Since its independence, the Lao People’s Democratic Republic has achieved impressive economic growth, despite the legacy of imperialism and the widespread unexploded ordnance in its territory. Poverty levels have diminished significantly, but high levels of growth driven by the exploitation of natural resources and foreign investment have not translated into commensurate reductions in poverty. Eighty per cent of the population still lives on less than $2.50 per day. Inequality is rising, as urban elites prosper, and many lower-income people have been deprived of their land and access to vital natural resources. The Lao People’s Revolutionary Party holds a monopoly over the political system, and political freedoms are largely non-existent. The present report should be read in conjunction with the Special Rapporteur’s end of mission statement, which contains a detailed assessment of those issues and of the particular challenges that arise for people in rural areas, women and ethnic minority groups.
The present report focuses on initiatives and reforms that the Lao People’s Democratic Republic can undertake to support people in poverty and enhance respect for their human rights. They include re-evaluating economic growth strategies to ensure that the benefits of growth are shared more equally, investing in a strong social protection system, which is currently largely absent, and adopting policies of transparency, meaningful participation by, and empowerment of, people in poverty and engaging in genuine public dialogue.
Special Rapporteur on extreme poverty and human rights