Joint Statement – 7th Lao PDR – Australia Human Rights Dialogue

The Lao PDR and Australia held the 7th bilateral Human Rights Dialogue on Dec 9 by a videoconference.

The dialogue was co-chaired by Mr Douangmany Gnotsyoudom, Director General of the Department of Treaty and Law, Ministry of Foreign Affairs of the Lao PDR and Mrs. Natasha Smith, First Assistant Secretary, Multilateral Policy Division of the Australian Department of Foreign Affairs and Trade (DFAT).

The two sides had an open and constructive discussion on a broad range of human rights issues, including civil and political rights, the rights of people who experience vulnerability, engagement with international human rights mechanisms, as well as bilateral, regional and international cooperation.

The Lao and Australian delegations discussed the impact of the COVID-19 pandemic on the promotion and protection of human rights and the challenges facing all countries as they respond to, and recover from, the pandemic.

The dialogue noted that COVID-19 had impacted peoples’ livelihoods, freedom of movement and socio-economic development.

They noted that civil society contributed to the national social economic development of the country, including through delivering community projects.

While acknowledging efforts by the Lao PDR to consult and support civil society engagement according to the laws and regulations concerned under the law, Australia identified further scope to facilitate and promote their works, particularly in rural and remote areas.

Both sides underlined the priority as accorded to protecting and promoting the human rights of people who experience vulnerability, including women and children and people with a disability.

Australia welcomed the Lao PDR’s adoption of a National Action Plan to coordinate implementation of the Lao PDR’s commitments under the Convention on the Rights of the Child.

During the dialogue they discussed their respective policies and approaches to LGBTI rights. Australia encouraged the Government of Laos to recognise and include people in this community and consider inviting them to stakeholder consultation processes as active participants.

The Lao PDR provided an update on statistics for death sentences and the Government’s wide consultation on the issue of the death penalty in the process of drafting the penal code. Australia encouraged the Lao PDR to abolish the death penalty and consider a formal moratorium.

Australia raised individual cases of concern and requested an update on the implementation of the Lao PDR’s international commitments with respect to human rights. Australia stressed the importance of freedom of expression, freedom of association and assembly and freedom of religion or belief.

The Lao PDR maintains that these rights and freedom are guaranteed to Lao citizens by the constitution and laws in accordance with human right treaties to which it is party.

Both Delegations welcomed bilateral cooperation through the Australia-Lao PDR Human Rights Technical Cooperation Programme, delivered by the Australian Human Rights Commission, including to support civil society engagement in the Lao PDR’s UN Universal Periodic Review. Australia committed to continuing to support the Lao PDR to advance human rights under this programme, including offering to work with the Lao PDR on mechanisms for meaningful consultations with, and equitable compensation for, communities impacted by land acquisitions.

the Lao PDR and Australia acknowledged the importance of the dialogue to their longstanding bilateral relationship, and the value in sharing experiences and lessons with each other to address human rights challenges in both countries.

The delegation of Australia was led by Ms. Natasha Smith, First Assistant Secretary, Multilateral Policy Division, Department of Foreign Affairs and Trade, and the Delegation of the Lao PDR was led by Mr. Douangmany Gnotsyoudom, Director General, Department of Treaty and Law, Ministry of Foreign Affairs. The meeting was attended by representatives from line ministries and institutions concerned of the Lao PDR, DFAT, AHRC, and the Embassy of Australia in Vientiane.

The next meeting of the Lao PDR and Australia Human Right Dialogue will be held in 2023.

Source: Lao News Agency