Our Vision: Free of poverty, social equity, and gender equality for Lao PDR
Develop and implement the socio-economic development programs and projects to reduce poverty and promote social equity;
Lobbying and policy advocacy for sustainable development;
Design and conduct the social research for poverty reduction and sustainable development; and
Build capacity of the target groups and working partners on gender mainstreaming skills.
Our objectives To promote social equity, reduce poverty, and empower the socio- economic status of the vulnerable population
Strategic 1: Natural Resource Management SODA recognizes that effective environmental management is central to sustainable growth and poverty reduction. In Lao PDR, this is becoming more obvious as the increasing exploitation of water for hydropower and forest resources, which have contributed significantly to past growth, are now placing increasing pressure on the environment. Across the country, SODA will examine opportunities for integrating water resources management to mitigate climate change impacts through our sub-regional programs. Community land and forest governance and non-timber forest product (NTFP) will be promoted.
Strategic 2: Agriculture and Food Security Our engagement under the new strategy will take an integrated livelihoods approach and focus on improving nutrition and food security, increasing income-generation opportunities, supporting better human and animal health, improving water supply and sanitation, and enhancing access to credit. SODA will also explore opportunities to support rural development programs delivered by the Government of Laos in partnership with other donors. We will also strengthen our partnership with other INGOs, drawing on their research work to enhance the agricultural elements of the rural development interventions.
We will support value-chain private sector driven initiatives. The support needed here will come from improved coordination between agriculture and commerce sectors in coordinated planning and streamlining trade protocols. These private-sector led initiatives need to be balanced by strengthening the Farmer Association (FA) already established in these value chains so they become more independent and where possible to link to become FA. This will give them a voice in dialogue with both the private sector and authorities.
The government and private sector should provide mentorship programmes and business development support services to young female entrepreneurs, and actively develop business links with youth-owned small businesses through various strategies, such as building up the business network, marketing access, financial assistance. SODA will promote vocational skill development, especially in agriculture and related professions (e.g. veterinary science, horticulture, forestry, nature conservation) as attractive career opportunities. It should support the formation of cooperatives to allow young people access to employment and self-employment in commercial agriculture. The government and the private sector should strengthen youth employment networks at regional, national and international levels. The government, private sector and CSOs should promote the value of further education and vocational training opportunities as a route to personal development and preparation for sustainable livelihoods. The government, in partnership with CSOs, should promote young people’s access to information about the world of work.
The SODA’s role within the policy landscape is to contribute evidence to inform policy decisions – in effect, to contribute to a national vision of ‘Informed policy for a better Lao PDR’. This means producing high-quality analysis to provide robust evidence for policymaking, hence our research goals are simply. Research excellence is underpinned by the quality of the research staff and their commitment to the highest academic standards and practices. The Association seeks to achieve policy impact by ensuring that research is relevant to contemporary issues, and is accessible and brought to the attention of relevant policymakers and the public.
The SODA’s research will address issues that reflect the current national objectives of Sustainable Economic Growth and Social Progress. The research topics will reflect: 1) specific current challenges facing Lao PDR; 2) areas of research expertise and excellence within the Institute; 3) long-term funding possibilities; and 4) developments in methodologies and data sets.
The overall objective of research is to strengthen research capacity in working partners and target groups and to create new knowledge capable of alleviating development problems. Based on our assessment of current knowledge gaps, our key strengths and core values in research, focus over the next five years will be aligned to the programme areas identified under each thematic theme such as poverty, agriculture and food security, natural resource, employment, health and education. For instance, there are knowledge gaps on gender and poverty. Questions remain regarding the prevalence of the risk factors, the social and cultural contexts, care and support at the household level, among the gender issues that SODA is best placed to address. Other areas of research will be on social empowerment such as migration, gender-based violence, governance, social justice, and etc.
Program 1: POVERTY AND INEQUALITY
Theme 1: Poverty Data: To improve our knowledge of the poor and marginalized we need to fill gaps in data. We will explore how existing methods and new technologies can fill those gaps. To make better policy, we need to know more what is important to poor people: what people think, as well as what they have. We are investigating new ways to do this. The aim is to make better decisions and improve the way we monitor progress in the future. Ultimately, this will feed into better policies that improve poor peoples’ lives.
Theme 2: Inequality Data: Our research asks two key questions: how can the benefits of growth be more evenly shared, and what should be the priority for policy-makers concerned with rising inequality? Inequality is on the rise in Lao PDR.
Theme 3: Poverty Monitoring: This theme attempts to deepen the measurement of progress. Employing a range of methodologies and statistical analysis for measuring progress, this component aims to measure change within and across different dimensions of wellbeing, looks at how equitable progress has been and to what extent it has been sustained over time.
Program 2: AGRICULTURAL DEVELOPMENT AND POLICY
Theme 1: Agricultural and rural development to reduce poverty and hunger: Understanding how agricultural and rural development can create jobs and livelihoods for small farmers and the landless, while producing food and raw materials for the urban economy. We will study agricultural development, the factors that help such growth - technology, supply of inputs, access to markets.
