Irish Aid in Vietnam
Vietnam with an area four times the size of Ireland has a population of over 88 million, and ranks 121st out of 187 countries on the 2014 UN Human Development Index, compared to Ireland’s 11th. Ireland’s engagement with Vietnam through Irish Aid has focused on reducing poverty and inequality through the implementation of programmes designed to strengthen the delivery of basic services and social protection to the poorest and most vulnerable sections of society, the promotion of inclusive economic development, the growth of the private sector, and increased accountability by the State to its citizens.
Vietnam’s success in reducing mass poverty is well documented, and the official poverty rate fell from 58% to 13% in the period 1992 – 2012, with over 28 million people lifted out of poverty.
However, the context for poverty reduction in Vietnam is changing – the rate of poverty reduction is slowing down and inequality is on the rise. Economic growth is not benefiting the population equally with progress uneven between groups and between regions. Gender remains a determinant of poverty in Vietnam, in spite of equal attendance at primary school and one of the highest female labour force participation rates in the world. Urban poverty is an increasing phenomenon as Vietnam urbanises rapidly. Some people are also increasingly vulnerable to economic and climatic shocks, as a result of the global economic volatility that has affected the country since around 2007, and the effects of increased climate variability resulting from climate change, which renders them more susceptible to natural disasters.
These changes are taking place within a context of increasing resource scarcity for the Government of Vietnam, as state planners struggle with declining state revenue rates. At the same time, funds available for poverty reduction from Development Partners are also restricted, partly as a result of shrinking aid budgets, but also because Vietnam is less a priority for funding now that the country has attained Middle Income Country (MIC) status.
What is Ireland doing in Vietnam?
The focus of Ireland’s engagement with Vietnam has been and continues to be on reducing poverty and inequality through the implementation of programmes designed to strengthen the delivery of basic services and social protection to the poorest and most vulnerable sections of society, the promotion of inclusive economic development, the growth of the private sector and an increased accountability by the State to its citizens.
Ireland’s current Country Strategy Paper (CSP) runs from 2011 to 2015. This is Ireland’s second CSP for Vietnam and it supports the Government of Vietnam’s Socio-Economic Development Strategy (SEDS) 2011-2020, which provides the long-term vision and orientations for Vietnam’s development. More specifically the CSP is aligned with the Government of Vietnam’s operational plan – the Socio-Economic Development Plan (SEDP) (2011-2015).
The strategy essentially aims to contribute to two broad areas of change:
- Poverty reduced among the most marginalised groups;
- Economic growth which is more inclusive and resilient to shocks
Ireland works with a variety of partner organisations including government institutions, UN agencies, international and national research institutions, and civil society organisations and other international donor agencies to deliver on our development objectives.
Partnerships and programme are well established, the most significant being:
- Support to the Government of Vietnam’s primary programme for poverty reduction for ethnic minority communes, the P135 Programme. This programme has built much needed local infrastructure (roads, schools, clinics, commune centres, kindergartens) in poor communes and villages in the most marginalised areas of Vietnam.
- Funding and advice to civil society projects seeking to address a range of issues of vulnerability including disability, gender inequality, local governance, livelihoods and nutrition. Civil society organisations underscore how the support from Ireland has contributed to more strategic approaches, better priority setting, and to improved service delivery.
- Core funding to the joint plan of the United Nations agencies in Vietnam, tracking in particular policy changes in the areas of social protection and in governance such as the performance of public sector institutions and civil society participation. The UN One Plan is performing well in Vietnam and delivering results, with a high level of ownership from the Government.
- Support to the Ireland Development Ideas and Sharing (IDEAS) Programme, to facilitate intellectual exchange between Ireland and Vietnam. The programme has created linkages between Vietnamese officials and organisations and their Irish counterparts in areas such as banking regulation and economic forecasting. The Embassy and Enterprise Ireland have been collaborating on a number of events to increase awareness of Ireland in Vietnam focusing on higher education and more recently vocational skills training opportunities in Ireland through the Institutes of Technology. The IDEAS programme also includes post-graduate scholarships. There is strong evidence that this exchange programme is strengthening capacity and influencing the policy discussion in Vietnam.
The Embassy of Ireland in Hanoi is accredited to Cambodia and Lao PDR, and also oversees Ireland’s development aid programme in Myanmar. Irish Aid has a small fund to support poverty reduction focused initiatives across the region. Regional work is currently focused on the thematic areas of the clearance of mines and unexploded ordnance in highly contaminated areas in these countries, hunger and nutrition reduction and some targeted scholarships for third level students to study in Ireland.