Citizen Participation in Policymaking
The International Republican Institute (IRI) relies on its many local partners to advance democracy around the world. Working with individuals on a local level empowers more people to take part in a political process and helps give them a voice in their communities. In Laos, IRI has been busy working with the Association for the Development of Women and Legal Education (ADWLE) focusing on key citizen-centered governance programs that strengthen their societies on a local level.
The ADWLE works primarily in three main areas: legal education on gender, the Convention on the Elimination of all forms of Discrimination Against Women (CEDAW) and applicable national and international women’s rights laws; capacity building of villages to promote women’s rights and community behavioral change towards women and girls; and providing legal aid services, notably to female victims of gender-based violence. At present, ADWLE provides legal education and training to two main beneficiary groups: university institutions and village communities.
In early 2021, the ADWLE held two consultation workshops reaching a total of 87 participants (61 women) focused on discussing ways the Government of Laos (GoL), civil society organizations and relevant stakeholders can work collaboratively to implement the recommendations of the 8th-9th Convention on the Elimination of all Forms of Discrimination Against Women (CEDAW) Periodic Report Concluding Observation (COB). In November and December of 2021, virtual workshops for a total of 293 participants (163 women) focused on discussing ways the GoL, civil society organizations, and relevant stakeholders can work collaboratively to implement the United Nations’ 8th-9th CEDAW Periodic Report Concluding Observation (COB) recommendations.
Since that time marginalized community members and the civil society organizations that amplify their voices have been called on to inform and educate government stakeholders about the needs and wants of marginalized communities. TheADWLE has reported during project reflection sessions that they have seen a significant improvement in their ongoing relationship with government stakeholders in the last five years, since their participation in IRI’s Civil Society Academy for burgeoning CSOs in Laos.
There is significant evidence that government bodies have implemented the recommendations provided by ADWLE. Some examples include the People’s Supreme Court incorporating women’s advancement into its five-year development plan (2021-2025), the Ministry of Public Health establishing a committee to review and reassess the treatment provided to women during the termination of a pregnancy, and the Ministry of Sports and Education conducting trainings for teachers on women in STEM (science, technology, engineering, and math).
IRI believes one of the most effective ways in Laos to amplify citizen voices and create a more responsive political system is to create a government feedback loop between civil society and government stakeholders. Evidence that the government is seeking out feedback from CSOs and their beneficiaries is a promising sign of the creation of such a loop, which may lead to improved working conditions and a lessening of restrictions for CSOs in the future.Top