Strategy

Switzerland works to help build inclusive societies in the Mekong region, particularly in Cambodia and Lao People's Democratic Republic (Lao PDR), by promoting equitable and sustainable development and democratic governance. To help support the rural populations, Switzerland carries out activities in local governance and citizen participation, agriculture and food security as well as vocational skills development and employment.

In spite of the economic progression in Cambodia and Lao PDR since 2000, which enabled both countries to achieve progress in reducing poverty, inequality is rising. It is felt particularly for rural populations who continue to depend on agriculture for their livelihoods. The most vulnerable groups – women, ethnic minorities and people living in remote regions – are also the worst affected. Cambodia and Lao PDR, still the poorest countries in South East Asia, are striving to meet significant challenges by driving social and environmental development, diversifying the economy and strengthening inclusive growth. Although the agreement setting up the Association of Southeast Asian Nations (ASEAN) Economic Community entered into force in 2015, disparities between the development levels of the poorest and more advanced countries in this region remain considerable and need to be reduced before ASEAN can emerge as a unified economic zone.

Switzerland has good, long-standing relations with countries in the Mekong region. In line with its 2018–21 regional cooperation strategy, Switzerland continues to work in Cambodia and Lao PDR while at the same time adopting a collaborative regional approach to address common development challenges with the support of specialised agencies active in the region. In 2016, Switzerland was given the status of ASEAN Sectoral Dialogue Partner, which enables it to work more closely with this major organisation in South East Asia.

Switzerland promotes gender equality, the inclusion of marginalised groups and non-discrimination in its programmes. It also includes climate change adaptation, disaster mitigation and risk reduction. A conflict-sensitive approach is essential, particularly in a post-conflict context such as Cambodia. 

SDC Programming in Lao PDR

A nutrition improvement focus village in Houaphan, Lao PDR.
A nutrition improvement focus village in Houaphan, Lao PDR. © SDC/Touravanh

About SDC in Lao PDR

SDC has supported development projects in Lao PDR since 1990. In 2006, SDC opened a country office in Vientiane to oversee Switzerland’s development cooperation activities in the country. Since 2008, the Lao country office serves as the SDC coordination office for programming in Cambodia and Lao PDR, as well as regional project that include Myanmar and Vietnam. The office celebrated 10 years of bilateral cooperation with the Government of Lao PDR in 2016.

Mekong river bridge to replace ferry crossing in Xayaburi, Lao PDR.
Mekong river bridge to replace ferry crossing in Xayaburi, Lao PDR. © SDC/Touravanh

SDC Programming

Switzerland’s overall goal is to contribute to building inclusive societies through equitable and sustainable development and democratic governance. To this end, Switzerland contributes to poverty reduction and inclusive and equitable development in Lao PDR.

Villagers, local authorities and project staff discuss new primary school construction progress in Luang Prabang, Lao PDR.
Villagers, local authorities and project staff discuss new primary school construction progress in Luang Prabang, Lao PDR. © SDC/Adrian Gnaegi

Governance and Citizen Participation

Switzerland contributes to outputs and outcomes of the 8th Lao Five-Year National Socio-Economic Development Plan (NSEDP) 2016-2020 in the areas of improving district public service delivery and poverty reduction. It will also continue to promote citizen participation; strengthen the representation and oversight role of the National Assembly and the newly-established Provincial People’s Assemblies, both considered to have a potential as drivers of change. It will stay engaged in advocacy for a strengthened role of (national) NGOs as partners in the development process and an enabling environment. Finally, Switzerland continues to facilitate more open-access socio-economic information and to create spaces to trigger debates, policy dialogue and decision-making based on evidence.

Open air fresh market in Vientiane Capital City, Lao PDR.
Open air fresh market in Vientiane Capital City, Lao PDR. © SDC/Adrian Gnaegi

Agriculture and Food Security

Switzerland contributes to food security by improving the livelihoods of vulnerable groups. It will continue to enhance quality agricultural education, promote the sustainable use of agrobiodiversity, support farmers’ organisations and facilitate more and better rural advisory services in order to improve smallholder farmer productivity. To address high malnutrition among children and adults it emphasizes dietary diversity. Switzerland also helps to increase household capacities to cope with disaster risks and climate change impacts. Moreover, Switzerland puts more emphasis on agricultural value chains, access to markets for smallholders as well as peri-urban farming. It eases access to land by raising stakeholder awareness and participation in land use-related decision-making and conflict resolution.

Students and trainers at a hotel and tourism training center in Vientiane Capital City, Lao PDR.
Students and trainers at a hotel and tourism training center in Vientiane Capital City, Lao PDR. © SDC/Touravanh

Employment and Vocational Education and Training

Switzerland aims to improve the quality of skills provision and its relevance to employers and labour market needs. Ultimately, the goal of this domain is to increase the number of women and men, in particular those from disadvantaged groups, who enrol in vocational education and training and who then access gainful and decent employment and self-employment. To this intent, Switzerland also cooperates with stakeholders to strengthen the regulatory framework and delivery systems, including for informal skills provision. Throughout, Switzerland promotes private sector involvement.

Resources Allocation

Participatory village planning in Luang Prabang, Lao PDR.
Participatory village planning in Luang Prabang, Lao PDR. © SDC/Touravanh

SDC Actual disbursements in Lao PDR

2006-2012:     CHF 75.6 million      

2013-2017:     CHF 83.87 million

 

Projected disbursements in Lao PDR

2018-2021: CHF 64 million

 

Planned allocations by country (in million CHF)

 

2018

2019

2020

2021

Total

% Total

Mekong Region

8

8

8

8

32

22%

Cambodia

12.5

12.5

12.5

12.5

50

34%

Lao PDR

16

16

16

16

64

44%

Total

36.5

36.5

36.5

36.5

146

100%

 

Planned allocations by thematic domain (in million CHF)

Domains

2018

2019

2020

2021

Total

% Total

Governance, citizen participation and health

14

14

14

14

56

38%

Agriculture and food security

12.5

12.5

12.5

12.5

50

34%

Skills development and employment

10

10

10

10

40

27%

Total

36.5

36.5

36.5

36.5

146

100%