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Urban development and heritage conservation in Luang Prabang

H   ow we work In Laos, AFD provides a wide range of financial arrangements which are available to investors in many sectors:   Grants for development and technical assistance programmes, including grants from the FFEM (French Global Environment Facility) and the TCBP (Trade Capacity Building Programme) as well as grants to NGOs   Training programmes and capacity strengthening provision through the AFD enterprise university, the Centre for Financial, Economic and Banking Studies (CEFEB): this includes certified training, short training courses and customised training courses   Grants for preliminary studies at the outset of projects, and for strategic sectoral studies   Non-sovereign loans to public and private enterprises, which do not require a state guarantee; these may or may not be at concessionary rates   Loan guarantees (particularly through the ARIZ individual guarantee mechanism or portfolio mechanism, in partnership with local commercial banks)   Funding through equity, or quasi-equity, via PROPARCO Non-sovereign loans as well as bank guarantees can be made available to certain investment projects. The Agency is willing to support projects seeking such facilities. AFD also finances programmes of a regional nature which help to integrate Laos into its immediate geographical neighbourhood, such as:   Financial support for the Mekong River Commission (MRC); Projects designed to combat emerging diseases though the Pasteur Institute network;   Establishment of a regional mechanism of support for the recognition of Protected Geographical Indications (PGI) through the Food and Agriculture Organisation (FAO);   Multi-stakeholder partnerships for the sustainable management of protected areas such as the Wildlife Conservation Society efforts in the Indo-Burman region;   Support for the Conservation Agriculture Network for South East Asia (CANSEA).

Renovated school in Luang Prabang © AFD, Clémence Vidal de la Blache

Luang Prabang, the former capital of Laos, sits at the confluence of the Nam Khan and Mekong rivers. The town is a cultural and historic gem, the fusion of traditional Lao architecture and the architectural legacy of the French colonial period. Apart from its remarkably well preserved urban landscape, Luang Prabang is also an important religious centre. The site, which was added to the UNESCO World Heritage List on the 2nd of December 1995, attracts a growing number of visitors. This increase in tourism is both an opportunity and a threat to local development. Since 1998, AFD’s programmes have been designed to promote the city’s urban development, while improving and preserving its built, cultural and natural heritage. The Agency has adopted a three part approach:

Enhancing urban heritage by modernising public spaces, improving services and refurbishing significant buildings

Strengthening urban planning and site management arrangements

Supporting the various stakeholders involved in the town’s modernisation The goal is to limit the risks inherent in this kind of development, particularly the departure of local residents or the commodification of the local heritage of the peninsula. During the 2000s, funding from the FFEM (French Global Environment Facility) supported protection work on ponds and marshes to strengthen their tourism potential. These natural wetlands are an integral part of the town’s heritage and play an important role in both flood prevention and natural water treatment. These projects are the responsibility of the Urban Development Authority and the Luang Prabang Department of World Heritage. From the outset these activities have been undertaken alongside others involved in French overseas cooperation, particularly the town of Chinon in the Loire valley. AFD also works with the Lao authorities to strengthen local methods of financing heritage works, as well as on the relevant national legislation.

Rooftops of Luang Prabang © AFD, Olivier Gilard

Ho Prabang, the ex-Royal Palace Pagoda, Luang Prabang © AFD, Thierry Duplan

AFD's involvement in Laos  

AFD was mandated to begin work in Laos in 1993 and opened its local office in 1994.