Saturday, May 16, 2009
International NGOs Welcome New Laos Law Allowing Local NGOs to Register and Operate as Independent Entitites
International aid groups have welcomed a decision by the Lao government to allow local NGOs to register and operate as independent entities for the first time. By November 2009, Lao citizens will be able to apply to form NGOs after the Decree on Associations was signed by Prime Minister Bouasone Bouphavanh and announced on May 11th. The decree will be effective within 180 days.
Two or more people can now establish a local NGO under the new law, which “provides a guideline for Lao officials as they consider applications,” a UN statement said. The decree provides a clear legal framework for membership-based groups, in contrast with a more ad hoc registration process, which often depended on connections. Although international NGOs can do much in the country, local NGOs were often more attuned to the local culture, as well as needs at the community level, according to Luke Stephens, country director of the Irish-based NGO Concern Worldwide.
There are currently more than 100 local organisations of various types now working in Laos, but not centrally registered, in addition to some 80 INGOs. According to the UN Development Program, landlocked Laos is one of the poorest and least developed countries in the world today. Approximately 33% of its almost 7 million inhabitants live under the national poverty line of US$1 a day.