Vientiane, 21 June 2022: After two and a half years of implementation, the Joint Programme on social protection implemented by ILO, UNCDF, and UNICEF under the leadership of the Ministry of Labour and Social Welfare held its official closing event.
Under the “Leaving No One Behind: Establishing the basis for Social Protection Floors in Lao PDR” Joint Programme, the Government of Lao PDR and the UN system, supported by the Joint SDG Fund and the Government of Australia, have taken a meaningful step towards building a nationally owned and inclusive social protection system. Through an integrated approach, partners have explored innovative approaches to strengthen the national system and lay the foundations for its future expansion and development.
Many of the systems, infrastructure and procedures were established for the very first time under the programme and could provide important learning on designing and scaling up social transfers for national authorities and partners in the country.
This has supported the implementation of the National Social Protection Strategy, which sets out the vision that by 2030, the welfare of all Lao people will be safeguarded by a basic social protection floor.
At the event, Madam Baykham Khattiya, Minister of Labour and Social Welfare noted, “The Government of Lao PDR acknowledges the importance of social protection and the UN Joint Programme, which has contributed to the government policy of building a society with solidarity, conciliation, democracy, prosperity and justice. The Ministry of Labour and Social Welfare, as the chair of the National Social Protection Commission and its Secretariat, will play a central role in coordinating and mainstreaming social protection into national socio-economic development as well as the sectoral development plans at central and local level. We will systematically monitor, evaluate and develop legal frameworks for the implementation of the National Social Protection Strategy, particularly the three pillars of health insurance, social security and social welfare.”
As the Joint Programme draws to a close, following the COVID-19 pandemic, the country is now faced with another major economic crisis marked by rapidly increasing cost of living, including of food and fuel. Such crises affect the poorest and most vulnerable people the most, whose resilience is already weakened from the impact of the pandemic.
However, it is also in times of crisis that social protection can play a critical role, by contributing to stabilizing the economy and ensuring social stability.
When a particular set of conditions are met, cash in the hands of low- and middle-income households provided through state systems can ensure that they can continue to spend money on their basic needs, thereby also boosting aggregate demand and supporting economic growth.
When well designed, implemented and financed, social protection can also act as a powerful social stabilizer and play a critical role in crisis response.
Reflecting on the experience of implementing the Programme, the partners jointly emphasized the need to:
- Facilitate access to social protection with appropriate allocation of funds for social spending and recognize the specific vulnerabilities of the poor, children, elderly, people with disabilities, women, migrant workers, and other vulnerable groups.
- Strengthen multi sectoral collaboration, especially between the social welfare, health, education, finance, and rural development sectors.
- Strengthen synergy between governments, development partners, private sector, social partners, and civil society.
- Commit to close consultation with and meaningful participation of all stakeholders, including representatives of the informal economy.
Ms. Sara Sekkenes, UN Resident Coordinator to Lao PDR stated, “Going forward, the most effective and efficient response would be to increase the national commitment of domestic resources and to focus on expanding existing programmes or pilots with the view to building a shock-responsive and sustainable national social protection system”.
Ms. Sekkenes reiterated that the United Nations stands ready to support the Government, social partners, civil society and national institutions in the common goal of implementing the Strategy and providing social protection to all people in Lao PDR, prioritizing the poorest and most vulnerable, and specially to support the National Social Protection Commission as the primary responsible body for coordinating and overseeing the National Social Protection Strategy.
Through these efforts, the Government and United Nations hope to make progress towards the achievement of the 2030 Sustainable Development Agenda and Goals—especially Goal 1: No Poverty, and support a development path that truly leaves no one behind