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new world bank Vietnam director
On July 1, Carolyn Tuck became the new World Bank Vietnam Director. The former director was Ousmane Dione from 2016 to 2020. Tuck’s past can be linked to her early days working at the World Bank organization, where she worked in Vietnam as the Senior Poverty Specialist. Tuck was also “Senior Social Development Specialist and Lead Social Development Specialist in Eastern Europe and Central Asia Region”, according to World Bank.org.

Tuck’s Leadership

Conditions in Vietnam have steadily improved under Tuck’s leadership. As of 2019, Vietnam was no longer considered a low-income poverty-stricken country after the extreme poverty rate declined from 50% to 2%. Per-capita income has risen at an exceptional rate, spiking from $100 in 1980 to $2,300 in 2017, according to the UN.

This exponential growth is fostered by investment in human capital. Education rose to 12% of the GDP while increasing health insurance, living conditions, and increased access to land all improved conditions for Vietnamese citizens. The investment has paid off since Vietnam is making strides in international education testing along with health care spending, which was 7% GDP.

Tuck plans to exceed these numbers by making Vietnam a high-income country by 2045. The per capita income would have to be $12,535, which means it would have to rise by $10,000.  

The World Bank’s Collaboration

The World Bank is helping this become a reality for Vietnam and Tuck by providing “$24.86 billion in grants, credits, and loans.” The World Bank also continues to invest in human capital by committing $516.67 million for Vietnam’s transportation, urban development, higher education, and climate change reduction.

There are still some problems the new World Bank Vietnam Director has to tackle before Vietnam can be declared as a high-income nation. Although investments in education have become a priority in the years past, higher-level education still needs to increase. This links back to income levels because families need money in order to send their children to higher learning institutions. The lack of higher income is caused by low agricultural income due to sub-optimal crop choice and fewer yields from the same crop type on the same type of land. The amount of land being used as capital has dropped significantly too by 10% in 2014.

Looking Forward

The way to improve this is by increasing crops that are profitable and strengthen land usage. The investment needs to continue throughout education and social growth. Education can grow by giving equal opportunity to all, especially in an impoverished country such as Vietnam.

Programs like “Save the Children” and “Child Survival Project,” have a single mission: to help children’s environment and education grow exponentially. They also provide health education and care to children in need through school health programs, according to their website. They’ve protected 27,495 children from harm, supported 60,574 children in times of crisis, and have given over eight million children a healthy start in life, according to their website.

For agriculture, The Asia Foundation helps develop Vietnam’s environment by having community-based environmental management, increased capacity of environmental agencies and NGOs, public consultation and advocacy on environmental laws and policies, youth education, and disaster risk management, according to their website. The Asia Foundation has supported laws and policies like the “Tourism and Law on Environment Protection” in 2005 and the “Law on Environmental Protection Tax” in 2010. The “Law on Environmental Protection Tax” was used to redirect public funds toward environmental issues. A case study was done by “Willenbockel of the Institute of Development Studies” projects that CO2 emissions will drop by 2.3-7.5%, depending on the tax rate. The Asia Foundation is supporting the Ministry of Education to help integrate environmental studies into school activities at 10 primary schools in Hanoi, said to reach 6,000 students, according to their website.

With these steps laid out, Carolyn Tuck as the new World Bank Director can lead Vietnam to new economic grounds never seen before and hit high-income statues by 2045.

– Grant Ritchey
Photo: Flickr

Education in Vietnam
Since the late 1980s, Vietnam has taken various steps to make good on its constitutional promises of free, quality education for all. However, there is still much work to be done for the southeast Asian country to ensure that every citizen has an opportunity to earn a quality education. These seven facts demonstrate the challenges and improvements made in regards to education in Vietnam.