Theme 2: Land, Water and Agricultural Investment: Improving land and water governance to enhance security of access and the benefits to rural households and host countries from their use. The governance of natural resources plays a fundamental role in determining how effectively and efficiently land and water resources are employed to meet the heightened challenges facing agriculture. However, against a backdrop of large-scale land acquisitions in supposedly land-rich developing countries, and the associated, often invisible, water acquisitions, there are increasing concerns over the quality and transparency of decision-making on land and water allocations and the insufficient attention paid to their competing uses for food, feed and energy production. There is also concern that the lack of strong governance of natural resources causes problems for local communities that see their livelihoods undermined and for host countries that see their resources put to inappropriate uses.
Program 3: Private sector development Theme 1: Shaping markets for sustainable and inclusive growth: We will assess and advise on government policy and regulatory frameworks that promote private-sector investment and innovation in support of sustainable and inclusive growth patterns, in particular: Market regulation, investment climate, competition, trade and industrial policy – to promote the development of competitive and efficient markets.
Theme 2: Supporting private-sector development: A more traditional focus for donors, private-sector development remains a key area of activity, where there is increasing emphasis on measuring impact and proving value for money. Research focus: Comparing donor approaches to private-sector development; reviewing approaches to evaluation of private-sector development interventions; interventions to promote youth entrepreneurship; Value-chain-development approaches; and employment / job-creation interventions.
Program 4: WATER POLICY
Theme 1: Water resources management: Key research issues include water futures - the drivers of change affecting supply and demand in different contexts and at different scales; planning for extreme events, particularly droughts and floods; and water rights protecting the claims of vulnerable water users as pressure to transfer water increases.
Theme 2: Adapting to environmental change and uncertainty in the water sector: Our research will focus on the links between climate-water science and water policy, adaptation planning and risk management, and national financing issues in the context of climate change.
Program 5. Environment We know that stronger political processes improve living standards and reduce poverty faster. But overall, standards of governance across the world are not improving fast enough. The poorest and most disadvantaged people need more opportunities to take part in economic growth, including growing numbers of young people. We will find new ways of tackling the toughest social and governance problems in the most fragile and challenging environments. Our five research themes will be:
conflict, state fragility and social cohesion;
social exclusion, inequality and poverty reduction;
building strong and effective states;
tackling the SDGs that are hardest to reach;
The relationship between social exclusion, inequality and growth has an important effect on development, and needs special attention. We still do not know enough about how to give disadvantaged and marginalised people a voice in decision-making. Nor do we know enough about how social exclusion affects potential for economic growth.
Program 6. SUSTAINABLE AGRICULTURE The livelihoods of 75% of the Lao’s poor will continue to depend on agriculture for the foreseeable future. At the same time, rising food prices are likely to make problems of hunger and poverty worse for urban and rural people. Research that produces innovation in agriculture is therefore more important than ever for reducing poverty. We will also focus on key emerging issues related to agriculture and natural resource management that fit our broader agenda of inclusive growth and climate change.
Program 7. Health There are still major barriers to achieving the health SDGs. But the burden of ill health is also changing rapidly, and non-communicable diseases are an increasing threat to the majority of the world’s population. International funding for health research is growing. We will work with developing countries and other funders to achieve faster results. Our research will focus on three inter-dependent priorities: operational research to make health programmes more effective; research on health systems; and developing drugs and vaccines for HIV and AIDS, TB and malaria and other diseases that most affect poor people. Program 8. Climate Change Climate change is likely to have enormous social, political, economic and environmental consequences. We know that it will affect poor countries first and worst, and that the poorest people will be most exposed and vulnerable. We will rapidly expand and diversify our research, as part of a wider effort to tackle climate change across the country. We will research: climate science, how to tackle climate change in national policy; strategies for adapting to climate change; and mitigation and low carbon growth.
Over the next five years, SODA’s work in each of the four program areas will continue to focus on three pillars: research, development programing; strategic communication and policy advocacy; and capacity building. Technical Assistance (TA) will be a crosscutting activity in all program areas. To ensure that SODA’s work makes a difference to the target populations, the Association will continue to engage with communities, practitioners and policy-makers at the local, national, regional and global levels. The Association will actively engage in research and capacity-building activities outside Laos to collaborate with ASEAN countries in order to build its regional presence and expand its scope. Through its local and international partners, SODA will continue its engagement in policy formulation and dialogue on agriculture and food security, health, education, natural resource, employment and private sector in various platforms. Through these interactions, the organisation will continue to review its programme and research activities to ensure that it remains relevant to the needs of the people in the country and the ASEAN. Through its capacity building activities, SODA intends to strengthen the capacity of diverse cadres of practitioners to implement sound evidence-based programs in line with the ethos and philosophies espoused in this Plan.