Lao PDR: draft legislation would severely restrict INGO operationsEvent
- Lao People's Democratic Republic
- Initial Date
- Oct 11, 2013
- Event Description
A first draft of Guidelines for the implementation of the Prime Minister's Decree on International Non-Governmental Organizations has recently been prepared. While welcoming information that international non-governmental organizations have been consulted in the drafting process, several serious concerns have been brought to our attention, as follows. It is reported that the authorities' prior authorization will be required for any international non-governmental organizations willing to register, and to operate in the Lao People's Democratic Republic. It is alleged that the Guidelines do not set any minimum timeframes for authorities' approval or the grounds upon which an approval may be denied. It is reported that in the absence of such human rights safeguards, applications may be arbitrarily rejected. It is also brought to our attention that, when delivered, the authorization allowing an association to operate ("Operation Permit") will be valid for one year only; thus unduly limiting the ability for these associations to pursue their activitieswithout any discontinuity and without state's interference. Concerns have also been reported that international non-governmental organizations are defined as "an international or foreign nonprofit organization having a legal status, which desires to provide development assistance and humanitarian aides without any pursuit of profit". This definition might prevent organizations focusing on other issues, such as human rights, equality between women and men, marginalized groups empowerment, amongst others from operating in the Lao People's Democratic Republic. Similarly, it is reported that in order to be able to implement a project, international non-governmental organizations will have to seek and obtain the approval from the authorities through the submission of a project proposal and a draft Memorandum of Understanding. Such a procedure may interfere with the independence of international non-governmental organizations, which is a key component of freedom of association. According to the draft Guidelines, the organization's budget shall be made "of 70 percent for project activities and 30 percent for administration." These Guidelines also stipulate that "the objective and activities of the project[of an international non-governmental organization] should also be in line with the National Socioeconomic Development Plan". While the participation of the State in development policies is paramount, it is reported that such a provision will seriously compromise the ability for organizations to choose their thematic areas and to operate freely and independently from state's oversight. In addition "any project with a budget that is less than 30,000 USD should not be implemented directly by the International Non-Governmental Organizations, but should be given to local authorities to implement it instead." It is reported that such restrictions do not meet the cumulative conditions of international law, according to which any restriction must "be motivated by a limited interest, have a legal basis and be "necessary in a democratic society". It is also reported that the requirements for international non-governmental organizations who wish to open an office are particularly strict and will be very difficult to meet. A "minimum of five-year experience of successful development assistance in Lao PDR with a value assistance of no less than five hundred thousand US dollars annually, as stated in Article 9 of the Prime Minister's Decree, No. 013/PM, dated 08/01/2010" is reportedly required to open a Country Representative Office. Moreover, an international non-governmental organization "wishing to open its Regional Office in Lao PDR shall meet the requirement of having greater development programme in Lao PDR than in other countries in the region as contained in Article 10 of the Prime Minister's Decree, No. 013/PM, dated 08/01/2010". These two provisions will reportedly make it very difficult for organizations to open an office, be it a Country Office or a Regional Office, thus limiting their ability to operate.The authorities will be reportedly entitled to approve the appointment of several categories of staff, including the Country Representative or the project director, of Country or Regional Offices of an international non-governmental organization. Furthermore, it is alleged that after the completion of a project or the closing of an Office, "the equipments and vehicles must be re-exported, or otherwise handed over to the Government". It is alleged that the draft legislation does not specify the rationale of this provision and may impede organizations to develop activities without state's interference.
- Impact of Event
- Enactment of repressive legislation and policies
- Rights Concerned
- Freedom of association
- Right to work
- Event Location
- Summary for Publications
On 13 October 2013, a Joint Allegation Letter addressed to Laos was issued by the Special Rapporteur on the rights to freedom of peaceful assembly and of association and the Special Rapporteur on the situation of human rights defenders regarding the draft Guidelines for the implementation of the Prime Minister's Decree on International Non-Governmental Organisations. The proposed law contains several provisions that may seriously compromise the enjoyment of the right to freedom of association in the Lao People's Democratic Republic. Among other things, it obliges INGOs to register every year and seek approval for every project, facilitates the rejection of registration applications, and makes it extremely difficult to set up country or regional offices. On 6 December 2013, Laos acknowledged the communication and dismissed its allegation that freedom of association would be threatened by the draft legislation.