Programme

Switzerland works to build inclusive societies in the Mekong region, particularly in Cambodia and Lao People's Democratic Republic (Lao PDR), by promoting equitable and sustainable development and democratic governance. To support young people, women and disadvantaged groups, Switzerland implements programmes in governance and citizen participation, climate change and natural resources management as well as inclusive economic development.

Despite high economic growth since the early 2000s, which has enabled the Mekong countries to achieve progress in reducing poverty, inequality is rising, affecting rural populations in particular. The COVID-19 pandemic has caused a major socio-economic crisis. The most vulnerable groups, such as women, ethnic minorities and people living in remote areas, are also the worst affected by an economic model built on the unsustainable exploitation of natural resources.

Switzerland’s Mekong Region Cooperation Programme 2022-25 aims to enable young people, women and disadvantaged groups to be more prosperous, resilient and better included in development processes. It aims to improve livelihoods by strengthening local institutions and enhancing policies

The SDC Programming in Lao PDR

Agricultural Census mapping for policy-makers and citizens.
Agricultural Census mapping for policy-makers and citizens. © CDE

SDC has supported development projects in the Lao PDR since 1990. In 2006, SDC opened a country office in Vientiane Capital to oversee Switzerland’s development cooperation activities in the country. Since 2008, the Lao PDR country office serves as the SDC's coordination office for programming in Cambodia and the Lao PDR, as well as regional project that include Myanmar, Thailand and Vietnam. The office celebrated 10 years of bilateral cooperation with the Government of Lao PDR in 2016.

Cooperative member harvesting organically-grown carrots, Xiengkhouang Province, Laos.
Cooperative member harvesting organically-grown carrots, Xiengkhouang Province, Laos. © GIZ-CEGGA/Phoonsab

The SDC aims at reducing poverty, supporting equitable and sustainable development, and fostering participative and democratic governance while improving people’s resilience in the wake of the COVID-19 pandemic and increasing impacts from climate change and disasters. 

The SDC’s overall goal for the Swiss Cooperation Programme in the Mekong Region 2022-25 and development and cooperation activities in the Lao PDR, is to ‘enable people, in particular young people, women and disadvantaged groups’, ‘to be more prosperous, resilient and better included in development processes’. 

The priorities and objectives for the Cooperation Programme are oriented towards the Sustainable Development Agenda 2030, Switzerland’s International Cooperation Strategy 2021–24 and the main regional and national development frameworks in the Lao PDR. They are built on the opportunities provided by a region that is strongly interconnected in economic, political and social terms, by a wealth of natural resources providing opportunities for sustainable economic development and by an increasingly digitally literate young population willing to contribute to inclusive development.

The SDC in the Lao PDR will implement projects in three distinctive portfolios:

Governance and Citizen Participation (GCP) Portfolio

Villagers, local authorities and project staff discuss new primary school construction progress in Luang Prabang, Lao PDR.
Villagers, local authorities and project staff discuss new primary school construction progress in Luang Prabang, Lao PDR. © SDC/Adrian Gnaegi

The GCP portfolio applies a rights-based approach. It empowers people to participate in planning and decision-making processes at the local and national level. It creates spaces and platforms for exchange at all levels, enables duty-bearers to deliver services, and allows people to access and benefit from public services. The GCP portfolio continues to foster an enabling environment for civil society organizations and supports them in performing key advocacy and service functions. At the local level, the portfolio continues the co-financing of socio-economic infrastructure and community-led development work.

Objective: People in the Mekong region, in particular young people, women, and disadvantaged groups in the Lao PDR, benefit from responsive public service delivery and actively engage in local and national governance processes.

Swiss portfolio outcomes:

Outcome 1: People effectively engage in planning and decision-making processes at local and national level.

Outcome 2: Public institutions at all levels provide responsive (public) services, including health services, in an inclusive and accountable manner.

Outcome 3: Policymakers and relevant government authorities draw up inclusive and gender responsive policies and plans, based on evidence and consultations, and effectively translate them into practice.

Climate Change and Natural Resource Management (CCNRM) Portfolio

Safety assessment of the Nam Kham 2 Dam, Laos.
Safety assessment of the Nam Kham 2 Dam, Laos. © Dr Patrice Droz

The CCNRM portfolio tackles complex issues through a multi-sectoral approach. It builds the capacity of public, private and civil society actors at sub-national, national and regional level to engage and address issues related to climate change adaptation and mitigation, resilience, and sustainable natural resources management. It generates research-based evidence to help raise awareness, empower rights-holders, and feed experiences into policy dialogue. Furthermore, processes are facilitated towards the adoption of international standards and proven agro-ecological principles as these are crucial for securing safe access to natural resources and sustainable livelihoods of smallholder farmers and the rural population.

