Achieving A Common Language: Development’s Tower of Babel is Crumbling

Apr 24, 2002

HA NOIThe United Nations Development Programme (UNDP) in Viet Nam has recently launched an English - Vietnamese Glossary of Common Development Terms. It will be an important input to ongoing donor discussions on the needs for a common development language.

In his foreword, UNDP Resident Representative, Mr. Jordan Ryan, stated that the glossary is meant to "respond to the urgent need for common terminology in development activities and promote donor harmonization". Development concepts have evolved in meanings in light of changing development practices in the world and many of such concepts are relatively new to Vietnamese counterparts.

This situation has often led to frustrations among international personnel, national counterparts and donor representatives, because of the lack of a common vocabulary for development terms. Hence, the glossary is expected to help improve the effectiveness of their communication.

Result of two and a half years of continuous work by UNDP staff, the glossary contains over 1,500 main entries and nearly 1,000 associated words in English. These are words commonly used by development partners in Viet Nam and elsewhere. All of them are accompanied by Vietnamese equivalents while many are also supported by simple English definitions or examples. It is therefore more than just a simple list of development terms. It is also a means to share development knowledge among users.

In his foreword, Mr. Jordan Ryan also stressed: "Given the extremely rich and evolving nature of development knowledge, the glossary is far from a comprehensive or perfect publication, nor is it intended to be one. Instead, it should be seen as a living reference material which requires regular updating if it is to continue to serve as a useful working tool for Vietnamese and other development practitioners".

The glossary has been posted on the UNDP webpage for easy access by UNDP staff, national counterparts, project consultants as well as all other interested development workers.

Contact informationPublic Information Office, UNDP Viet Nam
Tel: (04) 942 1495 (ext 159) Fax: (04) 942 2267