Mekong countries gather in Vientiane to drive community development agenda

VIENTIANE (Vientiane Times/ANN) - Representatives of Mekong countries promoted mutual understanding and shared experiences and best practices at the Lancang-Mekong Seminar on Community-Driven Development held in Vientiane on Friday.

The best practices are aimed at strengthening cooperation in the area of community-driven development as an effective form of rural development and poverty eradication.

Deputy Minister of Agriculture and Forestry, Mr Thongphat Vonmany, World Bank Country Manager, Mr Nicola Pontara, ambassadors of Cambodia and Thailand, along with representatives from regional countries, attended the seminar’s opening ceremony.

The meeting heard that Laos is in the process of drafting its 9th five-year National Socio-Economic Development Plan, striving to graduate from the status of Least Developed Country and moving forward to upper-middle-income ranking by 2030 accompanied by green and sustainable development.

Mr Thongphat said the Lancang-Mekong Cooperation framework was a significant contribution to the well-being of all people and the prosperity of all countries in the region.

“In Laos, community-driven development has been strongly encouraged by the government through various channels, particularly the Poverty Reduction Fund,” he said. The Fund was established in 2002 and is the government’s key initiative supported by the World Bank and its financing partners to eradicate mass poverty by 2020, he added.

Community-driven development is not a project but the process of political and socio-economic change from the grassroots level. It is the implementation of the Party’s “Three Builds” (Sam Sang) directive, namely building provinces as strategic units, districts as overall strengthened units, and villages as developed units.

Mr Pontara said the seminar was an excellent opportunity for self-reflection and knowledge-sharing among key community-driven development implementers across the Southeast Asia region.

He noted that the Poverty Reduction Fund had played an essential role in helping to decrease poverty in Laos, particularly by increasing access to basic services such as improved water supply, primary education, health, roads, electricity, irrigation and other services.

The seminar heard that the CDD approach complemented the large development projects carried out by the government and its development partners as well as private sector investment.

With additional World Bank financing, the government is urging the Poverty Reduction Fund to use its community-driven development expertise to form groups of mothers to address high levels of child stunting through the production, consumption and preparation of healthy food for their young children. For the Sustainable Development Goals, poverty eradication remains the top priority for Laos.

As of last year, the World Bank had 199 active community-driven development projects in 78 countries, with total financing of nearly US$20 billion, 65 percent of which comes from the World Bank and the remainder from government financing (as in Laos), and other development partners.

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