Indigenous and ethnic peoples are highly marginalized and vulnerable. Largely excluded from
mainstream development processes in many countries, their participation in decision-making and governance is limited. Many ethnic communities have neither the voice nor the means to influence and shape policies and outcomes affecting their lives.
On 13 September 2007, the United Nations General Assembly adopted, by an overwhelming majority, the United Nations Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples (UNDRIP). The Declaration acknowledges that indigenous peoples have suffered from historic injustices as a result of colonization and dispossession of their lands, territories and resources, and that this has prevented them from exercising their right to development in accordance with their own needs and interests. The Declaration is hailed as a landmark instrument and is gaining recognition as the most comprehensive standard by which to articulate the vision, aspirations and rights of indigenous peoples. The Declaration provides a benchmark to guide and inspire our work to promote and protect indigenous peoples’ rights. It also recognizes the importance of media in reflecting indigenous cultural diversity.
In December 2007, in response to the need to implement the Declaration, UNDP’s Regional Centre in Bangkok launched the Regional Initiative on Communication for Empowerment (C4E) of Asia’s Indigenous Peoples. The initiative emphasizes the role of communications as an empowering mechanism to enhance inclusive participation and governance.
Lao PDR is a country rich in cultural diversity, with 47 ethnic communities living in peace and harmony. Lao PDR has taken ambitious steps in providing access to information to remote communities as a prerequisite to development, and is engaged in implementing innovative pilot programmes in this field. The prospect of more inclusive participation, access to information and wider communication channels in Lao PDR has been stimulated by changes in the legal and policy environment towards civil society and the media and more generally towards poverty reduction and social inclusion of ethnic peoples.
As part of the overall effort to strengthen access to information and communication channels among indigenous and ethnic peoples in Asia, UNDP’s Regional Initiative on C4E provided support for an information and communication needs and opportunity assessment as a preliminary approach to identify strategic C4E priorities for Lao PDR. The study was conducted in 2009 in selected areas, and key findings describe the underlying challenges to access to information, and identify opportunities for ethnic peoples to voice their concerns through appropriate communication channels at the national and sub-national levels. The report outlines key recommendations and strategic actions to enhance C4E for ethnic peoples in Lao PDR with particular attention to specific policy and programme interventions.
This study was made possible through a fruitful collaboration between the Ministry of Information and Communication (MoIC), UNDP Lao PDR, UNDP Regional Centre in Bangkok, UNDP Oslo Governance Centre and the Communication for Social Change Consortium.
UNDP is dedicated to supporting inclusive media and access to information for marginalized and vulnerable groups in Asia due to the critical importance of these communication elements in making democratic processes participatory, transparent and accountable and inclusive. Evidence shows that access to information and a free, independent and pluralistic media environment encompassing rural and remote areas is essential for fostering inclusive democratic governance.
I hope that this report will contribute to the work of UNDP and other development agencies in enhancing and expanding opportunities for ethnic people to access information and communication channels in Lao PDR. We remain committed to making this a reality.
Sonam Yangchen Rana
Resident Coordinator of the United Nations System in Lao PDR
Resident Representative, UNDP Lao PDR