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Asia Foundation Supports Publication of First-Ever Directory of Civil Society Organizations (CSOs) in Laos

Landmark publication for Lao civil society sector

Vientiane and San Francisco, August 22, 2012 — The Asia Foundation today announced¬† the publication of The Directory of Civil Society Organizations (CSOs) in Laos, a first-of-its-kind publication for the civil sector in Laos. Published through an Asia Foundation grant to The Learning House for Development, the directory is the only place to find comprehensive information, including contact data and organization descriptions, for the country’s nascent civil society sector.

The directory is significant in the context of the one-party nation of Laos, which has one of the most limited civil society sectors in the world.  In recent years, however, the government has taken steps to consider the growth of the sector, particularly as a means to deliver crucial services that can assist the country graduate from least developed nation status by the year 2020. These local non-profit associations are also seen as a useful way to increase citizen participation in governance and to serve as a channel of communication to help the government gain better information about citizen needs.

Launched with a listing of 46 organizations, the directory is designed to provide  information about the existence and availability of CSOs in Laos and to serve as a useful tool for assisting development partners, international non-governmental organizations (INGOs), donors, and the Government of Laos in building new, or strengthening existing, relationships in support of critical development goals.

“Most Lao citizens are unaware that associations exist at all, much less what role they can or do play,” explains Gretchen Kunze, Asia Foundation Country Representative. “Not only are CSOs new to Laos, this landmark resource highlights the challenges of accessing this type of information here,” she adds, noting that the number of Internet users for the country is estimated at about only 10% of the population.

In addition to its support for the directory, The Asia Foundation is providing resources to various CSOs to help build their capacity as well as working with government to increase understanding and collaboration between the sectors.

The Asia Foundation has long worked in Lao PDR, and in 2009, the Foundation re-established an office in Vientiane. Since then, the Foundation operates programs to support the legal, social, economic, and educational development of the Lao PDR. Read more about the Foundation’s programs in Laos. For media inquiries, please visit the Press Room.

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