- General

Government Prioritizes Ensuring Access to Legal Aid for Citizens by 2025

A workshop held on Thursday, Dec 9 explored how the Ministry of Justice and partners will work together to achieve national goals related to legal aid for the period 2021-25.

The workshop highlighted that the next five years will prove critical to the development of legal aid in the Lao PDR, and the targets related to legal aid formulated in the UN Sustainable Development Goals, the 9th National Social Economic Development Plan and MOJ Strategic Development Plan for the Justice Sector provide the overall framework for this work during this period. The question of ‘how’ these targets will be met must now be agreed among key stakeholders.

The workshop was held to outline the current state of play and key national goals and targets related to legal aid services, and explore global trends and approaches in legal aid provision to answer this ‘how’ question.

Vice Minister of Justice Ketsana Phommachan acted as Chair of the workshop, with First Secretary of Delegation of European Union Baiba Zarina, and Deputy Resident Representative of UNDP Catherine Phuong as Co-Chairs. All stakeholders shared their understanding of the current national situation for legal aid provision as well as international trends, and agreed the necessity to promote legal aid services to help the Government continue to advance a Rule of Law in the Lao PDR.

Vice Minister of Justice, Mr. Ketsana Phommachan underlined the importance of Legal Aid in stating that “the 5 years Strategic Development Plan of the Justice Sector (2021-2025), adopted in August 2021 highlighted the direction on legal aid, and focuses on the strengthening of capacity of legal aid offices and officials at provincial and district levels as well as increasing the legal aid service provision to society widely and in various channels.”

Ms. Catherine Phuong of UNDP called for “greater coordination between partners, to help to clarify each other’s roles and responsibilities.” She added that “to strengthen coordination and build on the experiences of other countries, we must explore the possibility of developing a dedicated sub-plan on legal aid, which will be crucial in making sure everyone is on the same page over the next 5 years.”

Ms. Baiba Zarina, of the European Union, emphasized that the “EU attaches great importance to good governance and rule of law, as a way to ensure sustainable development in the Lao PDR. Access to Justice, and with it access to Legal Aid, is a fundamental right and an essential part in advancing the rule of law.” She added that “we cannot promote Rule of Law without promoting Access to Justice at the same time.”

The Ministry of Justice, the EU and UNDP, together with other key partners, agreed to continue to make efforts for the improvement of legal aid provision through strengthened coordination, and that working closely together would be crucial to achieving the ambitious legal aid targets set by the government.

This workshop was organized by the Legal and Institutional Oversight Sub Sector Working Group, under the Governance Sector Working Group of the Lao PDR.

Source: Lao News Agency