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Justice Ministry Launch Project to Strengthen the Role of Lawyers in Laos

Source: Vientiane Times

The government and its development partners on Monday launched a project titled “Strengthening the Role of Lawyers in Advancing the Rule of Law and Access to Justice in Laos” (Thanaikhoum Project).

The launch event on Monday was attended by representatives of the government, development partners, UN agencies, law firms, and civil society organizations working to build the rule of law in Laos.

It is recognized that lawyers play an essential role in strengthening access to justice and the rule of law. They help build public trust in the legal system, foster the protection of people’s rights, and contribute to an environment for inclusive socio-economic development that leaves no one behind.

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But Laos has fewer than 400 accredited lawyers, which highlights the need for more lawyers and enhanced capacities.

The project is funded by the Bureau of International Narcotics and Law Enforcement Affairs (INL) of the United States Department of State at a cost of over US$1.2 million.

It will be implemented for three years under the management of the United Nations Development Programme (UNDP) in close partnership with the Ministry of Justice and the Lao Bar Association.

The project aims to strengthen the rule of law with a threefold focus based on the metaphor of the Head, the Heart, and the Hands. The first priority of the Head refers to the need for the Lao Bar Association to strengthen its capacity for strategic visioning and continuous professional development.

Association President Mr. Voratsamy Soulipaphanh reiterated the importance of this by pointing out the benefit of having a strategy that fits the institutional realities in Laos and the existing capacities of the Lao Bar Association.

The Heart refers to the aspiration of empowering not only the Lao Bar Association but also lawyers themselves by fostering a network of leading lawyers that are committed to professionalism and high ethical standards.

By leveraging mentoring, peer learning, and provincial hubs, lawyers can be empowered to strengthen professionalism from within the community.
Lastly, the metaphor of the hand refers to the need to deliver practical tools for learning and professional development.

Deputy Minister of Justice Mr. Ketsana Phommachanh echoed this point by stressing the need for assistance that is of practical value and can support lawyers in a tangible way.

Deputy Resident Representative of UNDP, Ms. Catherine Phuong, emphasized the importance of this project for wider socio-economic development.

“Lawyers help foster stability, enhance accountability, and contribute to a society that is governed by the rule of law in which everybody can enjoy access to justice. Supporting lawyers, therefore, is of critical importance to the inclusive and comprehensive development of Laos,” she said.

The director of the INL Mr. William Solley emphasized the importance of generating a sustainable impact through activities that can be continued by the Lao Bar Association and lawyers after the finalization of the project.

This project is only one intervention that feeds into wider efforts by the government, development partners, and civil society to foster the rule of law.