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東京大学公共政策大学院 | GraSPP / Graduate School of Public Policy | The university of Tokyo

Professor Toshiro Nishizawa’s article was published on südostasien, a German open-access journal April 11, 2024

Faculty news , In the media

Professor Toshiro Nishizawa’s article titled “Die Regierung muss die Schwächsten schützen” (“Challenges for next-generation leaders in Laos seeking a modernized governance”) was published on March 27, 2024, on südostasien, a German open-access journal. The main thrust of his argument is as follows.

Western commentators tend to be critical of Laos’s political regime and express their concerns about governance and human rights. While Laos remains amid economic woes, the country survived economic hardships following the pandemic under the existing political regime and leadership. Under such circumstances, a question can be asked: which approach, gradualism or single-mindedly advocating a particular notion of “democracy,” should be adopted to promote a genuinely democratic governance system while maintaining people’s well-being under social stability.

In general terms, gradualism based on local contexts should be a more promising approach to establishing democracy by advancing socio-economic development as a prerequisite. From another perspective, political leaders should emphasize “human security” in identifying and addressing widespread and cross-cutting challenges to their people’s survival, livelihood, and dignity. As long as no significant violation of fundamental human rights is prevalent, ordinary people will likely prefer gains from socio-economic development rather than subordinating themselves to an imported “democracy” notion, which is not their own.

Social media, supported by ubiquitous information technology, has an increasing influence on governance in negative and positive ways. Informed of growing voices of dissent through social media, there is good reason for the Lao government to be responsive in mitigating the risks of growing public discontent, especially among have-nots.

Political leaders’ task in Laos should be to prioritize policy measures that consider people’s well-being and social stability and, over the medium and long term, establish genuinely democratic and modernized governance with a natural affinity for the cultural, social, and historical context.

The original English version of the article can be read here.

Südostasien, meaning “Southeast Asia” in German, is a German open-access journal, which has been published since 2018, brings together voices from and about Southeast Asia on current developments in politics, economics, ecology, society, and culture. It deals with the possibilities of transnational solidarity work in the face of unequal power relations between the global North and South and aims to provide food for thought for action in Europe and Germany.