Our Perspective

Making every voice count

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Photo: ©Shutterstock/UNDP Viet Nam

A few weeks ago I was fascinated to learn that local authorities in Da Nang have harnessed the power of social media to make their coastal city cleaner, greener, and more beautiful. People can go online to report a broken lamppost, flooded street or an illegal landfill. By helping to prioritize and direct the authority’s response, it has quickly become a success story for other cities and provinces to learn from. Ten years ago, responsive governance like this would have been almost unthinkable in Viet Nam. However, as incomes and aspirations have continued to rise, the relationship between government and their people has been transformed. As other countries have found, the more prosperous and educated citizens are, the more they expect governments to be accountable and responsive.   That is why we embarked on a journey to help improve communication between local government and its people. In 2009 UNDP Viet Nam and its national partners introduced a pioneering set of metrics to capture people’s experience in the Provincial Governance and Public Administration Performance Index (PAPI). According to the national press, PAPI came as a breath of fresh air to push local administration to reform. By engaging provinces with their results, not only … Read more

In Viet Nam, exposing the inequities of 'normal' gender roles

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The campaign argues that what people in Viet Nam consider ‘normal’ gender roles are actually abnormal. UNDP Viet Nam Photo

Women zip through the streets, carrying kids and groceries on their motorbikes. It’s a common rush-hour scene on the streets of Viet Nam, where after-work routines for many women involve picking up kids, shopping for groceries, cooking, cleaning, and helping kids with homework. Existing stereotypes in Viet Nam confine women and men to certain roles, positions and careers. According to a UNDP report on women’s leadership in Viet Nam, few women achieve senior government positions. In the civil service, women hold very few senior posts: only nine percent among ministers, eight percent of vice ministers, and seven percent at director-general level. The current situation is far from where Viet Nam has stated it wants to be. The National Strategy on Gender Equality sets a target of a minimum 35 percent women’s representation in elected office, but currently the National Assembly is only 24 percent female.   There are gaps in policies and their implementation, and advancement is also restricted due to traditional views on gender norms. These views, held by men and women, are shaped in large part by societal stereotypes. UNDP and UNFPA in Viet Nam recently launched a campaign to place a spotlight on these discriminatory stereotypes and behaviors. … Read more

In Ho Chi Minh City, officials look beyond income to find the poor

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As the country’s most prosperous city, the nature of poverty in Ho Chi Minh City has changed over the past decade, as is the case among many of Viet Nam’s middle income neighbours. Photo: Paul Arps / CC2.0

In January this year, Viet Nam’s prosperous Ho Chi Minh City saw the ranks of its poor lengthen by roughly 100,000 households, pushing its poverty headcount upwards by about 4-5 per cent. Officials at HCMC have taken great pains to ensure a greater number of people are listed as poor. This change not only holds great promise in shaping stronger social welfare systems in Viet Nam, it could change how other Asian megacities tackle deep-seated urban poverty. What the city authorities at HCMC are doing is changing the rules of how they define poverty and who is considered poor. Poverty levels in Ho Chi Minh City have not actually risen. Rather the approach recognizes that poverty is a multi-faceted concept. In addition to those residing below the poverty line, HCMC’s new ‘poverty list’ will now include families who may not be poor in terms of income, but lack minimum levels of access to education, vocational training, health care, employment, proper housing and water. This will qualify them for government-run social welfare programmes that seek to tackle these deprivations. As the country’s most prosperous city, the nature of poverty in Ho Chi Minh City has changed over the past decade, as is … Read more

A step forward for transgender rights in Viet Nam

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On 24 November 2015, a group of people were raising a banner and pink-blue-stripped flag, the symbol of the transgender community, in front of the Viet Nam National Assembly Hall in Ha Noi, where 446 members of the National Assembly were voting on the revised Civil Code with a specific provision on the right of transgender people to gender recognition. And their wait was not in vain. Almost 90 percent of the delegates voted in favour of passing the newly revised code, which made up the majority of the Assembly. That historic decision opened a new chapter for transgender people in the country, who have been fighting for years to have their gender recognized by law. The provision on gender reassignment for transgender people reads: Article 37: Sex change Sex change is regulated by the law. Individuals who have undergone sex change have the right and responsibility to register their new status in accordance with the law on civil status; have the personality rights in line with their new sex in this code and other related laws. Under this provision, those who have undergone a sex change, which remains undefined as of this moment, can modify their gender marker on ID … Read more

'Imagine all the people, living life in peace'

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Sung – a member of the Mong tribe – had given birth to her child at home, with the help of her husband. A month after the delivery, she was back tilling the fields with her baby tied behind her back. UNDP Photo

Can an 18-year-old living in one of the world’s most remote places have a say in how the world is shaped? I met Sung Thi My during a field visit to the mountainous province of Yen Bai, where we were surveying people about the world they want in 2015 and beyond. The UN’s MY World survey is aimed at capturing people’s voices, views and priorities so world leaders can be informed, as they define the next set of global goals. At 18, Sung was already married and had an 18-month-old daughter. She had never gone to school, and had never been to the local health care clinic. Sung – a member of the Mong tribe – told me she had given birth to her child at home, with the help of her husband. This is the way most Mong women give birth, she said.   A month after the delivery, she was back tilling the fields with her baby tied behind her back. What did she want to change in her little corner of the world? For herself, her ask was modest. She said she planned to have two more children and hoped she would be able to stay home longer after … Read more