7 Facts About Education in Vietnam

  1. In recent years, the Vietnamese government prioritized quality education nationwide. According to UNESCO, in 2010, the government spent 19.8 percent of its state budget on education alone. This number is significantly higher than the 13.7 percent spent on education across all of East Asia. However, Mitsue Uemura, chief of UNICEF Vietnam’s education section, calls for the government to ensure they are spending their education budget in the most efficient ways possible in order to reach the most vulnerable.
  2. About 95 percent of Vietnamese children are enrolled in primary school by the age of six. However, only 88.2 percent of those children complete their primary education. Historically, primary schools would often charge parents fees for textbooks, sanitation, traffic guards and even building maintenance. These fees made it near impossible for children in disadvantaged and rural communities to stay enrolled long enough to complete primary school. According to a CIA World Factbook evaluation, in 2001, only two-thirds of children were able to complete the fifth grade due to monetary challenges.
  3. Vietnam is successfully closing the enrollment gap between rural and urban regions. Specifically, the Central Highlands and the Mekong Delta areas increased their net elementary intake of 58 and 80 percent in 2000 to 99 and 94 percent in 2012. In the same 12-year span, the intake rates for lower-secondary education in these areas grew from 69.5 percent to 92 percent.
  4. Despite various challenges, the percentage of children pursuing a secondary education in Vietnam has grown considerably over the years. In the early 1990s, only 1.7 percent of students 15 years of age and older completed at least a junior college education. That number increased to 4.4 percent within two decades.
  5. The number of students enrolled in institutions of higher education in Vietnam, such as universities, colleges and vocational schools, is increasing. In 2015, 2.12 million students were enrolled in these institutions, a large increase when stacked against 133,000 student enrollments in 1987. 
  6. Literacy among young adults in Vietnam is on a steady upswing. In 1989, Vietnam’s literacy rate for students aged 15 and older was 87.2 percent, and by 2015, the literacy rate for the same demographic was 94.5 percent.
  7. In 2012, Vietnam participated in the Program for International Student Assessment (PISA) for the first time. The results demonstrated that education in Vietnam has a strong focus on instilling basic cognitive skills in its students, such as numeracy and literacy. Vietnamese students not only performed with the same success as countries like Austria and Germany, but they also outperformed two-thirds of the other countries who participated in PISA that year, ranking 17th out 65 countries. 

Educational reform, closing enrollment gaps, active teaching practices and the like have played major roles in the evolution of Vietnam’s education system over the last two decades. While there is still work to be done, Vietnam has taken large steps in recent years to prove its willingness to make quality education for all a top priority. 

– Ashlyn Jensen
Photo: Flickr

rice farmer povertyRice is a universal food staple, featured in dishes from across the globe, feeding the rich and poor alike. It has the second-largest cereal market in the world, only second to corn. Over 470 million tons of rice were harvested in 2017, and that number continues to grow, with a harvest of 495.9 million tons predicted for the 2019 season.

Despite the massive rice market, many rice farmers live in poverty. Nine hundred million of the world’s poor depend on rice either as a consumer or producer, with 400 million directly engaged with growing rice. The majority of these farmers are based in Asia, the heart of the global rice market.

Technological Improvements Reduce Rice Farmer Poverty

The rice crop is notoriously demanding on the environment, requiring an immense volume of water, especially when grown at high intensity. Rice farming consumes over half the freshwater in Asia. Much of the focus on improving rice production lies in reducing the amount of water used. Organizations, such as the CGIAR Research Program, have advocated the use of alternate planting systems, such as the Alternate Wetting and Drying system (AWD), which can reduce water consumption by up to 30 percent.

Greater water efficiency means greater productivity for farmers. Production costs are lower, so farmers profit more from their harvest and can afford to sell their crop for less, allowing those in deep poverty to afford rice. AWD has been shown to increase farmer income by 38 percent in Bangladesh, 32 percent in the Philippines, and 17 percent in Vietnam.

Not Just Rice

Even in areas with a booming rice market, rice farmer poverty continues. The Greater Mekong Subregion (GMS) spans six Asian countries, including China and Vietnam, and accounts for 44 percent of global rice exports. The six countries, save China, of these nations are net producers—they produce and export more rice than the nation can consume. Despite this, poverty stands at 19 percent across the GMS, and 15 percent of the population is malnourished.

There has been much improvement. GMS-member Cambodia, for example, has undergone a 35 percent decrease in poverty since 2004. However, much of it is unstable. Past expansions in the GMS rice-production have relied on favorable weather conditions, massive increases in farmland, and far-reaching use of fertilizer. These conditions are not favorable for agricultural or economic growth, with increases in land production outpacing that of productivity, 8.7 percent to 3.4 percent between 2004 and 2012.

