Youth Open Space Action in Lao PDR
Over 160 young people from different communities, who have limited opportunity and access to basic services as well as those who live their lives as street youth around Vientiane Capital, participated in a two-day Open Space Forum which was held for two days started on September 9-10, 2006.
The Open Space Forum was a joint initiative of Ministry of Labour and Social Welfare through Peuan Mit Project (a project in collaboration between the Ministry of Labour and Social Welfare and Friends-International Street Children Network) and the World Bank. The Open space workshop has been made possible thanks to the support of UNICEF, Save the Children Australia/UK, Santi Volunteers Association, Tango, ETL, Lao Telecom, Beer Lao Company Ltd., and Lao Soft Drink Company.
Witnessed the opening session of the event were Mr. Prasith Phommatheth, Acting Director of Department of Social Welfare, Ms. Victoria Juat, Child Protection Officer, UNICEF Lao PDR and representatives from Puean Mit Project and the World Bank Lao PDR.
Under the guiding theme “Creating a Better Future for Us: Issues and Opportunities”, young people from 10 villages in Vientiane Capital and Vientiane Province created their own agenda for the two-day forum including suggested issues, concerns, interests and challenges for discussion as well as proposed solutions.
Through a collective and in depth consultation between Ministry of Labour and Social Welfare, international organizations and the World Bank, Open Space concept emerged and developed in taking into account that young population accounts for the more than 50% of the total population in Lao PDR and that they are the future of the country. This forum was not only a stage for young people to share their issues, but also a stage of which all agencies can learn more about many emerging challenges that this group of people are facing. This forum would help each agency to shape their activities, strategies and policies to better address the issues.
The idea behind Open Space was to create a sense of freedom for young people to discuss, share and talk about challenges and issues that they feel important to them. Participants were not only provided the opportunity to chair group discussions, but also enabled them to participate in any discussions according to their interests. At the second day of the forum, participants would select the most important issues and explore the solutions which they believe that could address their issues.
At the end of the forum, a booklet were produced which include all issued that were discussed as well as actions/solutions that they proposed. The booklets were also distributed to all partner agencies. Report of the forum will be used as a tool for all partner agencies to work in partnerships in developing future program that will address some of the problems that the disadvantaged youth have identified.