With the exception of people disabled as a result of unexploded ordnance (UXO) explosions, there is no reliable information on the number of people with disabilities in the Lao People’s Democratic Republic (PDR). Estimates by the UN Economic and Social Commission for Asia and the Pacific (ESCAP) 2015 that 1 per cent of the national population is person with disabilities.
Applying this estimate to the 2015 population census for Lao PDR approximately 6,802,000. Many disabled people in Lao PDR, as in most developing countries in the world, live in poverty, have limited opportunities for accessing education, health, suitable housing and employment opportunities.
Lao PDR has ratified some essential human rights treaties, including the International Convention on the Elimination of All Forms of Racial Discrimination (ICERD); International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights (ICCPR); International Covenant on Economic, Social and Cultural Rights (ICESCR); Convention on the Elimination of Discrimination against Women (CEDAW); Convention against Torture (CAT); Convention on the Rights of the Child (CRC)
and its two Optional Protocols on the sale of children, child prostitution and child pornography (OP-CRC-SC) and on the involvement of children in armed conflict (OP-CRC-AC); and Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities (CRPD). In 2008, Lao also signed the International Convention for the Protection of All Persons from Enforced Disappearance (CPED).
The Government of Lao PDR has adopted a number of laws and policies pertaining to people with disabilities, including their right to decent and productive work and access to basic services. The main ones are listed below.
• The Constitution of the Lao People’s Democratic Republic, 1991 (amended in 2003). Under the Constitution all citizens are equal before the law. This can be interpreted as meaning that people with disabilities have the same rights as other citizens.
• Prime Ministerial Decree No. 178/1993 On a Social Security Scheme for Government Workers, provides for rehabilitation as well as pensions for this group.
• Prime Ministerial Decree No. 138/1995 Compulsory Education Act, makes attendance at and completion of primary school obligatory for all. Schools throughout the country are obliged to accept children with disabilities.
• Prime Ministerial Decree No. 18/1995 On Appointing The National Commission for Disabled Persons, establishes a cross-ministerial body, the National Committee for Disabled Persons (NCDP), to act as the national focal point on disability matters and to advise the Government on policy, programmes and service provision relating to disability.
• Decree on Social Security Scheme for Corporate Employees, 2000, regulates allowances for work accidents and professional diseases and long-term allowances for permanent losses of working ability.
• The Labour Code, 2006 (originally the Act Concerning Labour 1994), provides for workers disabled as a result of industrial accidents. Article 26 requires labour units, definedas production, business units or service of all social-economic sectors, to give priority to‘disabled or handicapped workers’ in accordance with their capabilities and skills and at the same salary.
• The Current sixth 5-year National Economic and Social Development Plan (2006-2010), covers employment creation; stimulating the investment environment; strengthening social dialogue; improving social security and expanding social protection; promoting safety and health, including HIV/AIDS workplace policy; safe labour migration; and, lifting Lao PDR offthe list of least-developed countries by 2020.
The organization has been present in Lao PDR since 1996 and has been engaged in programs that focus on the prevention of disability, rehabilitation services at the institutional and community level, inclusive education (IE), awareness of disability issues, UXO clearance and education, UXO victim assistance, road safety and advocacy for People with Disabilities (PWDs).Around 25 percent of villages in Laos are contaminated by unexploded ordnance (UXOs), mainly from US bombing missions between 1964 and 1973, according to the Lao National Unexploded Ordnance Programme, and while UXO casualties have fallen sharply in recent years there is little support for UXO victims, whose injuries can drastically affect their families.
The Laos Disabled People’s Association (LDPA) is a civil society organisation and the sole Disabled People’s Organisation (DPO) that encompasses all people with disability in Laos. The LDPA is recognised as the nations leading DPO, and serves an important role as the peak advocacy body for people with disability.The LDPA promotes the rights and interests of people living with disability, and supports a membership based network of ten provincial branches and one branch in Vientiane Capital, as well as numerous cell groups in both urban and rural areas. Cell groups function as volunteer based, self help groups, and members feed information to, and receive information from, headquarters. This two way dialogue is crucial to building human rights based knowledge, and other essential information about services, networks and many other issues for people with disability, from central level to grassroots level.
HI has extensive experience in building the capacity of local actors (both institutional and non-institutional), through a variety of project interventions, including provision of training, survey tools, methodology and reference materials developed in Lao language. Capacity building also includes sharing technical workshops and building medium- to long-term national strategies. HI has also engaged strategically in non-project support to strengthen organizations working for people with disabilities.
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