The GMS and other rice-producing regions are now changing policy to focus on diversifying crops. The International Rice Research Institute (IRRI) encourages farmers to convert rice-rice and rice-wheat plants to rice-maize plants, which will allow farmers to optimize their resources, widen their range of income inputs, and reduce the risk of crop disease. Studies have shown that planting disease-vulnerable rice crop and disease-resistant crop together results in 89 percent greater yield.

This measure may also be needed in the more distant future. Though rice will always be a world staple, Asian consumers may begin to purchase more vegetables and meat as they grow wealthier, decreasing the world demand for rice.

Genetic Modifications

With rice featuring so heavily in the global diet, rice developers have prioritized the quality of rice grown, both in resilience, and health benefits. The Research Program on Rice and IRRI both work to improve the quality of rice seeds provided to rice farmers. In Africa, AfricaRice has lifted 8 million out of poverty with their improved seed quality.

By using a greater variety of improved seeds, farmers of 16 sub-Saharan countries were able to vastly improve their yields. Forty-five percent of farmers saw themselves lifted out of food insecurity following the 2008 food crisis.

Improvements in agriculture and the betterment of rice farmer poverty go hand in hand, and as one improves, the other will, as well. There’s been significant progress already, with the rice market acting as an escape from food insecurity for millions. There is still much work to be done, but organizations like the IRRI make steady progress to a healthier, wealthier world.

– Katie Hwang
Photo: Flickr

Vitens Evides International
Currently, over 660 million individuals around the world do not have access to clean, potable water. However, the Utretch, Netherlands-based organization Vitens Evides International (VEI) aims to change this. VEI partners with local companies to deliver clean water to individuals in transitioning and developing countries. Their work has already reached the lives of hundreds of thousands of people, as they have entered into productive partnerships with companies in Colombia, Ghana, Kenya, and Mozambique, among others.

Notable Partnerships

Upon entering into a WOP (water-operator partnership) both the local company and VEI get to work implementing technologies and strategies to help improve water quality and accessibility. One of VEI’s most successful partnerships came in 2008, when they partnered with local company SAWACO in Ho Chi Minh City, Vietnam. VEI was able to successfully fix the issue of water system leakage in the city and improve clean water distribution. They were also able to train individuals in the community on how to maintain a functional, efficient water purification and distribution system, ensuring that the work done by this particular WOP had long-lasting impact.

Another notable partnership came in 2015 when VEI worked with FIPAG, a local water supply company in the city of Maputo, Mozambique. Their combined efforts to install new drinking water distribution centers and improve household connections to these centers has helped bring clean, potable water to many people residing in Maputo.

The Statistics

VEI’s yearly statistics are impressive. In 2018, they worked on over 40 projects in 20 different countries and helped over 300,000 individuals gain access to clean water. The number of individuals that have gained access to clean water as a result of VEI’s work has grown in 3 consecutive years; as such, VEI is aiming to help another 350,000 individuals gain access to clean water by 2020. The company has a strong vision and driven leadership at the helm. Given all of this, it seems VEI is set up for future success.

Sustainable Development Goals

VEI’s work helps to achieve UN Sustainable Development Goal #6, which is to ensure all individuals have access to clean water and sanitation. Accomplishing such a goal will help achieve a number of other Sustainable Development Goals (SDG’s) as well; having access to clean water helps to alleviate poverty and promote educational opportunities (SDG’s #1 and #4) as individuals will be able to spend more time working or obtaining an education and less time looking for water. In addition, individuals with access to clean water will be far healthier, which will contribute towards the achievement of SDG #3.

Future Impact

As mentioned above, VEI is looking to continue to make a positive impact on the lives of thousands of people across the developing world. They have recently secured partnerships with companies such as STUCO (Aruba) and WEB (Bonaire), as well as DWASA (Bangladesh). Each of these partnerships promises to contribute to the end goal of providing clean, potable water to everyone around the globe. Such a future may now be closer than ever.

Kiran Matthias
Photo: Flickr

Girls' education in Vietnam

“Girls’ education…is a primary issue in terms of breaking the cycle of poverty,” says Carolyn Miles, the president and CEO of the group Save the Children, and this is especially true of girls’ education in Vietnam. Save the Children works in more than 120 countries to improve the lives of children and young people.

