UN Reform in the Lao PDR


"While purposes should be firm and principles constant, practice and organization need to move with the times. If the United Nations is to be a useful instrument for its Members States and for the world's people.. It must fully adapt to the needs and circumstances of the 21 st century" , Secretary-General Mr Kofi Anan, In Larger Freedom, 2005.

In 1997 the UN Secretary General Mr Kofi Annan introduced a package of reforms aimed at improving and enhancing the United Nations, to create greater impact and improve the lives of millions. Since then, a number of new initiatives have been introduced aimed at increasing the efficiency of the UN with its development partners.

Reform aims to achieve better impact through

  • A holistic UN strategy and operations
  • Streamlining operations for greater cost effectiveness
  • Easing the burden for partner governments
  • Lowering transaction costs
  • Re-orienting UN support to prioritize national capacity

The Secretary-General's package of reform has a number of key components endorsed by the General Assembly. The main elements include:

  1. Harmonization and Simplification
  2. More Efficient and Cost-Effective Coordination
  3. Strengthened Coordination Capacity


Under harmonization and simplification are new programming tools designed to enhance the UN's collective analysis and programming in support of national goals and priorities, including the MDGs. These are the Common Country Assessment (CCA), the United Nations Development Assistance Framework (UNDAF), and the harmonized country programmes of UNDP, UNICEF, UNFPA and WFP. Using the UNDAF, the UN system has a unified and harmonized common country programming process and on 1 January 2007 when the UNDAF becomes operational, the Lao PDR will begin its harmonized programming cycle.

As part of harmonization efforts, a common cash transfer framework is being introduced that aims to reduce complexity of procedures and transaction costs of development cooperation, improve the capacity of national partners to manage aid, and will move from a continuous control system to management of risk. The key principles of the approach are national ownership and strengthening capacity through reliance on government's own systems.

Harmonization and simplification also includes joint programming where UN agencies work together to increase their impact. And increasingly, harmonization and simplification of the UN system goes hand in hand with harmonization and alignment of bilateral and multilateral donors. In the Lao PDR the UN Country Team works closely with donors to increase cooperation towards better outcomes for partners and communities.

Under more efficient and cost-effective coordination efforts, the UN Country Team in Lao PDR has undertaken a number of initiatives including common services such as sharing administrative and IT support, a common travel agency strategy, common human resource policies, and is moving towards a common UN medical service for personnel. A number of other areas have been identified for further efficiency and pooling of services.

In terms of strengthened coordination capacity, the UN system has undertaken joint training and learning for UN staff (on HIV AIDS, security, and a based approach to programming), holds joint events (for UN Day, the UN Award, Juth Pakai Development Journal, MDGs, has a joint communication officers group that looks at a common public information and advocacy strategy, and importantly has a common database of all UN projects to help with planning and programming effort.


The CCA is the common instrument of the United Nations system to analyse the national development situation and identify key development issues with a focus on the MDGs and the other commitments, goals and targets of the Millennium Declaration and international conferences, summits, conventions and human rights instruments of the UN system.

Its objective is to achieve deeper knowledge of key challenges, based on a common analysis and understanding of the development situation in the Lao PDR.


The UNDAF is the common strategic framework for the operational activities of the United Nations system at the country level. It provides a collective, coherent and integrated United Nations system response to national priorities and needs, including PRSPs and equivalent national strategies, within the framework of the MDGs and the commitments, goals and targets of the Millennium Declaration and international conferences, summits, conventions and human rights instruments of the UN system. The UNDAF emerges from the analyses of the CCA and is the next step in the preparation of United Nations system country programmes and projects of cooperation.

The UNDAF aims for greater impact of UN system cooperation. It is a common UN response to the country's development challenges in pursuit of the MDGs.

Joint Programming

The Secretary-General's 2002 agenda for further UN reform calls for increased joint programming to further enhance the effectiveness of the United Nation's system in developing countries, and to ensure the system's combined resources are put to best use. Increasingly, national governments are requesting more efficient and effective work processes from the UN and partners, and enhanced development impact for the benefit of stakeholders.

Joint programming is how the UN works at the country level. Enhancement of development impact is the key underlying principle. The concept of joint programming has been considerably refined in recent years, and is driven by the needs of each country situation. When agencies plan and design their programmes together, they increase their programme effectiveness.

