Empowering Civil Society for Citizen Engagement

This project is part of the broader multi-partner Citizen Engagement for Good Governance, Accountability and the Rule of Law II (CEGGA II) Programme

For a country to develop sustainably, the government needs input and feedback from different parts of society including the private sector, academia and civil society organizations (CSOs), which often raise issues or concerns that would otherwise be overlooked. In Laos, Helvetas therefore supports CSOs and their networks, and works with government agencies at different levels including the National Assembly and the Provincial People’s Assemblies (PPAs) to strengthen mutual trust and bring in voices from communities.

  • Project Name
    CECEI: Civil Society Empowerment & Citizen Engagement Initiative
  • Project Phase
    2023 to 2025
  • Funding
    Swiss Agency for Development and Cooperation (SDC), German Ministry for Economic Cooperation and Development (BMZ), European Union (EU) through GIZ
  • Thematic focus
    Voice, Inclusion & Cohesion

Strong together 

In functioning democracies, everyone should be able to determine the course of their own lives and engage as civic actors in the development of society. Citizens can for example, raise their concerns and propose solutions through local representative bodies or CSOs. Robust citizen-state engagement and dialogue is a fundamental tenet for democratic governance, and inclusive national development.

In Laos, citizen-state relations are gradually evolving. Local civil society is as a development actor perceived with caution with a confined role to play in accordance with the Decree on Associations. While there is some acknowledgment that an active broad-based civil society can contribute to society, this is primarily in the socio-economic sphere in support of stated national development priorities and goals.

Building trust for effective collaboration

The CECEI project contributes to an enabling environment for interaction between citizens, local CSOs and state institutions at national and subnational levels allowing for more inclusive public decision, policymaking and fostering government responsiveness. It aims at a strengthened multi-stakeholder dialogue between state actors of the executive and legislative branches, as well as non-state actors, and a stronger feedback culture among these stakeholders active at different levels in Lao society.

CECEI supports CSOs to strengthen their communication, knowledge sharing and advocacy competencies, and offers small grants to implement community-level projects within the thematic areas of environmental protection, gender equality and social inclusion. In parallel, Helvetas works with the Provincial People’s Assemblies (PPAs) to enhance their capacity to conduct public engagement activities using tools such as Public Hearings, Hotline and Petitions. A particular focus lies on supporting woman parliamentarians and staff with gender-oriented training and coaching addressing obstacles limiting their full participation in relevant policy work. The project builds on previous Helvetas engagements combining support to state institutions and to CSOs including in CEGGA I.

When CSO and PPA staff and members have been trained, and effectively use tools and dialogue forums to engage with each other and the wider public, citizens will have improved opportunities to make their concerns heard. As a result, the state can better fulfill its role of serving its citizens and national development can become more inclusive.