Objective: People in the Mekong region, in particular young people, women, and disadvantaged groups in the Lao PDR, are more resilient to climate change and disasters, have more secure and equitable access to natural resources (land, forest and water), and manage them sustainably.

Swiss portfolio outcomes:

Outcome 1: People are more resilient to climate change and disasters, have more secure and safe access to natural resources as well as better control over natural resources.

Outcome 2: Public, private sector and civil society organisations (in particular community-based organisations) are providing more responsive climate change adaptation and mitigation as well as natural resource management support services.

Outcome 3: Policymakers develop and implement policies, rules, and regulations that increase people’s access to and control over natural resources and improve climate change adaptation and mitigation.

Inclusive Economic Development (IED) Portfolio

Students and trainers at a hotel and tourism training center in Vientiane Capital City, Lao PDR.
Students and trainers at a hotel and tourism training center in Vientiane Capital City, Lao PDR. © SDC/Touravanh

The IED portfolio works along the full spectrum between vocational skills development and employment. It strengthens skills, employability, employment support, and micro-, small- and medium-sized enterprise development services. This contributes to the reinstatement, retention, and creation of decent jobs and self-employment and ensures that people can enter the job market and recover from the COVID-19 induced economic crisis. The portfolio builds on its strengths at the national and Mekong regional level, to stimulate employment, and contributes to safer and more prosperous regional labour migration opportunities.

Objective: People in the Mekong region, in particular young people, women, and disadvantaged groups in the Lao PDR, have better quality employment and income, and are more resilient to economic crises.

Swiss portfolio outcomes:

Outcome 1: People have improved skills and are more employable.

Outcome 2: Public and private institutions and civil society organisations provide better quality vocational skills development, employment support, and business development services.

Outcome 3: Policymakers develop and implement, based on evidence and multi-stakeholder consultations, gender-responsive and inclusive policies on vocational skills development, micro-, small- and medium-sized enterprise development, and decent work together with the private sector and civil society.

Cross-cutting themes

partSwiss Foreign Minister’s visit to the Lao Red Cross managed quarantine centres for migrant returnees, Vientiane, Laos.
Swiss Foriegn Minister's visit to the Lao Red Cross managed quarantine centres for migrant returnees, Vientiane, Laos. © Lao Red Cross

Transversal themes are consistently applied throughout the programme and projects, and form an integral part of the cooperation programme’s monitoring system. The Cooperation Programme period 2022-25 will focus on four cross-cutting themes throughout all of Switzerland’s programme activities. 

Gender Equality and Social Inclusion: Special emphasis is placed on young people, women, and disadvantaged groups(including ethnic minorities), their access to and control over economic and natural resources as well as their engagement in decision-making over the management of such resources. Efforts are made to place gender equality and ethnic diversity more prominently into policy and stakeholder dialogue.

Good Governance: A rights-based approach and conflict-sensitive programme management are at the core of operationalisation of good governance. The focus is on enabling rights-holders to claim their rights with regard to basic services, political participation, economic and natural resources at local, national and transnational levels, while at the same time strengthening duty-bearers to provide quality services in a transparent and accountable manner.

Climate Change Adaptation and Mitigation (CCA and CCM) and Disaster Risk Reduction (DRR): Increasing awareness of and capacity for CCA, CCM and DRR at all levels and in all portfolios guides the implementation of this transversal theme and ensures the resilience of the populations as well as the sustainability of the results. Climate change issues are placed in policy and stakeholder dialogues related to inclusive economic development, natural resource management, and governance service delivery.

Support for COVID-19 recovery: All interventions throughout the portfolio contribute to an inclusive socio-economic recovery of the target population and the respective countries as a whole.

Resources Allocation

Participatory village planning in Luang Prabang, Lao PDR.
Participatory village planning in Luang Prabang, Lao PDR. © SDC/Touravanh

 

Planned allocations by country (in million CHF)

 

2022

2023

2024

2025

Total

% Total

Mekong Region

7.35

7

6.7

6.7

27.750

21%

Cambodia

13

12

11

11

47

35%

Lao PDR

16

15

14

14

59

44%

Total

36.350

34

31.7

31.7

133.750

100%

 

Planned allocations by thematic portfolios (in million CHF)

Portfolios

2022

2023

2024

2025

Total

% Total

Governance and citizen participation

11

10.5

9.5

9

40

30%

Climate change and natural resource management

10.5

11.5

12

12.5

46.5

35%

Inclusive economic development

14.250

11.750

10

10

46

34%

Other outcomes and interventions

0.6

0.25

0.2

0.2

1.250

1%

Total

36.350

34

31.7

31.7

133.750

100%