Lao PDR is experiencing tremendous economic, social, and environmental change and an associated expansion in challenges and opportunities: accelerating capital investment, intensifying resource use and extraction, and unprecedented macroeconomic growth. In the hydropower sector, despite improved policy, laws, and governance structures, government and community groups continue to struggle to monitor and shape an industry dominated by some of the world’s largest and most savvy multi-national investment, construction, and consulting firms.
Using participatory action research, the Mekong project on ‘Bridging the Hydropower Policy-Implementation Gap: Communications and Feedback Mechanisms to Improve Participation in Decision-Making for Local Land and Water Use’ (MK11) research team, comprising representatives from three main stakeholder groups—local impact groups, government agencies, and central government ministries—worked to improve the application of Lao policy in two hydropower development projects by improving communications systems and establishing a governance feedback mechanism.
The improved communications systems, modeled on Village Focus International’s (VFI) work in the area of land entitlements education and conflict resolution, was meant to improve understanding of hydropower governance among impacted communities and the involved government agencies. The governance feedback mechanism was modeled after VFI’s work on village and sub-district conflict prevention and resolution.
Through communication and the use of a feedback mechanisms, this project worked to change the knowledge, attitudes and skills of its target groups such that: local impact groups actively and cooperatively engage in hydropower governance, representing their interests in land and water resources; local government offices facilitate the participation of stakeholders (individuals and groups from impacted communities) in decision-making and planning processes; and central-level ministries support and encourage the application of national policy in local-level hydropower governance projects.
MK11 was led by Village Focus International (VFI), working in partnership with the Faculty of Environmental Sciences, National University of Laos (NUOL); the Water Resources Research Centre, Natural Resources and Environment Institute, Ministry of Natural Resources and Environment (MONRE); the Department of Energy Policy and Planning, Ministry of Energy and Mines (MEM); and the Prime Minister’s Office of Public Relations.
Richard Reece (email@example.com)