Working towards greater community control over land, forests and natural resources

Land guidelines aim to ensure fairness

Vientiane Times, 10 June, 2013

The Lao multi-ethnic people are able to be involved in the planning and decision-making process and provide their views in relation to development projects, and guidelines have now been distributed in this regard. The Lao Front for National Construction (LFNC) on Friday disseminated the ‘Guidelines on Consultation with Ethnic Groups Affected by Public and Private Development Projects’ booklet, which will be provided to officials across the country.

Speaking at the event, LFNC Vice President Professor Dr Xayamang Vongsak said the LFNC is part of the political system of Laos. Its task is to foster the solidarity of ethnic people, including people who hold Lao nationality abroad, and to protect the rights of the Lao ethnic people.

The World Bank sees the important role played by our organisation, Professor Dr Xayamang said, and has provided supporting funds to the LFNC through the Environment Protection Fund to launch a project worth about 640 million kip (US$80,000) to distribute the guidelines. The project is designed to build the capacity of LFNC officials at the provincial, district and village levels. It was adopted in November 2010, but it is only now that the guidelines have been made available.

According to the guidelines, Laos considers that public involvement and consultation is important in the approval process to ensure the sustainability of various development projects. This concept is considered a priority to ensure ongoing national socio-economic development.

It is important because public involvement provides opportunities for affected people, relevant agencies and organisations to be involved in the decision-making, assessing whether particular projects benefit the environment, society or qualify as sustainable developments. It is critically important to have common understanding that the Lao people are comprised of diverse ethnic groups and each group has the right to be fully consulted in relation to language, culture and livelihoods.

The objectives of the guidelines are to ensure that consultation with ethnic groups is done properly and complies with the Environmental Protection Law, the Decree on Environmental Impact Assessment, the Decree on Compensation and Resettlement of People Affected by Development Projects and other relevant regulations.

They aim to ensure the rights of people affected by development projects to be fairly compensated are upheld and to prevent or mitigate the potential environmental and social impacts generated by development projects so that they are sustainable in the longer term.

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