Laos, Social Justice, Social-Ecological Transformation, Socialism | 2024-05-30

Democratic Participation in Laos

The National University of Laos (since 2022)

An interview conducted by researchers from the National University of Laos in the southern Attapue province in 2023

Socialism in Laos is characterized by adaptations to local conditions, such as the country’s high ethnic diversity and rugged terrain. In recent decades, Laos has achieved significant socio-economic development. However, rural and ethnic minority populations have not experienced a large share of this success. These groups often have less access to the government information and resources, and face barriers to participating in communal decision-making processes. In these cases, Laos’ socialist ideals of democracy and inter-ethnic solidarity remain unfulfilled. In partnership with the Faculty of Law and Political Science of the National University of Laos (NUOL-FLP), Rosa-Luxemburg-Stiftung is exploring ways to enhance equal access and democratic participation in rural and ethnic minority communities.

In 2022 and 2023, the collaboration focused on issues of climate justice in ethnic minority areas. NUOL-FLP conducted field studies in several villages of the remote Houaphanh province in the north and the Attapue provinces in the south of the country. In-depth interviews enabled people to share their perspectives on climate change and adaptation measures in their communities. The results showed the ways in which their access or chance to shape these measures was hindered. Based on these findings, NUOL-FLP formulated policy recommendations to strengthen grassroots participation. These included offering government services in ethnic minority languages or a greater integration of communal concerns, such as providing more drought-resistant crops. The findings and recommendations were presented to local stakeholders as well as representatives of the National Assembly and relevant ministries.

Encouraged by this broad reception, NUOL-FLP expanded the scope of the project. Since early 2024, the faculty has been conducting research throughout rural Laos with a focus on achieving social justice in general. The studies suggest that grassroots participation plays a key role in balancing social justice and economic development. Supporting rural communities to join communal decision-making processes and shape policy implementation enhances their ability to face collective challenges without perpetuating inequalities. Thus, NUOL-FLP’s research signifies a renewed emphasis on democracy and inter-ethnic solidarity within Lao Socialism. Such efforts are pointing the way towards a socialism for the 21st century.  

National University of Laos (NUOL)

NUOL was founded in 1996 by merging multiple higher education institutes. It is Laos’ only national university. Its Faculty of Law and Political Science is a leading institution that specializes in education, research and academic services.

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