Shortly after its independence in 1953, civil war erupted in Laos and only ended in 1975 following the destruction of entire villages and the displacement of thousands of civilians. Laos remains one of the poorest and unequal countries in Southeast Asia, and was ranked 138 out of 188 countries globally in the 2016 Human Development Index.

Ethnic minorities in the country’s most remote rural areas continue to experience higher poverty rates than the rest of the population, as well as low literacy rates and insufficient access to public services like healthcare and education.

Local organisations try to help communities to escape poverty and to secure long term access to the public services and forms of livelihood to which they have a right. However, many local groups lack the skills, confidence and expertise required to provide the support that communities need. In response, and as part of our Capacity Development for Citizen-led Inclusive Development (CD-CID) project, Cord provides mentoring, coaching and training support to local organisations to help them to develop in these areas in order to meet the needs of their local communities.

In order for local organisations to be able to truly support their communities, they not only require skills around consultation, documentation, and the assessment of needs, but also skills and confidence when communicating with local authorities. Government commitments to reducing poverty in Laos do exist, but without a good understanding of the needs of communities, poverty reduction targets cannot be met in a meaningful way.

Through CD-CID local organisations are becoming more confident and strategic when communicating with local authorities, resulting in increased mutual trust and recognition of their shared needs and interests. Through this same project, Cord is also working with the local authorities themselves, encouraging them to reach out to and speak with local organisations and communities to better understand their needs and challenges. This increases their understanding of the role that local organisations play in helping to reduce poverty and enabling all communities to access public services and meaningful forms of livelihood.