Empowering Local Citizens in Lao PDR for Better Development

May 10, 2017

  • A one-year pilot project brought together local communities, district officials and development partners to increase participation, inclusiveness and transparency in village development planning.
  • The project aims to better integrate village planning with their districts to avoid duplication of development activities.
  • Ensuring local development planning and coordination are aligned at all levels will help maximize development resources, and ultimately help reduce poverty in Lao PDR.

Vientiane, Lao PDR – Local development planning in Lao PDR can be a long and repetitive process. It starts with Village Development Plans, then moves to Kumban (or village cluster) Development Plans, and ends with the endorsement of District Socio-Economic Development Plans (DSEDP). In the past, this has resulted in duplication of resources and missed opportunities for collaborations.

While there is an official framework bringing all of these plans together, villages will sometimes develop independent plans without taking into account government priorities or available funding. Plans developed by villages and Kumbans are also usually not well-connected to district plans.

Over the past year, with the support of the Poverty Reduction Fund, the government has tried to strengthen the local planning process by piloting the integration of village to Kumban to DSEDP in selected districts. One key innovation introduced under the pilot is a series of face-to-face meetings between village representatives, local officials and relevant development partners. These meetings allow for more participatory and inclusive discussions on priority issues and trade-offs based on shared information about targets and budgets of each stakeholder. 

“This was our first time to present Kumban plans to the district governor and officials on behalf of our villages,” said Linthong, Kumban Coordinator in Xamneua district, Houaphan. “At the meeting, we explained the priorities from each village.”


Women voted for their priorities in the Village Development Plan

With a participatory and inclusive process, the pilot increased the acceptance and ownership of the DSEDP among community members and also created an opportunity for ongoing coordination and collaboration. Another important outcome is the creation of the DSEDP plans as platforms directly linked to the village and Kumban-level plans. The DSEDP will become the source by which district authorities and development agencies select priorities and plan their own investments.

 “The pilot aims to support our objective to have one single planning process that links the targets of the sectors and the needs of villagers. Therefore, we would like development partners to use and support this integrated planning process,” said Chanfong Keobounyong, Deputy Director of Provincial Rural Development Office, Luang Prabang.

Developing the DSEDP in a participatory and transparent manner was also useful for government officials. The training provided to local officials at the initial stage was critical to the success of the pilot. Going forward, it will be important to also continue to build capacity among local officials.

“We are the owners of the planning process and implementation of activities. We would like the Poverty Reduction Fund and other development partners to support our capacity building, especially in facilitation skills,” said Khamsone Boundouangchanh, Head of Xamneua District Planning Office, Houaphan.

Following this successful exercise, the creation of a formal procedure for a single and integrated local planning process will be piloted soon. Once the pilot for this new process is rolled out, with support of the Poverty Reduction Fund, the goal is for it to eventually be adopted by the government.

“The planning system of Lao PDR is a combination of top-down and bottom-up processes. This pilot represents a good experiment of how to link the top-down targets and the bottom-up proposals from villages in an interactive and participatory manner. Therefore, we will document the process and take it forward,” said Mr. Lienthong Souphany, Deputy Director General of the Department of Planning, Ministry of Planning and Investment.