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Project to strengthen Lao National and Provincial People’s Assemblies launched

The National Assembly of Laos, the United Nations Development Programme (UNDP), and the United States Agency for International Development (USAID) on Sept 6 launched a new project to strengthen the Lao National and Provincial People’s Assemblies.

The Strengthening Capacity and Effectiveness of The People’s Assemblies System (STEPS) in Laos, or STEPS Project is a five-year (2022-2026), US$ 15 million initiative that will be implemented by the National Assembly and the Provincial People’s Assemblies in partnership with UNDP and is fully funded by USAID.

STEPS aims to strengthen the capacity of the legislatures in the Lao PDR to effectively represent, engage, and respond to citizens’ needs. The Project will support the national and provincial assemblies, including elected members, committees and staff, in enhancing their mandates and ability to revise and approve legislation, monitor the implementation of the country’s National Socio-Economic Development Plan and advance progress toward the Sustainable Development Goals, improve understanding of societal concerns, and enhance overall accountability and transparency in the Lao PDR.

Ms. Pingkam Lasasimma, Secretary General of the National Assembly, Dr. Peter M. Haymond, U.S. Ambassador to the Lao PDR, and Ms. Kanni Wignaraja, UNDP’s Director of the Regional Bureau for Asia and the Pacific, officially launched the project with the attendance of representatives from the assemblies, Government ministries, USAID, development partners and UN agencies.

“On behalf of the National Assembly, I would like to thank USAID and UNDP for their commitment to ensuring that the assemblies in the Lao PDR can become better established and more effective, and can build strong alliances with constituents,” said Secretary General Lasasimma.

“The U.S. Government is proud to support the STEPS program in partnership with the National Assembly and UNDP. We want STEPS to help further strengthen the National Assembly’s ability to review and approve legislation, analyze important national issues, and support the implementation of the Lao PDR’s development goals,” said Ambassador Haymond.

Ms. Wignaraja highlighted the key role played by the assemblies, particularly in times of crisis: “The Lao PDR is facing the economic and social impacts caused by climate change and COVID-19. Our experience is that when a country is faced with these kinds of challenges, parliaments make their strongest contribution by increasing their engagement with the people they represent. Bringing people into the work of parliament helps build connections between elected representatives and the public they serve. It shows the communities that they are being listened to and heard”.

The STEPS Project provides support to both the National Assembly and Provincial People’s Assemblies to fulfill their functions of representation, oversight and law-making. Targeted support will be provided to the provincial assemblies, established in 2016, to strengthen people’s participation in decision making at the district and community level.

The project will strengthen the assemblies’ and their members’ ability to represent their constituents, in particular women and vulnerable groups, to hold the government to account and to explore an expanded role in budgeting and law-making processes. Members, staff and gender champions will be supported to mainstream gender equality and inclusion in all law-making, oversight and representation activity.

Source: Lao News Agency