The Government, UNICEF and Stakeholders Renew their Commitment to Develop the Human Capital of the Lao Generation 2030

27 November 2020
A group photo
UNICEF Laos/2020

Vientiane, 25 November 2020 – The Government of Lao PDR represented by the President of the Lao Women’s Union and Vice-President of the National Commission for the Advancement of Women, Mothers and Children (NCAWMC), H.E. Dr. Inlavanh Keobounphanh; the UN Resident Coordinator, Sara Sekkenes, UNICEF Representative, Dr. Pia Rebello Britto, vice-governors from the 18 provinces, representatives from the private sector, NGOs and civil society organizations, development partners and children gathered today in Vientiane at the Reimagine Lao Generation 2030 High-Level Meeting to mark World Children’s Day, celebrated globally on 20th November.

With the theme to re-imagine the country in the COVID-19 era, the different stakeholders who signed commitments last year on the occasion of the 30th anniversary of the Convention on the Rights of the Child (CRC@30) took stock on the progress done so far and analyze existing challenges in the post pandemic world.

At the Lao Generation 2030 Forum in 2019 partners agreed to unleash the unlimited potential of the Lao Generation 2030 by reducing poverty, making investments in young children, adolescents and young people a joint priority; strengthening national systems of health, education and child protection as well as national statistics; and paying special attention to gender equality and the empowerment of adolescent girls. In the meantime, and while the country was preparing to graduate from the Least Developed Countries (LDC) status, Lao PDR met with an unprecedented challenge, the global pandemic of COVID-19.

The COVID-19 is not just a health crisis as it has made an impact in all sectors. “We are suffering both socially and economically and are at risk of losing pace to achieve the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs). Our schools were closed, having an impact on the learning journey of our students. In addition, disruption in supply chains and immunization infrastructure put children at risk as vaccination coverage decreased; and adding to this, restricted mobility of frontline workers led to disruptions in service delivery in communities. We have now an opportunity to reimagine the Laos we want for our children and reaffirm our commitment to improve their lives because the achievements for children are at risk of coming undone,” said Dr. Inlavanh Keobounphanh in her opening remarks.

Participants pledged their support to continue developing Lao human capital by reducing the percentage of children who are multidimensionally deprived by half by 2030, and to make investments in children, adolescents and young people a key priority, particularly in the current context of the COVID-19 pandemic.

“Children are being affected by the spread of the virus but also by the inequalities that the pandemic is exacerbating. This expedites the urgency to develop Lao human capital by achieving SDG1 and the national target. The vision 2030 needs to be complemented with concrete action plans that transcends across all provinces. With all the vice-governors we are developing action plans to be implemented at subnational level and reduce child poverty in all provinces,” stated H.E. Alounkeo Kittikhoun, Minister to the Prime Ministers’ Office and Vice President of the NCAWMC.

In this regard, the 18 vice governors presented their plans to advance child rights at provincial level. “The COVID-19 poses an important threat. We plan to improve water, sanitation and hygiene in our schools and communities, with more information sharing on how to protect parents, teachers and all students from the virus. We will also build youth friendly spaces at school and plan to reach out to 95% of the students with reading books. Early Childhood Education and vocational training will be integral parts of our education plan; and will make sure that environment protection is part of the curriculum,” said Mr. Ounla Xayasith, Vice-Governor of Attapeu.

“As we move into the post-pandemic world, there will be competing priorities in terms of development. We cannot forget that the COVID-19 is a child rights crisis, therefore children’s agenda has to be at the forefront of the country’s priorities. We must listen to children and young people, and work alongside them to design a better future,” stated Dr. Pia Rebello Britto, UNICEF Representative to Lao PDR, who continued saying: “To support the Government of Lao PDR, UNICEF will be focusing on strengthening systems, particularly provincial and district governance; generating demand, changing behavior and practice; and strengthening policies and expanding partnerships.”

In her remarks, the United Nations Resident Coordinator, Sara Sekkenes, referred to the need of prioritizing investments in the Lao Generation 2030. “Investing in quality education starting with early childhood, in primary health and nutrition services, and in skills and competencies development is crucial if the country wants to take advantage of the demographic transition and the dividend this can present, and be in a better position to achieve the Sustainable Development Goals.”

“The European Union is delighted to be part of this journey – Reimagine Lao Generation 2030. We believe that every child has the right to an education, protection, health and nutrition. While reimagining the post-pandemic human capital or future work force, the EU looks forward to a continued strong partnership with the Government of Lao PDR within the framework of the 9th NSEDP,” said H.E. Ms. Ina Marčiulionytė, European Union Ambassador to Lao PDR

Throughout the year, the NCAWMC and UNICEF met with CSOs to assess progress in the implementation of the commitment and understand challenges. In representation of CSOs, the ChildFund talked about the importance of listening children throughout the process. “ChildFund in Laos and CSOs strives to realize the rights of children and is committed to their overarching wellbeing in terms of education, health, child protection, participation and environment. We believe that children in Laos are drivers of change and it’s important that we include them in decision making process, treat them as equal stakeholders and partner with them to find solutions,” pointed out Biju Abraham, Country Director, ChildFund Laos.

On behalf of the corporates who signed the commitment last year, the Vice-President of the National Chamber of Commerce and Industry, Mr. Vanthong Sitthikoun renewed their commitment to the cause of children. “The Lao National Chamber of Commerce and Industry, in representation of private sector organisations and all workers, will continue working with the Government and partners to integrate the protection of children’s rights in our companies’ codes of conduct; and we will work towards providing decent work opportunities for young workers above the minimum legal age. Developing family-friendly policies and practices at the workplace and using marketing and advertising that respect children’s rights are other areas to focus on. To move forward our commitment a group of companies have participated this year in a survey that will provide insights on the business environment and will help us understand the alignment with child rights business principles.”

Representing the children who participated in the children and youth consultation, Phanomphone Phaouthoum, aged 17, talked about how the lives of Lao children are being affected by COVID-19 and presented some ideas to overcome the pandemic and build a country fit for every child. “During the lockdown, my schools as the schools of many children in Laos were closed, and I was worried that the break in our learning path would affect my performance at the exams. Also, the fact that my family could get infected with the virus made me feel anxious. The good thing, though, is that there has been a positive impact on the environment,” she explained, and mentioned that looking at the challenges children face in light of the new situation, education comes first.

“We have concerns over unsatisfactory education quality, climate change and violence against children. We hope to see a country with quality education, an encouraging community, greener environment and higher awareness of health and nutrition. We want to play an active role in addressing current challenges, but we also would like to take this opportunity to ask policy makers and partners to increase efforts to improve our lives,” said Phanomphone.

Participants agreed to closely monitor progress and regularly assess the impact of the pandemic in their respective areas of work. In addition, stakeholders agreed to report back on annual basis coinciding with the celebration of World Children’s Day on 20th November.

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