Some 118 specialists from social security institutions and development partners across the ASEAN region met in the Lao People’s Democratic Republic (PDR) in November to exchange good practices and explore innovative approaches towards strengthening their systems and expanding social security coverage to more people.
ASSA International Seminar, November 2022.
With financial support from the European Union and the Lao Social Security Organization as the host, the ASEAN Social Security Association organized the two-day international seminar on “Partnering and Mobilizing Social Justice for Sustainable Financing of Social Security Systems and Towards Universal Social Protection”, in conjunction with its 39th board meeting (23–24 November) in Luang Prabang.
The seminar’s attention centred on the role of social security in sustainable development in the post-pandemic world; partnering for social justice to realize the universal right to social security and decent work for all; and sustainable expansion of social security coverage.
Watch the International Labour Organisation’s video of the international seminar here.
In his opening remarks, Padeumphone Sonthany, Lao PDR Vice Minister of Labour and Social Welfare, acknowledged the significance of social protection: “The Government of the Lao PDR attaches great importance to social security and encourages and promotes its development in relation to economic growth. Lao PDR will continue implementing relevant ASEAN declarations and the Sustainable Development Goals on social protection in order to create opportunities for people and ensure they are protected throughout the country. We will also continue exchanging knowledge and experiences with ASEAN countries and worldwide to further develop the existing social security system.”
The ILO and Oxfam provided technical assistance for each of the three thematic sessions: ILO experts discussed better public finance management towards sustainable systems and lessons from the COVID-19 pandemic. The Oxfam specialists talked of their experiences in working at the grass-roots level to ensure that informal workers and marginalized groups have access to social security. The ILO and Oxfam frequently partner to advance social protection and labour rights in the Lao PDR, including through an ongoing pilot project in the coffee and tea sectors that the European Union is also funding.
The thematic discussions also included a case study from Luxembourg on decentralized funding and partnerships for rural development in the Lao PDR.
The seminar provided a platform to promote peer-to-peer exchange at the regional level between government institutions and civil society. “In post-COVID times, ASEAN Member States are at a crossroads,” explained Celine Peyron-Bista, ILO Chief Technical Advisor on Social Protection. “To sustain the economic recovery process, tackle poverty and inequality and prepare for future shocks and transformations, Member States should opt for a ‘high-road’ strategy of sustainable investments in social protection based on solidarity, which can ensure that everyone enjoys adequate and comprehensive social protection.”
Through its global programme on “Improving Synergies Between Social Protection and Public Finance Management”, the European Union provided the funding for the seminar. The programme supports 24 partner countries to strengthen their social protection systems through sustainable financing and improved public finance management. In the Lao PDR, the programme cooperates with the Ministry of Labour and Social Welfare to assess the country’s social security scheme’s financial sustainability and has helped prepare an evidence-based strategy to expand coverage to informal workers.
During the seminar, Francesca Arato, Representative of the European Union Delegation to Lao PDR, highlighted the relevance of such a programme that facilitates regional and global sharing and learning. She also raised the importance of more public investment in social protection to facilitate faster and more inclusive socio-economic recovery, to close the protection gaps and to enhance resilience against future shocks.
Learn more about the SP&PFM in the Lao PDR here.