In Lao Cai province, one of the poorest regions in Vietnam, a significant number of girls lack access to basic needs. These needs include clean drinking water, toilets and basic education. Moreover, many women in the province suffer heinous human rights violations and have the highest illiteracy rates in Vietnam. Data show at least half of children 10 years old and older in Vietnam are illiterate. In fact, the illiteracy rates for girls are higher when compared to boys.

In primary school, girls’ education in Vietnam sees a high enrollment rate. However, it also sees a low attendance rate. In addition, many girls ultimately drop out of school. In more rural areas of Vietnam, low attendance rates increase due to lack of transportation. Transportation faces challenges like distance and damaged roads from wars. Furthermore, costs prevent many girls from continuing education in Vietnam. These costs include tuition and fees, plus textbooks, which are not free at secondary and tertiary levels. Instead of sending girls to school, many families more them to work and help the family. As a result, the Vietnamese government has been prioritizing gender equality and strategizing to improve girls’ education in Vietnam.

Making Improvements

The government of Vietnam has shown commitment to prioritizing and promoting gender equality. Nevertheless, the improvement of girls’ education in Vietnam remains a work in progress. To improve this, the Vietnamese government partnered with UNESCO and other developmental organizations. In particular, the Vietnam Ministry of Education and Training worked with UNESCO to establish the Gender Equality and Girls’ Education Initiative in Vietnam under the UNESCO Malala Fund for Girls’ Right to Education.

The Gender Equality and Girls’ Education Initiative in Vietnam gives girls and women a platform in Vietnam to fight for their human rights. For instance, the initiative provides education, raises awareness and teaches leadership training.

As listed on the UNESCO page, the objectives of the initiative are:

  1. “Reinforce gender equality in the Education Sector planning and management to empower girls and women.”

  2. “Enhance the capacity of education officials, teachers and experts to mainstream gender equality in curriculum and teaching practices.”

  3. “Raise awareness of students, parents, community members and the media to support the enabling environment for girls’ and women’s education and gender mainstreaming.”

UNESCO and other development organizations contribute to fostering a supportive environment for girls and women in Vietnam, especially within the educational setting. In Vietnam, UNESCO aims to create a fair environment where males and females both have a future and benefit from an equal-gender system of education.

Fifita Mesui
Photo: Flickr

vietnamese water crisis
Vietnam, a southeastern Asian country whose coastline stretches 12 nautical miles, imminently struggles with providing clean water to those living there. The country has over 2360 rivers and about two-thirds of its population resides near one of Vietnam’s three water basins. Even so, most of this aquatic supply is unusable and undrinkable. The ongoing Vietnamese water crisis is so threatening that it is a focal point of national policy and international concern.

Background

Both government and industrial issues exacerbate the Vietnamese water crisis. Poor regulation coupled with irresponsible handling of waste has led Vietnam’s ponds, lakes, and canals to shortages and contamination.

In March of 2018, the Coalition for Clean Water and the Centre for Environment and Community Research released a report detailing how industry has altered the water quality in Vietnam. The report revealed that about 70 percent of waste released from industrial parks is directly released into the environment. These tainted waters carry dangerous chemicals and cause illnesses.

The World Bank’s estimations concerning the crisis show that it is no diminutive issue. The organization notes that rising threats against Vietnam’s water supply could reduce the nation’s GDP by six percent by the year 2035. Pollution presents itself as the biggest hazard to water basins, which drain into water outlets all over the country. In the most highly polluted areas, wastewater has poisoned the air to the point that it has become odorous and toxic.

Impacts of the Crisis

Those living in rural areas suffer the most from water sanitation issues. Only 39 percent of rural individuals have access to clean water. Furthermore, most of these individuals must use water wells that tap into underground aquifers to compensate for the lack of a clean water source at the surface.

The absence of clean water does not only deprive rural Vietnamese of their basic needs, but it also affects their ability to efficiently participate in the economy. Agricultural production is a precious monetary asset that takes up 80 percent of Vietnam’s water supply. The infrastructure needed to transport clean water to farms is unstable.

The Vietnamese water crisis has created national health issues, as well. The Ministry of Natural Resources and Environment estimates that up to 80 percent of diseases in Vietnam is directly caused by water pollution. Nearly six million citizens have contracted a waterborne illness, the most rampant being cholera, typhoid, dysentery, and malaria.

