Ban outlines Laos’ progress, challenges in meeting development targets

13 April 2009
Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon visits the Lao PDR

Laos has made considerable strides towards reaching the Millennium Development Goals (MDGs), the eight anti-poverty targets with a 2015 deadline, but the nation must continue its efforts to slash child malnutrition and maternal mortality rates to make the country more competitive in the global economy, Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon has said.

Laos has made considerable strides towards reaching the Millennium Development Goals (MDGs), the eight anti-poverty targets with a 2015 deadline, but the nation must continue its efforts to slash child malnutrition and maternal mortality rates to make the country more competitive in the global economy, Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon has said.

“There have been steady improvements in health, education, living standards and life spans,” with progress having been made in literacy rates and access to safe drinking water, Mr. Ban said on Saturday in Laos’ capital, Vientiane, at the launch of the latest progress report on Laos’ progress towards the MDGs.

“These gains are underpinned by greater macro-economic stability and increasing integration with the global economy,” he added, congratulating the Government on its achievements.

But the Secretary-General, who met with President Choummaly Sayasone while in Laos, cautioned that much remains to be done for the country to achieve the eight targets.

“Poverty is prevalent, especially in the countryside,” he said. “Inequality – especially between rural and urban areas – is getting worse.”

Mr. Ban expressed his particular concern over the high rates of child malnutrition, noting that Laos has the highest maternal mortality rates in the region. Additionally, the country’s education index is the lowest among the countries belonging to the Association of Southeast Asian Nations (ASEAN).

“This is not only a human tragedy; it will have serious implications for the future of this country’s workforce and its ability to compete” economically at the international level, he said.

In order for Laos to achieve its twin goals of meeting the MDGs by 2015 and pulling itself out of the list of least developed countries by 2020, the Secretary-General said that the country must maintain sustainable growth, which will require stepped up investments in human development and the social sector.

His remarks were also made to mark the opening of the UN House, a compound in central Vietiane hosting the world body’s agencies, which “will foster greater economies of scale, improve collaboration among UN agencies, and present a unified UN image to the country.”

Mr. Ban said that at the UN House, “we will all join forces to benefit the people of this country, especially those who need it most.”

He was scheduled to depart from Laos to neighbouring Thailand to co-chair the third ASEAN summit in the resort town of Pattaya with Thai Prime Minister Abhisit Vejjajiva. However, mass protests in the area forced the gathering to be postponed.

The Secretary-General expressed his regret at the deferment of the gathering, emphasizing that he values “the long-standing relationship between ASEAN and the United Nations and their cooperation in various fields.”

He also voiced hope for an early restoration of normalcy in Thailand and for the settlement of differences through dialogue and peaceful means.

 

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