A joint programme on the other hand, is a set of activities contained in a common work plan and related budget, involving two or more UN organizations and (sub) national partners. The work plan and budget forms part of a joint programme document, which also details roles and responsibilities of partners in coordinating and managing the joint activities. The joint programme document is signed by all participating organizations and (sub) national partners.

The identification of joint programmes is a way to support national implementation and where this raises effectiveness and efficiency. It is a concrete way that the UN system can enhance its results and impact, through more coordinated efforts.

The UN System in the Lao PDR has been undertaking a number of joint programmes and projects both at the country and sub-regional levels:

Joint UN Alternative Development Project in Nonghet focuses UN System support for the reduction of opium production and consumption among ethnic minorities in the highland district of Nonghet, Xieng Khouang province; addresses a number of national development priorities, including reduction of poverty, rural development, increased food production, development of social services and stabilization of shifting cultivation.

The UN Inter-Agency Project on Human Trafficking in the Greater Mekong Sub-region (UNIAP).

The United Nations Inter-Agency Project on Human Trafficking (UNIAP) was established in June 2000 to facilitate a stronger and more coordinated response to human trafficking, in the Greater Mekong Sub-region (GMS) and beyond. UNIAP is managed by a headquarters in Bangkok, with country project offices in the capitals of Cambodia, China, Lao PDR, Myanmar, Thailand and Viet Nam. The seven UNIAP offices have a combined staff of approximately 35. While UNIAP is a UN inter-agency project, UNIAP receives financial support from its own bilateral and multilateral funding and not from UN agencies, allowing it to retain a neutral position within the UN that serves all UN agencies, governments, and NGOs equally. It is the only inter-agency coordinating body on human trafficking of its kind within the United Nations system.

UXO-LAO Trust Fund established in 1996 mobilizes the UN System and donor support for UXO-LAO - the national agency responsible for unexploded ordnance (UXO) clearance and education in the Lao PDR.

LaoInfo is a Common Indicator Database System adapted for Lao PDR from DevInfo Technology, by National Statistics Centre (NSC), NHDR Project and is supported by UNCT and funded by UNDP, UNFPA and UNICEF. LaoInfo provides the data for monitoring the MDGs and other development frameworks. The database system is released to promote and encourage a dialogue among development partners by providing easier access to quantitative data across sectors and to all interested users free of charge with sustained support by the United Nations. LaoInfo is a USER FRIENDLY database system. With LaoInfo, it is easy to produce tables, graphs and maps for reports, for analysis over time and for quality presentations.

"Support to an Effective Lao National Assembly (SELNA)”, a new UN Joint Programme was signed on the 24th of November 2008 with the Lao National Assembly, will start in 2009 and end in 2012. In line with the principles of the Vientiane Declaration on Aid Effectiveness, the new programme will support the National Assembly’s strategic priorities through a single framework that brings together several UN organizations and other development partners. The overall objective is ‘An efficient, effective and accountable parliament supporting development and poverty reduction for the citizens of the Lao PDR’. SELNA comprises three main components:

  1. Enhanced Parliamentary Capacity for Exercising Legislative and Oversight Responsibility
  2. Effective Parliamentary Representation of Citizens
  3. Strengthened Parliamentary Support Services

The programme builds on the achievements of previous work done with the National Assembly, which has been supported by various UN and other international partners. The implementation strategy will follow a capacity development approach, with gender and human rights integrated as critical cross-cutting issues. The programme will be implemented by the National Assembly with technical and financial inputs provided by UNFPA, UNICEF, UNIFEM, UNODC and UNDP as well as the Governments of Germany, Singapore, Sweden and the EC. The programme will forge additional partnerships with other organizations as may be required. The total budget of the programme is US$ 4,125,000 over four years and most of the resources are pooled into one budget. The programme document is available below:

Joint Programming Directions for the UN in the Lao PDR

  • Integrated maternal and child health
  • Education
  • Strengthening of statistical capacity
  • Gender
  • Trade
  • Governance
  • Food Security
  • Private sector development

What is Next?

The program of reform is a dynamic approach from the Secretary-General and even as we speak, there are new thoughts and approaches being developed and tested in UN Headquarters. There will undoubtedly be new elements that emerge over the next programme cycle, designed to continue to improve what we do and to generate greater results. The UN Country Team will continue to keep the Government and partners informed of new developments and to engage in discussions on how we can improve our efforts in Laos towards achievement of national goals.