Impacts on Children

Children are the main concern for the international community as dirty water affects the growth and development of a new generation.

UNICEF reports that more than 9.5 million Vietnamese still release excreta into their surroundings, further contaminating the water supply. Children lack the matured immune system needed to fight off the problems generated by this unhygienic practice, such as diarrhea, pneumonia, and parasitic infection. Diarrhea is responsible for nearly 10 percent of the deaths of children under the age of five.

USAID Intervention in the Ha Lam Commune

USAID has routinely provided donations and grants to the Vietnamese government to solve humanitarian issues. A recent project launched on March 30, 2019, is aimed at assuaging the problems perpetrated by water pollution.

The project, called the Vietnam Local Works for Environmental Health, focuses on the Ha Lam commune in the Thanh Hoa province. Small scale water supply systems are currently being entrenched in the region to provide clean water to kindergarten, primary, and secondary schools. The new infrastructure is estimated to benefit over 20,000 individuals living in this northern province.

The Ha Lam commune, however, is not the only area where children are at risk. Education institutions in other parts of Vietnam are also in need of effective water supply systems, as more than 80 percent of schools around the nation lack fully operating water sanitation facilities.

Looking Ahead

Due to the awareness and concentration on the Vietnamese water crisis, it is possible that this problem will soon be overcome. By 2025, the Vietnamese government hopes to attain the clean water standards needed to revive an unhealthy public and a feeble economic production. Specifically, the government has launched a national plan directed at hindering the open defecation that so commonly contaminates the country’s water supply.

With six years to go until Vietnam’s standard is hopefully achieved, it is imperative that this issue remain persistent in the global mind. The government and participating groups must remain resilient through the growing population and industry in Vietnam that work to destabilize existing plans. Clean water is required if the human and environmental body is to exist comfortably.

Annie O’Connell
Photo: Flickr

Minorities
In countries all around the world, rates of poverty among minorities are distressingly high. There are many different types of minorities: racial and ethnic, national and linguistic, cultural and tribal, political and religious, gender and sexual. There are immigrants and refugees. People with disabilities and mental health disorders.

Poverty, unemployment and incarceration rates are typically much higher among these populations than among majorities. Physical and mental health is poorer. Educational attainment is lower.

Examples of Poverty Among Minorites

  1. Ethnic minorities account for only 15 percent of Vietnam’s population, but 70 percent of the population living in extreme poverty. There are great discrepancies in educational attainment as well: 18.8 percent of ethnic majorities have completed university or upper-secondary education, compared to 8.5 percent of ethnic minorities.
  2. In the United States, Latinos and Hispanics are incarcerated at 1.4 times the rate of white Americans, and African Americans at an average of 5.1 times white Americans. Though the unemployment rates for Hispanics and blacks have been declining since 2010, they are still higher than that of white Americans: the unemployment rate of blacks is nearly double that of whites.
  3. LGBT+ individuals are severely persecuted in many nations. In Turkey, 78 percent of people say that society should not accept homosexuality. Same-sex marriage is unrecognized, same-sex adoptions are prohibited and LGBT+ individuals face severe discrimination in obtaining employment and housing. Violence against these people is widespread and often goes unpunished.
  4. Indigenous people are among the most discriminated-against people in the world, and many populations experience high rates of poverty and health problems. For example, the diabetes prevalence rate among the Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islanders, indigenous people in Australia, is six times that of the national average. The suicide rates among the Inuit in Canada is 11 times the national average and one of the highest in the world.
  5. In many countries where a vast majority of the population belongs to a certain religion, those who practice a different faith experience strong discrimination and high rates of poverty. In Nepal, the poverty rate among Muslims, a minority in the mainly Hindu country (approximately 81 percent of Nepali are Hindu) is 41 percent, about 10 percent higher than the national average. In Bangladesh, where 89 percent of the population is Muslim, Hindus face serious barriers in obtaining education and employment and are often subject to displacement and arbitrary seizure of their property.

High Rates of Poverty Among Minorities

Why do these disparities in poverty, prison, education and employment exist? Why do minorities tend to have poorer health and experience more violence? Prejudice, discrimination, social exclusion and marginalization are major factors.

