Australian Embassy
Lao People's Democratic Republic
Km 4, Thadeua Road, Watnak (P.O. Box 292)

8th Australia-Lao PDR Human Rights Dialogue

8th Australia-Lao PDR Human Rights Dialogue

18 December 2023

Australia and the Lao PDR held the 8th bilateral Human Rights Dialogue (the Dialogue) in Canberra on 23 November 2023. The Dialogue was co-chaired by Ms Bronte Moules, Australia’s Ambassador for Human Rights, and Mr Phoukhong Sisoulath, Director General Department of Treaty and Law, Ministry of Foreign Affairs of the Lao PDR, and supported by the Australian Human Rights Commission.   

The broad representation from ministries and departments on both sides supported open and productive discussion on a range of human rights issues including civil, political, economic, social and cultural rights; engagement with international mechanisms; and bilateral and regional cooperation. The Dialogue deepened mutual understanding of each country’s human rights progress and challenges.

The two countries acknowledged civil society organisations contributed to development and improved social outcomes, including through delivering community projects. Australia commended Lao PDR on recent initiatives to engage these organisations in reporting on the implementation of human rights conventions and the Plan of Action to implement Universal Periodic Review (UPR) recommendations, and also encouraged Lao PDR to further promote their engagement and participation, including during the Lao PDR’s ASEAN Chair year.

The delegations discussed their respective policies on and approaches to gender equality. The Lao PDR highlighted the importance of advancing the rights and protections of women and children. Australia advocated for the protection and inclusion of individuals with diverse sexual orientation and gender identities, including their freedom to assemble for events without discrimination.

Australia raised individual cases of concern and stressed the importance of freedom of expression while the Lao PDR provided updates and clarification on the cases, as well as the policy and legislative framework of the Lao PDR on this freedom. The two sides agreed to continue to exchange further on some of the cases raised by Australia. The Lao PDR also shared its experience on supporting freedom of religion. Both countries agreed there were opportunities to share experiences on improving social cohesion and harmony.

The Lao PDR and Australia agreed to explore further opportunities for human rights cooperation, such as supporting implementation of obligations under the Convention on the Elimination of All Forms of Discrimination against Women, improving legal aid services, and awareness on death penalty issues.

Participants welcomed the advancement of the Human Rights Technical Cooperation Program (HRTCP) into its third phase. Under the new AUD1.6 million program, the Australian Human Rights Commission will continue to provide practical support to the Lao Government to meet its international human rights commitments.

Following the Dialogue, Australia and the Lao PDR agreed to deepen and formalise human rights technical cooperation through the signing of a Memorandum of Understanding by Director General Phoukhong, Ambassador Moules and the Australian Human Rights Commission’s President, Emeritus Professor Rosalind Croucher.

Australia and the Lao PDR acknowledged the significance of the Dialogue as testament to the long-standing bilateral relationship. Both countries valued the opportunity to share experiences, knowledge and lessons to address human rights challenges.