Lessons Learned from Pilot Projects Working with Women Informal Waste Workers in Viet Nam

Opening Remarks by Ms. Caitlin Wiesen UNDP Viet Nam Resident Representative

April 14, 2022
  • Mr. Ngo Hoang Nam, Quy Nhon People’s Committee Chairman
  • Mr. Rui Ludovino, First Counsellor, Delegation of the European Union to Viet Nam
  • Mr. Vu Minh Duc, Senior Advisor, Norwegian Embassy in Hanoi

Ladies and Gentlemen,

A very good afternoon and xin chào.

I am honoured to welcome you to the workshop ‘Lessons Learned from Pilot Projects Working with  Women Informal Waste Workers in Viet Nam’. We are delighted to organise this important event with our partners, the EU-Rethinking Plastics Project and the Provincial People’s Committee of Binh Dinh.

At the UN Environment Assembly on March 2nd, 2022, the world's ministers of the environment endorsed critical resolutions that established a foundation for introducing an international legally binding agreement to end plastic pollution.  For the first time, the roles of the informal waste workers have been recognised in an environmental resolution and moving forward, "the intergovernmental negotiating committee will consider the lessons and best practices from the informal and cooperative settings".

While in Viet Nam, the revised Law on Environmental Protection 2020 (LEP) and the Decree 08/2022/ND-CP promulgated earlier this year strengthened regulations on solid waste management and built the institutional basis for developing a circular economy. These include: waste sorting at sources must be fully implemented by December 2024; waste collection fees will depend on waste volume; a new Extended Producer Responsibility legislation; and the circular economy's criteria, roadmap, and incentive mechanism. These new regulations may create opportunities and pose challenges for the informal waste sector.

Here in Viet Nam, over 60 per cent of the workforce working in the informal waste management sector are women. They often work in precarious situations and are exposed to harmful substances and chemicals along the value chains. Disproportionally impacted by plastic pollution, they also have direct exposure to toxic gases and emissions from waste-burning and cooking fuels and can suffer from heat-related diseases and skyrocketing air pollution levels.

UNDP has developed integrated, green and fair models to improve domestic waste management systems under the project ‘Scaling Up a Socialised Model of Domestic Waste and Plastic Management‘ (also known as the 5 coastal cities) and funded by the Norwegian Embassy. In this context, allow me to extend my sincere congratulations to the Women’s Union of Da Nang, Binh Dinh, Binh Thuan, Quang Ninh, and Binh Duong provinces and to the Farmer’s Union of Quang Ning province for their remarkable work and success in the highly challenging context of the COVID-19 pandemic, the numerous lockdowns, and the social-economic downturns. As the project ends this year, we can reflect on our activities and analyse what worked and what didn’t and why.

We truly believe  collaboration is pivotal in addressing the growing issue of waste management, and this is why we are honoured to invite everyone – governmental bodies, mass organisations, NGOs, CSOs, development partners, and individuals – to join us in this workshop today  where we expect the following vital outcomes:

  • Firstly, recognise, support and ultimately enhance the contributions of informal waste workers to the waste management system.
  • Combined with awareness campaigns and effective community mobilisation, they are an essential part of the transition towards green and inclusive cities. We need to segregate, collect, and recycle our waste to fast-track the development of markets for secondary materials that are localised and inclusive of women workers at all stages.
  • Secondly, we shall continue sharing case studies, research, pilot projects, and support business, that are conducive to integrated waste management on the Viet Nam Circular Economy Hub, which was launched a few months ago with this exact purpose: generating know-how and joining forces to create the systemic change we need.
  • Thirdly, we are honoured to welcome over ten workers from the informal waste sectors today to discuss and prepare for their future transformation into the evolving national and international policy frameworks. We genuinely hope that the discussion and recommendations from this workshop will be helpful as we formulate a policy brief that will contribute to advancing sustainable and inclusive solid waste management.

Colleagues and friends,

Last November, Viet Nam’s Prime Minister Pham Minh Chinh explained at COP26 in Glasgow the need for Viet Nam to transition to a development model that is green, circular, sustainable, inclusive, and humanistic economy. As Viet Nam strives to build forward better from the pandemic, it is imperative to set the stage to work towards gender equality, circular economy, and climate action simultaneously as key inter-related issues for delivering the transformational systemic change needed to protect the planet and achieve the Sustainable Development Goals by 2030.

By taking strategic action in the right direction, Viet Nam could change and shift its profile from being among the largest plastic polluters globally to the leading driver for social and gender inclusion to effectively combat plastic waste and pollution.  Now is the time to take action.

To set in motion a transition to a just circular economy model, UNDP will continue to accelerate our work of empowering women and generating a green, inclusive economic rebound.

In this effort partnerships are vital and we look forward engaging more deeply with Government, development partners, mass organisations, NGOs, businesses, and citizens at the national and local levels to deliver a Green, Inclusive Just transition in Viet Nam.