Australia and the Lao PDR held their 6th Human Rights Dialogue on 12 August 2019 in Canberra.
The two sides had frank and constructive discussions on an extensive range of issues, including civil and political rights, rights of vulnerable people, legal issues, engagement with international human rights mechanisms and bilateral cooperation on human rights in regional and international arenas.
Australia and Lao PDR acknowledged the significance of the Dialogue to their longstanding bilateral relationship, and the value in sharing experiences and lessons with each other.
Both sides noted the importance of cooperation to address human rights challenges, particularly in improving the rights of vulnerable groups, including women and children, indigenous and ethnic groups, LGBTI people and people with a disability.
Australia committed to continue supporting Lao PDR’s human rights-related efforts through the Australia-Lao PDR Human Rights Technical Cooperation Program.
Both countries discussed the significant role of civil society in contributing to the socio-economic development of their countries in a wide range of areas.
During the Dialogue, individual cases of concern were raised by Australia. The Lao PDR provided updated information and explanation on circumstances surrounding each case and reaffirmed that all conducts and procedures were implemented based on its legal and policy frameworks.
Both countries underlined the priority they accorded to promoting gender equality and reducing violence against women and children. The Lao PDR shared information that its National Assembly was in the process of legislating further to promote gender equality.
Australia shared information on its Strategy for Abolition of the Death Penalty, and encouraged the Lao PDR to work towards abolition. The Lao PDR provided updated information on a reduction of a number of articles carrying the death penalty in its newly adopted Penal Code. The Lao PDR highlighted that the remaining articles aimed to deter the most serious crimes.
Both sides shared their experiences engaging with international human rights mechanisms, including UN treaty reporting obligations. Australia committed to sharing its experience in the UN Human Rights Council if Lao PDR decided to run for a seat.
Both sides remain committed to continue exploring areas of human rights on which they could cooperate further.
Dr Justin Lee, First Assistant Secretary, Multilateral Policy Division of DFAT, co-chaired the Dialogue with Mr Douangmany Gnotsyoudom, Director General of the Department of Treaty and Law, Ministry of Foreign Affairs of the Lao PDR.
Following the Dialogue, the Lao delegation undertook a three-day study visit led by H.E. Mr Bounkeut Sangsomsak, Minister to the Prime Minister’s Office, Chairman of the National Steering Committee on Human Rights, coordinated by the Australian Human Rights Commission and supported by the Australian Government’s Australia-Lao PDR Human Rights Technical Cooperation Program.