvements to public governance and administration, and equality and fairness in a society protected by the rule of law.
European Partners will continue to support civil society organisations in the Lao PDR under the EJPS 2021-2025, in recognition of their important contribution to socio-economic development, as well as their role in promoting citizens’ engagement and government accountability. In regards to the EU’s specific support, civil society organisations should benefit from specific allocations in the context of the priority areas mentioned above. This support to civil society will be mainstreamed in the programmes approved in each priority sector to ensure full alignment and coordination with the relevant government policies and strategies.
Programming for the Lao PDR includes a specific allocation for a facility to support the implementation of cooperation with the EU. The facility will be used to
- support capacity development and institutional building
- promoting policy dialogues
- facilitate joint programming/Team Europe coordination at country level
- finance communication including strategic communication and fight against disinformation
- support the preparation, implementation, monitoring and evaluation of EU cooperation
- support the implementation of the forthcoming EU Indo-Pacific Strategy at national level