Aus4EqualityUpdatesAustralian Ambassador Launches UNDP Policy Project

Australian Ambassador Launches UNDP Policy Project


I would like first to thank UNDP and CEMA very much for the opportunity to be here today at the Kick-off workshop of the Project on accelerating socio-economic development and multi-dimensional poverty reduction among Ethnic Minorities in Vietnam in the period 2020-2025. Vietnam can be very proud of the socio-economic development over the past decade. I remember when I started my first posting in the country in the early 1990s, the poverty rate in Vietnam was about 57%. Since then, the rate sharply declined to below 10% recently. These impressive results in poverty reduction, have been rightly recognised by the international community. I like to speak Vietnamese very much. But to have a deep discussion on today’s topics, I would like to continue in English.

The 2019 Multidimensional Poverty Report jointly launched by UNDP and Ministry of Labour, Invalids and Social Affairs (MOLISA) shows multi-dimensional poverty rate reduced significantly from 8.23% in 2016 to just 3.72% in 2019. However, not all people have shared these remarkable successes with ethnic minority groups continuing to lag behind. Although making up about 15 per cent of Vietnam’s population, ethnic minorities account for more than 70% of Vietnam’s poor. The situation for ethnic minority women is more difficult than for ethnic minority men. Ethnic minority women are much more likely than men to be excluded from economic opportunities. And they are more likely to derive their livelihoods from lower value, less skilled and less secure work. Addressing the ‘unfinished poverty reduction agenda’ is critical to maintaining Vietnam’s current growth trajectory. Australia is absolutely committed to helping Vietnam achieve further economic growth and poverty reduction. We would like that growth to be sustainable and as inclusive of ethnic minorities and women as possible so that no one will be left behind. We aim to help in a number of ways, and in each of these ways, you will find a willing Australia already working with the Government, Development Partners, Private Sector, Civil Society, Researchers to assist Vietnam in implementing this important agenda. 

Our flagship women’s economic empowerment program Aus4Equality which is supporting the partnership we’re kicking off today, is working with local Governments, private sector, civil society to deliver women’s economic empowerment outcomes, especially among ethnic minority in the north west of Vietnam while tapping into the region’s potential in agriculture and tourism and promoting the development of the private sector. We are delighted to see that the Aus4Equality is now working in partnership with UNDP to scale-up successful innovations that will hopefully transform the lives and livelihoods of ethnic minority people throughout Vietnam. 

Our Aus4skills program has been supporting three universities in northern mountainous provinces in Thai Nguyen and Son La from July 2017 to December 2020, where 80% of the population are ethnic minorities, to improve learning outcomes and skills development for their students, so as to bridge the existing education gap between these and more advanced locations. The program also provides support to ethnic minority people to have equal access to short-term and long-term Australian Awards Scholarships. To date, there are 129 ethnic minority people benefiting from this program. I am particularly excited about the growing research partnership between the two countries to improve the livelihoods of ethnic minority groups. 

The Australian Centre for International Agricultural Research or ACIAR for example has facilitated strong cooperation between Australian and Vietnamese scientists to tap into the potential of Son La and other North-western provinces to develop farming options and market linkages for vegetables, beef cattle, fruits, maize, cassava, coffee and plantation forest, helping people from ethnic groups of Thai, H’Mong, Dao, Muong, Tay, Nung, and Khang to increase the incomes. 

There are different examples of Australia-Vietnam scientific cooperation in the Central Highlands and Mekong Delta where ethnic minority groups constitute a large percentage of the population. An important piece of Australia’s support for ethnic minorities is the work we are supporting through the Australia-World Bank Strategic Partnership. This investment is delivering high quality analytical work which informs Vietnam’s policies focused on ethnic minorities. 

COVID-19 global pandemic is having a profound impact on our lives and on our region. While Vietnam has led one of the world’s most effective responses to the COVID-19 and we congratulate Vietnamese Government and people for these successes, we know that the pandemic has potentially disproportionate social and economic impacts on vulnerable groups, including ethnic minority people. In line with our Partnerships for Recovery strategy, Australia’s development program has pivoted to support Vietnam with health security, stability and economic recovery. Our ongoing partnerships with UNDP, WB are generating knowledge on the impacts of the pandemic on socio and economic activities, people, including ethnic minority groups. Which will inform response and recovery plans by Government of Vietnam in the wake of Covid-19. Our flagship program Aus4Equality is directly supporting Lao Cai and Son La provinces with agricultural and tourism recovery plans.

Ladies and gentlemen,

Innovative poverty reduction solutions piloted by Australia, UNDP, other Development Partners, NGOs, and local people over the past decades can have much larger impacts if being scaled up nationwide in upcoming large investments by Government of Vietnam. The first opportunity to do so is within The National Target Program on Social, Economic Development in Ethnic Minority and Mountainous Areas (NTP-SEDEMA) the period 2021-2025, that the National Assembly approved in June this year. I would like to congratulate Minister Chien, CEMA, and other Ministries for this early important milestone. I am proud that the NTP-SEDEMA has benefited from Australian assistance via our ongoing partnerships with the WB, NGOs, and Provincial Authorities and we will continue to work with you towards successful implementation of the program. 

The project that we launch today is just an example among many other initiatives where you see Australia joining hands with UNDP to assist CEMA, other Ministries, provincial authorities to work out practical mechanism to accelerate the process of learning, experimenting, and scaling up successful poverty reduction models so that it can change the lives of millions of women and men from ethnic minority groups and mountainous areas, lift them out of poverty and assist them in fully catching up with the country’s development pace in a fast and sustainable manner. There is nothing more powerful in development than an initiative that helps to create an ecosystem that incentivises large scale impacts to change the lives of many people.

I look forward to hearing from you on how the project progresses in the coming time. As Christmas and New Year are coming soon, I would like to wish you a Merry Christmas and Happy New Year.

Thank you.

Australian Ambassador to Vietnam – H.E Robyn Mudie