Global opportunities and challenges impact Lao PDR’s development

Recently published UN reports allow for insight into global trends of work and challenges in rural development across the world, which are of relevance to existing and emerging national strategies and policies.

Fast technological progress, deepening globalisation, aging societies and environmental challenges are rapidly transforming what work means today and how it is performed. This new world of work presents great opportunities for some, but also profound challenges for others. The United Nations Development Programme’s (UNDP) Global 2015 Human Development Reporturges governments to act now to ensure no one is left behind in the fast-changing world of work. The report, subtitled Work for Human Development argues that policies should embrace all types of work, including care, creative and voluntary work and that they should pay particular attention to sustainability.

The UNDP’s flagship report argues that the Asia-Pacific region may have been experiencing fast growth and rapid human development, but not necessarily fast job creation. The human development approach, adopted by the UNDP since 1990 and measured with the Human Development Index (HDI), emphasises improving lives rather than using economic growth as an end in itself. The Lao PDR ranked 141st out of 188 countries on the HDI in 2014, below the average in the region.

The United Nations Conference on Trade and Development´s (UNCTAD) 2015 Least Developed Countries Reportsubtitled Transforming Rural Economies, presents a road map to address rural poverty in the 48 least developed countries of the world. It highlights lack of progress in rural transformation and notes the root causes of migration within and from the least developed countries.

Poverty-driven rural–urban migration fuels excessive rates of urbanisation in many poor countries. Many international migrants come from rural areas – either directly or after first migrating to towns and cities in their own countries. The report’s recommendations aspire to slow this process by focusing on rural development, which seeks to “create the conditions for a rural–urban migration process driven primarily by choice rather than necessity”.

Meeting the Sustainable Development Goals – the 17 global goals world leaders signed up to in 2015, with the target date for goal achievement by 2030 – in rural areas of least developed countries will require a “quantum leap” in the rate of infrastructure investment: more than twice as many people would have to gain access to water each year than was the case in 2011–2012, four times as many to electricity, and six times as many to sanitation.

Poverty can only be eradicated if there are employment and economic opportunities for all, with incomes above the poverty line matched by productivity. In order to achieve this in rural areas of poor countries, the report proposes a new approach, articulated around a three-phase increase in infrastructure investment, and the combination of increasing agricultural productivity and promoting non-farm activities.

These two reports were launched in Vientiane today in presence of H.E. Dr. Bounthavy Sisouphanthong, Vice Minister of Planning and Investment and Ms. Kaarina Immonen, UN Resident Coordinator and UNDP Resident Representative in Lao PDR. The national context was provided by the Ministry of Planning and Investment’s National Economic Research Institute. These global reports provide informed policy choices for Lao PDR, which can promote policy dialogue and enable the country to adapt to quickly changing global trends. The UN continues to support the country in its development objectives, by – amongst others – helping to adjust strategies and policies according to the newest emerging knowledge and data.

Source: UNDP. Date: February 12 2016