Ensuring access-to-information right of Lao Cai Cooperative Alliance members towards a favourable, equal and developed business environment

Grantee organisation: Lao Cai Cooperative Alliance

Location: Lao Cai

Duration: November 2014 – August 2015

The Red Dream Cooperative, directed by Ms Ly May Chan (Mong) in Ta Phin commune, Sa Pa district, Lao Cai province has 25 members, most of whom are Mong women living in the commune. The Cooperative produces embroidered and woven products of their traditional handicraft to sell to tourists visiting Sa Pa. During the meeting with us, she said: “our cooperative was formed a long time ago, and from the beginning there were only a few members who were skilled in weaving and embroidery. At the initial stage it was difficult as our female members are all ethnic minorities who very rarely had been exposed to the society. We did not have any information, did not know what the market is, or did not know which policies there were for supporting the business and production cooperatives. Thus often we felt confused or puzzled”.

Since the Red Dream cooperative joined the Lao Cai Cooperative Alliance, and in particular since the cooperative participated in the Project on “Strengthening the network of members of Lao Cai Cooperative Alliance, economic sectors, social organisations, professional associations and community groups in order to mobilise people to contribute with their opinions on the Bill on access to information” implemented by Lao Cai Cooperative Alliance, Ms Ly May Cham and her members became aware of the right of citizens in general and cooperatives and non-state owned enterprises in particularly to access to information on issues such as support policies, regulations on business management or taxation as well as the responsibility of functional bodies to provide information. She said: “members have gradually improved their skills in social interaction and accessing information; and they hope to receive material support to improve the present difficult situation regarding access to information and improve the lives of poor women in the commune”.

Previously, individuals and economic sectors had a very vague idea about information on policies and whenever the relevant policies were needed, people usually had to rely on the “apply for” rule which had become a track in administrative transactions. Nowadays, such unwritten rules are still present but cooperatives and individuals are more clearly aware of their position in this relation. Although much remains to be done to get access to information by law, these changes that the project has created in the mountain areas of Lao Cai are very encouraging.

Meeting us in Sa Seng village - Sa Pa, Mr Chao Van Phu – Director of the Cooperative of Red Dao’s herbal medicine for bathing expressed his desire to acquire more on scientific, technological and market information to improve the products of his cooperative. He also pledged to participate in the network to mobilize local people to participate in policy monitoring and advocacy in the locality.

To help businesses and cooperatives to access information more easily while improving accountability of the concerned departments in providing information, thereby creating a favourable and equal regulatory environment, the project developed a Regulation of coordination in collecting and disseminating information to individuals and organisations in the area of Lao Cai city, that was officially issued as attachment to an administrative decision by the People’s Committee. The regulation provides the basic principles on the right to access to information, receipt and provision of information, mechanism, forms and deadlines for provision of information.

The regulation also specifies the types of information which can be publicized or must be kept secret to make it clear for the citizens and relevant stakeholders. This and other project activities to raise awareness and participation in contributing to the Bill on access to information have helped the cooperatives and businesses become more active and have a concrete mechanism for accessing information as well as contributing to the Bill so that the Bill on access to information becomes really practical in all aspects of the social life.

Lao Cai Cooperative Alliance collected comments and recommendations for the bill on Access to information from its members