The past five years have seen a significant strengthening of the legislative framework in Lao PDR, with a number of key laws being adopted or revised. At the policy-level, with the conclusion of the Legal Sector Master Plan (LSMP) in 2020, the focus has shifted from law-making to law implementation, including accountability.
Effective law implementation is constrained by several factors. Universities are under pressure to strengthen their capacity to deliver high level legal education and research responding to the reality and needs of the sector within a broader national and international context.
In the formal justice system, prosecutors and court personnel require greater capacity and equipment to keep up with the fast-changing legal framework, but also growing caseloads. Calls for greater legal accountability is reflected in the strengthened role of oversight by the Provincial Prosecutors Office and the recently established Administrative Chamber within the People’s Supreme Court. Increasing prison populations impact the ability of prison staff to ensure basic services and minimum international standards for the treatment of detainees, as well as the ability of the prosecutors to supervise the system. People may be unable to assert their rights under the law because they lack legal information and advice. Staff at legal aid offices established by the Ministry of Justice may lack resources, as well as practical knowledge and skills. Village Mediation Committees established to resolve minor disputes need mediation skills but also the legal knowledge to act only within their mandate in synergy with the formal justice system. Outside the legal system, oversight by the Government Inspection Authority and the State Audit Organization, as well as by the Provincial People’s Assemblies are key to good governance. There is still a considerable need for capacity development, and resource inputs, in order to operationalise fully these mechanisms. Systematic data flows and capacity to analyse these, as well as capacity for monitoring and evaluation, remain a challenge.
The vision of change of the LAO/037 programme is to contribute to quality legal education at the universities to the delivery of effective justice services to people at all levels and, in turn, engage the public in strengthening the justice system, rule of law, and governance as a whole. In practical terms, it concerns facilitating access to justice and enhancing accountability in the system. The aim is to foster a rights-based, bottom-up response by linking higher level theory with practice and, in turn, feeding the experience from practice back into national policy-development and planning.
LAO/037 will run from 2023 to 2027, with a budget of 9 000 000 EUR. It will be implemented nationwide with a particular focus on Vientiane, Bolikhamxay, Khammouane and Bokeo provinces, and Champasak province.
At central level, beneficiaries include the Faculty of Law and Political Science as well as the National Assembly, the Ministry of Justice, legal practitioners and legal sector agencies such as the Office of the Supreme People’s Prosecutor, the People’s Supreme Court, and the prison service under the Ministry of Public Security.
Beneficiaries at the local level include the Faculty of Law and Administration in Champasak, justice sector agencies, but also the Provincial People’s Assemblies and provincial administration, select districts and villages, individual legal practitioners and, ultimately, individuals and communities in Lao PDR.
The efficiency and effectiveness of the Lao-Luxembourg Indicative Cooperation Programme V will be based on a programmatic approach, ensuring synergies with other engagements under ICP V. The close collaboration between LuxDev, the Institute for Legal Support and Technical Assistance and the University of Luxembourg across the various intervention areas will ensure the optimal complementarity and effective use of resources.
LAOS - Luxembourg grants EUR 9 million to continue supporting the legal and judicial sector
Under the 5th Indicative Cooperation Programme 2023-2027, the Government of Luxembourg is continuing its support for the Lao legal and justice sector, with a grant of EUR 9 million to carry out its support programme for "Rule of law, access to justice and good governance in Lao PDR" (LAO/037, 2023-2027).
The extension of support by Luxembourg was reported during a Project Steering Committee meeting held on 14th July 2023, between the Embassy of the Grand Duchy of Luxembourg in Laos, LuxDev, the Luxembourg Development Cooperation Agency, the Ministry of Justice, the Ministry of Sports and Education and the National University of Laos, Faculty of Law and Political Science (FLP).
The meeting was co-chaired by the Vice-Minister of Justice, Mr Ketsana Phommachanh, the Chargé d’Affaires of the Luxembourg Embassy in Laos, Mr Sam Schreiner, and Associate Professor Dr. Saykhong Saynasine, Director General of Department of Higher Education of the Ministry of Sports and Education.
Participants reviewed the positive accomplishments and outcomes of the previous project “Legal teaching and training and promotion of the rule of law concept in Lao PDR” (LAO/031, 2017-2022) funded with just under EUR 9 million and officially closed the latter. It was noted that the project has been very successful, in spite of challenges encountered during the implementation period, not least due to the impact of COVID-19. Key results have been the establishment by the Ministry of Justice of 32 provincial and district legal aid offices, and the successful rating of two study programmes at the FLP by the ASEAN University Network. In addition, both practitioners and academia have received substantial training and other capacity building enabling them to perform better in their mandated functions.
Directly following the closure of LAO/031, the first annual review meeting of the Project Steering Committee on the LAO/037 was opened by its co-chairs.
Under the new project, five main support areas have been defined:
- strengthening higher education in law;
- strengthening the justice system;
- support for the penitentiary service;
- supporting access to affordable justice and legal aid;
- and strengthening the good governance and rule of law as a whole in the Lao PDR.
The programme will continue to support the current institutional partners, mainly the FLP and the Ministry of Justice, emphasising institutional capacity strengthening and legal dissemination. This will be done in alignment with the Strategy for the Justice Sector (2020-2025) and the Legal Aid Decree 77 (2018), as well as strategic frameworks for the university institutions. In addition, support will be provided to the Ministry of Foreign Affairs, Department of Treaties and Laws, and the National Assembly.
Under the Ministry of Sports and Education, the project continues to support the FLP and the Faculty of Law and Administration of Champasak University to strengthen their capacity to deliver high qualitative legal education and research in line with national and international quality standards and responding to the reality and needs of the sector within a broader national and international context.
In terms of support to the FLP, the University of Luxembourg (Uni.lu) will, through the Inter-University Project, engage in strengthened cooperation with LuxDev to ensure that support provided becomes even more efficient and coherent.
The Institute for Legal Support and Technical Assistance, co-implementor of LAO/031, will continue providing technical assistance to the Office of the Supreme People's Prosecutor, the People's Supreme Court, the State Inspection Authority, the Ministry of Public Security, the Anti-Money Laundering Intelligence and Customs Office under LAO/037.
The LAO/037 project is financed by the Grand Duchy of Luxembourg and implemented by LuxDev, the Luxembourg Development Cooperation Agency.