Opening of the National Research for Development Forum, Wednesday 17 December 2014
Faculty of Economics and Business Administration, National University of Laos
Professor Dr Soukkongseng Saignaleuth, President of the National University of Laos; H.E. Dr Bounthavy Sisouphanthong, Vice-Minister for Planning and Investment; H.E. Dr Phouang Parisak Pravongviengkam, Vice-Minister for Agriculture and Forestry; distinguished guests, ladies and gentlemen.
I would like to thank the National University of Laos for inviting me to join you this morning.
On behalf of all the development partners who have helped make today possible, I congratulate the National University of Laos for hosting today’s event, and its other partners – the National Agriculture and Forestry Research Institute (NAFRI) and National Economic Research Institute (NERI).
Australia is delighted to be supporting this National Research Forum, through the Laos-Australia Development Learning Facility.
Bill Gates talks about research as the crucial component of the innovation that improves life for everyone.
It’s an area where government has an important role, to fund and support research the market won’t deliver; to address the big problems through informed public policy solutions that will reach everyone who needs them.
This is particularly important in the Lao context, where identifying how to address social and economic inequity is vital to achieving the country’s ambitious development goals.
It’s an important consideration for Australia, as we draft our new Aid Investment Plan to guide our development assistance program in the Lao PDR over the next five years.
We want our aid program to achieve meaningful results. Visibility and influence on policy, built around evidence and research, will help us deliver sustainable outcomes.
In terms of the what, Australia believes our continued engagement in basic education, rural development, trade reform and natural resource management, supported by further human resource development, will maximise the impact of our program in promoting growth and reducing poverty.
These are sectors where Australia has built knowledge, effective relationships, credibility and influence over five decades of development work in the Lao PDR.
Australia’s programs have also benefited from hard-headed analysis of lessons learned – what worked well, and why, and what we could have done better. This includes the need for our programs to be based on sound evidence and research, and to support informed government policy.
This is why we have developed the Laos-Australia Development Learning Facility as a central part of our rural development program.
The Learning Facility supports monitoring and evaluation, research and knowledge generation to strengthen both the impact of our aid programs and government policy.
Through the Learning Facility, and a range of other aid programs, Australia is supporting research projects in nutrition, agriculture, economic development, rural employment, poverty, climate change and private sector development.
The Learning Facility will also work to strengthen collaboration with and among Lao Government agencies and Lao research institutes and universities, including through forums like this one.
I am pleased to see such an interesting program planned for the next two days, with researchers and policy makers coming together to discuss issues at the heart of this country’s socio-economic development.
I hope the outcomes from the research and debate here will help deliver better government policy - including to help inform an 8th National Socio-Economic Development Plan built around sustainable and equitable growth.
And I hope this will be first of many such Research Forums in Laos, enabling Lao researchers to share their work and inform policy development at a vital time for the Lao PDR.
Once again, thank you to the National University of Laos, NAFRI and NERI for your leadership in organizing this forum. Good luck with the discussions over the next two days. For Australia, it’s a delight to be a part of it.
Khop chai lai lai.