Focusing on Ethnic Minority people to leave no one behind

September 13, 2020

Ms. Caitlin Wiesen and leaders of the National Assembly and Government talk with ethnic minority women in an exhibition of cooperatives' products in Son La province

The UN in Viet Nam is working closely with the government and the people of Viet Nam on COVID-19 response and we acknowledge that it is crucial to provide relevant and targeted support to the ethnic minority people including families, women and children, who make up 14.7% of Viet Nam’s population but account for 90% of country’s extreme poor and 51.2% of the poor to recover safely and sustainably from COVID-19 impact”.

Ms. Caitlin Wiesen, UN Co-Chair of Ethnic Minority Working Group and UNDP Resident Representative in Viet Nam made this statement as she delivered the UN opening remarks, on behalf of Mr. Kamal Malhotra, United Nations Resident Coordinator, at the workshop: “Development of high quality human resources for agriculture, new rural development and sustainable poverty reduction in Ethnic Minority and Mountainous Areas” in Son La province on 13 September 2020.

National Assembly TV report

Despite the success at the national average level, we also know that such socio-economic development had been slow, and poverty still remains prevalent in the mountainous and ethnic minority areas leaving the people in multiple challenges. These areas are heavily impacted by climate change, environmental and natural disasters directly affecting people’s livelihoods. Women and girls in ethnic minority often face challenges in accessing healthcare services, participating in decision-making processes, and continuing education due to the persisting social norms of the roles of men and women, the male-centered ideology. Insufficient gender-responsive budgeting also hinders the development of gender statistics to formulate evidence-based gender-inclusive policies and interventions.

Mr. Giang A Chao & Mrs. Vang Thi Xua in Son La province used to make a good living from growing plum and tea but suffered from reduced prices this year due to COVID-19. “Only households listed as poor and companies whose workers loose job can get support from the Government. I am not an entrepreneur so I can’t get the support,” said Mr Chao.

The recent practice of social distancing during COVID-19 had imposed additional health risk and socio-economic burden especially on job security and sustainable income,” Ms. Caitlin Wiesen noted. “People have lost or reduced income and jobs. The recent assessment by UNDP and UN Women on socio-economic impact of COVID-19 on vulnerable households and enterprises estimates that the national income poverty rate could have jumped from 22.13% before pandemic to 76.31% in April 2020 and remained at relatively high level of 70.27% in May 2020 for ethnic minority households while it had jumped from 4.57% to 26.7% at national average”. (read full speech here)

The workshop gathered leaders of the National Assembly, 08 line Ministries, Cooperative Alliance, Women's Union, 14 northern provinces, and more than 30 National Assembly deputies. Discussions focused on four thematic areas: Overview of policies on ethnic minority and mountainous areas; Training of high-quality human resources; Cooperatives’ role in new rural development; and Sustainable poverty reduction in the ethnic minority and mountainous areas.

During  the thematic section on sustainable poverty reduction, UNDP shared lessons learned from selected successful models for socio-economic development in ethnic minority and mountainous areas, especially the 4M initiative - Meet, Match, Mentor, and Move. The initiative aims to enable ethnic minority women to change their mindset and break their isolation, thus changing their position in the markets. In Bak Kan and Dak Nong provinces, this has helped change women’s life by realizing the potentials of their innovation and technological solutions such as e-commerce, e-pay, social media, and multi-stakeholder networks. UNDP is expanding this approach in Lao Cai and Son La provinces.

Mr Doan Huu Minh, UNDP programm officer, presents successful lessons learnt in Poverty Reduction for Ethnic Minority and Mountainous Areas

In her closing remark Madam Tong Thi Phong, Party Politburo member and Standing Vice Chairwoman of National Assembly, highly appreciate the recommendations and good practices from the UN and other development partners. She said: “For international organizations, Viet Nam would like to receive their technical support to provinces, local training facilities for refreshment, exchanges of experiences, including those in the development of cooperatives, high-quality human resources in ethnic minority and mountainous areas, especially in the agriculture and rural development area”. 

Madam Tong Thi Phong, Party Politburo member and Standing Vice Chairwoman of National Assembly, concludes the workshop.

Madam Tong Thi Phong also mentioned that she would organize similar workshop in the Central, Central Highland, and South-western regions.