Institutional discrimination in governments, corporations and education systems, exists in countries around the world. This discrimination breeds inequality, and inequality restricts people’s ability to obtain jobs and education, to access housing and healthcare, or to enjoy judicial and legal protections.

Sociological and psychological research has demonstrated that discrimination and social exclusion can contribute to poor mental and physical health, which impact an individual’s ability to work and earn an income. All of these factors contribute to the high levels of poverty among minorities.

How We Can Solve this Problem

Eliminating institutional discrimination and individual prejudices can reduce poverty among minorities. Though not an easy task, it is vital to the pursuit of a world without poverty. Governments, educational institutions, corporations and the media, which often use prejudicial rhetoric and discriminatory practices, must be held to a higher standard.

Education should highlight instead of hiding the discrimination that exists around the world. It should teach the importance of human rights and promote equality and respect of others.

Various social movements and nonprofit organizations attempt to do this. They strive to raise awareness of discrimination and inequality and eliminate these from society. The Black Lives Matter, MeToo, Sanctuary Campus, feminist and LGBT+ movements serve as examples. The Human Rights Campaign, Equal Rights Advocates, Race Forward and Global Rights are just a few of the many organizations that fight for equality for different minorities.

All of these movements and organizations and the many others that exist are crucial to the elimination of discrimination as well as reduction of global poverty. And so are individuals.

Individuals have a prominent role to play in the fight for equality. Every person has the ability to make a difference. You can help reduce poverty among minorities by supporting movements and organizations that advocate for minorities. You can speak up when you see discriminatory actions or hear prejudicial remarks. As Nelson Mandela said, “as long as poverty, injustice and gross inequality persist in our world, none of us can truly rest”.

Laura Turner

Photo: Flickr

Help People in VietnamSince the days of the Vietnam war, Vietnam’s people and economy have seen tremendous improvement. This is in large part thanks to Doi Moi, a sweeping economic reform which began in 1986 and turned Vietnam’s economy into a market-driven one – rather than the tightly state-controlled economy that existed there before. While the country’s wealth saw a drastic improvement, as did the poverty rate, income inequality is prevalent in the country, meaning that many people still live in poverty. Here are five ways to help correct this inequality and help people in Vietnam:

  1. Support education. Ensuring that poor children have a chance at a good education is essential in any country that wishes to see the cycle of poverty broken. In Vietnam, quality education for children can be supported in two ways: by sponsoring a child individually or by donating money to organizations committed to improving education in Vietnam. The Children of Vietnam is one such organization, providing direct educational, nutritional, medical and housing assistance to children and families in need.
  2. Invest in the country’s infrastructure. Infrastructure work not only creates thousands of jobs in and of itself, but also provides people living in rural areas with access to transportation, communication, electricity and clean water. In some areas, building a single road or bridge would make a huge difference in the quality of life.
  3. Help provide access to microfinance. Any poor person in Vietnam who hopes to start or grow a small business will need a loan to begin work. Yet, access to these types of loans is scarce and unreliable, and most people in Vietnam are forced to take private loans from their friends and family. To help people in Vietnam improve their livelihood, it is essential to make these loans more widely available. Currently, the Vietnam Bank for Agriculture and Rural Development, the People’s Credit Fund System and the Bank for Social Policies are all working to make these loans more accessible for poor people trying to better their lives.
  4. Support healthcare. As the best healthcare tends to be concentrated in large cities, rural citizens are often left with low quality care or no care at all. The East Meets West Foundation (a nonprofit in which U.S. residents partner with citizens of Vietnam) hopes to change this, providing low-income families with clean water, education and medical care.
  5. Demand government transparency. Unfortunately, both the government and charitable organizations in Vietnam have, throughout the years, been extremely susceptible to corruption which more often than not results in poor people losing out. Funds promised to the poor are embezzled or mismanaged, and charities promising food and other products cut costs, meaning that they receive low quality items. To truly make Vietnam’s poor a priority, the country and its organizations must become more accountable.

Though Vietnam’s economy has improved greatly in a relatively short amount of time, many of its poorest citizens are left in the dust. And while there are many small things to do to help people in Vietnam, these being just a few of them, it will take the country actively deciding to make its own impoverished people a priority for real change to occur.

