National Assembly to Play Greater Oversight Role on Sustainable Development
Ha Noi - At the Round Table on Sustainable Development opened today in Ha Noi, the National Assembly (NA) focused on steps to improve people’s lives in a sustainable manner and sought to play a greater oversight role over polices concerning sustainable development in Viet Nam.
Entitled “Promote of Viet Nam’s Agenda 21 and Raise the NA’s Oversight Role in Sustainable Development”, the Round Table was organized by the NA’s Committee on Science, Technology and Environment and the Ministry of Planning and Investment (MPI). This initiative is part of the project “Formulation and Implementation of Viet Nam’s Agenda 21”, supported by the UN Development Programme (UNDP), Denmark and Sweden.
This high-level meeting brought together parliamentarians from several NA’s Committees and Councils, and from provinces, as well as policy-makers from the Communist Party and different ministries and agencies.
Speaking at the opening session, Mr Ho Duc Viet, Chairman of the NA’s Committee on Science, Technology and Environment, asked the participants to discuss how best to further sustainable development through addressing institutional and legal issues. He then asked if the NA should discuss these matters further and issue resolutions on sustainable development.
Viet Nam’s draft Sustainable Development Strategy, known as the National Agenda 21, is under review by the Government for approval. This strategy reaffirms the commitment of Viet Nam to address sustainable development concerns, first voiced at the Rio Earth Summit more than a decade ago.
“The Viet Nam’s Agenda 21 marks a milestone in the country’s articulation of its development vision”, said Jordan Ryan, UNDP Resident Representative. “The strategy clearly identifies development priorities for the coming decade and how to achieve sustainable development by integrating economic growth, poverty reduction and environmental protection.”
Since the Rio Summit, sustainable development has gained more popularity in Viet Nam and is now a central viewpoint of the country’s leaders as confirmed in the 10 Year Socio-Economic Development Strategy. The ninth Party Congress stressed in its Resolution: “Development must be rapid, efficient and sustainable. Economic growth must go hand in hand with progress, social equity and environmental protection.”
Ministries have incorporated environmental concerns and a sustainable development approach into their development strategies. Examples of these include: the draft Agenda 21 prepared by MPI, the draft National Natural Disaster Management Strategy developed by the Ministry of Agriculture and Rural Development, and the Environmental Education Programme within the 2002 National Education Programme prepared by the Ministry of Education and Training.
In spite of recent progress made on access to clean water and reforestation, the challenges to sustainable development are great. Dr. Le Minh Duc from MPI admitted that keeping the balance between investment for economic growth and environmental protection is still a significant challenge at provincial level.
Professor Le Quy An, chairman of Viet Nam Conservation of Nature and Environment, stressed the lack of broad participation of people and monitoring of investment projects, especially at local level, that affect their life. Mr. Ryan agreed: “Our work has produced clear evidence that in communities where people, particularly women, are able to come together to protect local ecosystems such as fisheries and forests they also have better schools, healthcare and economic prospects.”
According to the recent UN report “Closing the Millennium Gaps”, despite economic growth rates averaging 7.5 percent, there’s a widening gap between rich and poor, urban and rural people. Increases in population and urbanisation are putting more pressure on the ability to protect the environment. Half the native forests have already been lost. There are more than 850 species on the endangered list. Generally, air in almost all cities and industrial areas throughout the country is severely polluted.
Mr. Ryan noted: “If Viet Nam does not successfully arrest and reverse these problems, the country will not be able to meet the eight Millennium Development Goals (MDGs), particularly the overarching goal of halving extreme poverty by 2015.”
Participants urged the NA’s members help institutionalize sustainable development by adopting the Agenda 21. MPs were also called upon to strengthen their oversight role on the implementation of sustainable development policies at national and local level. Participants said an effective monitoring and reporting system will be needed to help the NA to assess the progress and make timely and informed decisions.
In recent years, the National Assembly, Viet Nam’s highest representative body, has become more involved in the environment management, and has directly monitoring the implementation of the Environmental Protection Law in connection with large development projects, such as the Son La Hydro-Power Plan.
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