Asian Journal of Environment and Disaster Management (AJEDM)

Volume 3 Number 4 (2011)

Asian Journal of Environment and Disaster Management 2011 3 4

doi: 10.3850/S1793924011001039

Sustainable Development of Natural Resources in Laos: Evaluating the Role of International Cooperation

Juha I. Uitto
Evaluation Office, United Nations Development Programme, One UN Plaza, New York, NY 10017, USA.


Located in one of the most dynamic regions of the world, the Lao People's Democratic Republic belongs to the group of Least Developed Countries. Laos is landlocked and much of the country is hilly with rugged terrain and only basic infrastructure. The country is characterized by remarkable natural and ethnic diversity. Today the country is changing rapidly. Its larger neighbors wield significant influence. Regional integration is probably the most powerful force of change in Laos and is resulting in rapid economic development in the country. My aim is to explore the challenges of environmentally sustainable development in the face of the rapid change in this country whose economy is still overwhelmingly based on the exploitation of natural resources. An important factor to deal with is environmental governance. Corruption is prevalent, especially with regard to illegal logging. I also discuss the role of external actors, including the UnitedNations, bilateral donors and the neighboring countries. It is argued that close engagement even in cases where the government may not be responsive to its citizens in a democratic manner is preferable to isolation. Constructive engagement helps both the people and sustainable development. It also balances the influence of neighboring countries wishing to exploit the natural resources of the poorer cousin. Most of the findings are based on research conducted in connection with a comprehensive evaluation of the United Nations Development Program's contributions to the Lao PDR development results over the past several years.

Keywords: Laos, Southeast asia, Sustainable development, Natural resources management, Environment, Energy.

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