Audrey Palzkill

Photo: Flickr

Causes of Poverty in Vietnam
Based on the swift drop in Vietnam’s poverty rate from 20.7% to 13.5% between 2010 and 2014, it is clear that conditions in the nation are improving. However, issues such as ethnic discrimination, a lacking education system, deteriorating infrastructure and a weak domestic private sector in the economy threaten its growth and stand as the remaining causes of poverty in Vietnam.

While statistics describing poverty throughout the Vietnamese population seem optimistic, they do not account for the fact that over half of the population among ethnic minorities continue to live below the poverty line of $2 a day. Individuals from ethnic minority backgrounds are continually isolated, geographically and socially. Their historically limited access to opportunities has created a cycle the country is working to break.

To address these inequalities, the government of Vietnam instituted a ministry known as CEMA (the Committee for Ethnic Minority and Mountainous Area Affairs) and is working to increase education and social opportunities for this population.

With Vietnam having emerged as a lower middle-income country in 2010, all eyes are turned to its economy. Historically, almost all of Vietnam’s production has been handled by its government, weakening its private sector. Even still, in 2016, it was ranked 98 out of 189 countries in the ease of doing business index. Experts from the World Bank argue that a richer domestic private sector could be the final push the country’s economy needs to eliminate poverty.

Failing infrastructure remains one of the large causes of poverty in Vietnam, and many other countries. Although immense efforts were made in the late nineties to bring electricity to its people, Vietnam’s infrastructure systems for energy, water, sanitation and telecommunication are far from where they need to be.

Without an efficient and reliable infrastructure, the private sector cannot grow, as individuals are unable to reach the marketplace. Furthermore, until the water system and roadways improve, education cannot flourish, as students are unable to attend school.

The country’s SEDS (Socio-Economic Development Strategy) for 2016-2020 acknowledges the biased education system, struggling market institutions and stagnant infrastructure development as causes of poverty in Vietnam and articulates the need to accelerate progress. This acknowledgment is a clear step forward in the nation’s fight against poverty.

Emily Trosclair

Photo: Flickr

Human Rights in Vietnam
Lack of human rights in Vietnam remains a major issue. Citizens proceed to fight for their oppressed freedoms of speech and assembly, while harsh police brutality and imprisonment for activists and bloggers continues.

Authorities within The Communist Party of Vietnam continue to restrict basic rights, as bloggers and activists face frequent physical assaults and trial charges. According to the Human Rights Watch, during 2016, at least 34 people reported that unknown assailants beat them. Nguyen Chi Tuyen, a 43-year-old dissident blogger from Hanoi, wasn’t able to identify his attackers. However, he stated with complete certainty, “We know they were organized by the [country’s] security forces.”

The number of bloggers and activists convicted and sentenced to prison has risen from 7 to at least 19 within the past year. Consequently, it is clear that many human rights in Vietnam, such as freedom of speech and assembly, have been seized by the government.

Many of the bloggers on trial were accused of “abusing rights to freedom and democracy to infringe upon the interests of the state.” The judge who ordered their conviction also stated that their articles “present a one-sided and pessimistic view, causing anxiety and worry, and affecting people’s confidence [in the Communist Party].”

Despite the government’s accusations during these trials, many citizens argue that they have a hidden agenda working to withhold human rights in Vietnam. Governmental restrictions on freedom of movement are often used to keep bloggers and activists from attending public events, such as protests or human rights discussions.

Prominent rights campaigner Nguyen Quang A and blogger Pham Doan Trang were strategically detained by the government to prevent them from attending a private meeting with President Barack Obama during his visit to Vietnam. In reference to Nguyen Quang A, the Human Rights Watch reports that “between late March and early August 2016, police detained him six times to prevent him from meeting with foreign diplomats and delegations including Germany, the United States, the European Union and Australia.”

Commenting on the lack of U.N. assistance, Nguyen Anh Tuan, a 27-year-old Hanoi activist, stated, “I would say that the U.N. in Vietnam is very active when it comes to the less sensitive issues, for example, HIV prevention, but when it comes to political rights, for example, freedom of expressions, freedom of assembly, freedom of association, they are less active.”

As forceful government intervention continues to keep citizens from their basic human rights in Vietnam, it is important that their struggle for justice does not go unnoticed and more drastic interference is taken on the part of the United Nations.

Kendra Richardson

Photo: Flickr