Findings (2.2.2)

Laos 62.2.2. The Lao Party-state and development cooperation

The GoL child protection system is almost completely dysfunctional. Some 11,600 Child Protection Networks nominally exist, but CSOs estimate that only 156 are fully functional, despite years of “capacity building” support. There are multiple committees at village level, with largely overlapping membership. The Child Protection Network has a very similar mandate to the Village Mediation Unit. In practice, in most cases there is no-one in authority to whom children can be referred. Village authorities are generally reluctant to report problems to the district authorities, because of the incentives for those with “Crime Free Village” status. There is also an ambiguity regarding competencies, since village committees are entitled to resolve local issues according to local custom, while higher authorities should apply national legislation. Nor is it clear whether local structures can only mediate or also adjudicate. Most children in need are not assisted; in some cases they are referred to committed individuals in the civil service or to CSOs, who can then push for a solution that engages with official structures as required.

The working age was reduced from 14 to 12 in June 2014 to align more closely with the school leaving age. The EUD and other DPs have not prioritised this issue (in a context of multiple rights issues and development challenges). Within its bilateral programme, the EUD has maintained a focus on expansion of primary education, despite some Member States preference for higher and vocational training initiatives. GoL has indicated that the working age would be gradually raised, in line with the long term goal of increasing the length of universal education.

Violence against children is widespread, particularly in the home and in schools. A recent socioeconomic indicator survey suggested that >70% of children experience violence in some form. Since 2006 the subject has become somewhat less taboo, and CSOs are able to work on this theme. CDC is currently carrying out a violence against children survey using a more robust and internationally comparable methodology. The publication of results is overdue. The National Action Plan on Domestic Violence amalgamates women and children. Several international CSOs working in Laos believe that a separate treatment would be more effective.

International CSOs working in Laos report that the “silo mentality” of compartmentalised and poorly connected government agencies is worse in Laos than in neighbouring countries and other LDCs.

Findings on birth registration are difficult to assess.  Child Fund Australia has noted a fall in birth registration from 17% in 2010 to 13% in 2013, in the various remote and high poverty districts where it is mostly working. This fall may reflect an increase in the estimated population, possibly even an improvement in collection of basic data from the villages. If so, the GoL capacity to address the gaps in birth registration may be increasing. Several stakeholders stressed that, while Lao PDR faces challenges in registering births in remote areas, which have a mostly ethnic minority population, the GoL does not dispute the citizenship of ethnic minority populations, unlike in Thailand and Myanmar, for example. The challenge would therefore seem essentially technical.[1]

In the sector of law enforcement, CSOs do not perceive the Ministry of Public Security as open to cooperation and receptive to suggestions. The UK has expressed an interest in extending the CEOP online child protection system, which has been deployed with some success in Thailand, Vietnam and Philippines, but there has not been a positive response from the GoL.

In Education, several DPs including Germany have provided funds for residential centres for rural students, often with the intention of increasing the integration of ethnic minorities. While CSOs welcome expansion of education services, they note that there is little or no provision for safety in these centres, and that the most recent Ministry of Education Guidelines (06/2012) do not address this issue. There is extensive anecdotal evidence of high levels of diversion of funds allocated to residential centres for students, which can be operated as commercial hostels, often for the private benefit of school directors and other mid-level civil servants.

[1] Mention the EU funded project


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