Switzerland concludes a successful Land Governance Project in Laos

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Press release, 31.05.2017

A capitalization ceremony was held for the conclusion of Switzerland’s support to the Rights-LINk project on May 31 , 2016. In attendance for the event was Mr. Khamphone Lathsachak, Director General, Department of Agricultural Land Management; Mr. Tim Enderlin, Mekong Region Director of The Swiss Agency for Development and Cooperation; implementing project partner Mr. Richard Reece, Director, Village Focus International; representatives from the Government of Laos and members of the development community.

Mr. Tim Enderlin, Ms. Michal Harari, Mr. Senthong Phothisane of SDC and the participants of the Rights-Link closing workhsop.
Mr. Tim Enderlin, Ms. Michal Harari, Mr. Senthong Phothisane of SDC and the participants of the Rights-Link closing workhsop. ©Toula/SDC Lao PDR

The government of Switzerland, through The Swiss Agency for Development and Cooperation (SDC) has supported the Rights-LINK project since April, 2009 with a total amount of CHF 3.1 million.

The Rights-LINK project seeks to educate key stakeholders from government, the private sector, civil society and local communities, particularly women and ethnic groups, and improve their capacity, knowledge, and access to decision making on land-related issues. Rights-LINK’s main goal is for local communities to be able to exercise their full land rights, including securing land tenure and their rights to use their land in a sustainable and equitable manner. Rights-LINK was particularly successful in opening up and facilitating the conversation about land between a range of stakeholders, including village people, official, civil society, and the private sector. The project worked closely with partners to create of a range of useful tools and approaches to enhance positive engagement, many of which are used by actors throughout the country.

The political economy of land is changing rapidly in Lao PDR. Economic development, along with the introduction of new land tenure systems, are transforming communities and driving land scarcity. Government grants of large land concessions to investors, land speculation, and internal migration have significantly impacted rural communities’ access to the land and natural resources which is essential to their livelihoods.

Mr. Khamphone Lathsachak confirms, “Land governance is an important topic that needs to be improved which requires vast time and resources. On behalf of the Government of Lao PDR, the Department of Agricultural Land Management appreciates support of the Government of Switzerland and hopes it continues to support in the land governance sector in Lao PDR”.

Both the Government of Laos and Switzerland agree that the problem is complex and so are the interventional measures. They require enforceable and implementable policy and legal frameworks to support the land governance, together with competent and responsible governmental institutions. Citizens must also be aware of their rights and how to exercise them. The private sector must also be aware of the rights of communities and their responsibilities toward them.

Switzerland places great importance to land governance since it has a great impact on poverty in the country and therefore has supported implementation of land governance projects at the national, regional, and global levels. Switzerland understands that the poverty eradication depends in large measure on how local communities gain access to land, fisheries and forests.

“Switzerland remains supportive of land governance reforms in Lao PDR”, says Tim Enderlin, “We continue to support reform actors in the CLMV counties to address land issues through its regional, Mekong Region Land Governance project. It focuses on access to land for communities and the Government of Laos’s effort to reduce poverty in Lao PDR. Reform actors have access to funding to improve land governance in Mekong region through the Quick Disbursement and Innovation Funs”.