The Ministry of Industry and Commerce (MoIC) and the United Nations Development Programme (UNDP) have completed a series of training on responsible business practices for central and provincial Government Agencies in the Lao PDR.
Some 100 officials representing 11 Ministries in Vientiane and eight Departments from six of the country’s northern provinces, learned about the benefits of upholding international standards for regulation of business activity.
Over the past decade, the Lao PDR has been one of the fastest-growing economies in ASEAN, recording average annual growth of up to 8 per cent. While business activity has underpinned much of this progress, it has often been at the expense of the environment and people’s well-being.
Water and air pollution, loss of biodiversity, community relocations, unsafe working conditions, and unequal pay by irresponsible businesses have had a negative impact on the Lao PDR’s sustainable development.
To ensure that business activity continues to progress and does not undermine development, it is critical that the Government embraces responsible business practices.
The UN Guiding Principles (UNGPs) on Business and Human Rights are the key international standard and practical roadmap to guide such progress.
“By strengthening the regulation of business activity in line with the UNGPs, we can ensure that each company, no matter the size or industry, is committed to a prosperous Lao PDR. Responsible business practices protect our natural resources and benefit communities and workers while enabling high-quality and sustainable investments – the key to the recovering from COVID-19 and the current economic challenges,” Dr. Khamphet Vongdala, Director General of the Department of Planning and Cooperation, MoIC, stressed.
It is estimated that high-quality and sustainable investments now account for 10% of global fund assets, increasing from USD285 billion in 2019 to USD650 billion in 2021 – meaning Governments around the world are aligning regulations with international standards to gain new investment opportunities.
“A National Action Plan with clear Government priorities to align laws, policies and practices with the UNGPs is a powerful tool to attract high-quality and sustainable investments. 30 economies have already adopted such plans, and the Lao PDR should not be left behind in this global trend,” said Mr. Seán O’Connell, UNDP Team Leader for Governance and Assistant Resident Representative.
“UNDP has supported development of National Action Plans in Indonesia, Malaysia, Thailand, and Viet Nam, and we look forward to supporting the Government of the Lao PDR in its responsible business journey,” said Mr. Seán O’Connell.
Local authorities are at the frontline of strengthening responsible business practices and well-positioned to ensure that a National Action Plan is fit for purpose. Provincial and District Government Agencies are responsible for issuing business licenses, monitoring business operations, and enforcing regulations, while also having a direct connection to communities.
“While the central level can ensure that a National Action Plan meets the Lao PDR’s international responsibilities and UNGPs standards, local authorities are the key to aligning it with the real issues on the ground. We stand ready to contribute our experiences and support,” Mr. Aot Sisavath, Deputy Head of the Luang Namtha Provincial Department of Natural Resources and Environment, reflected.
The MoIC-UNDP series of training resulted in over 90 per cent of Government officials reporting an improved understanding of the UNGPs and the National Action Plan processes. It was organized under the “Improving Performance, Accountability, Conduct, and Transparency of Businesses in the Lao PDR” project, also known as IMPACT Biz, funded by the Government of Japan.
Source: Lao News Agency