Speaking points at policy forum on land management in ethnic minority areas

25 Jan 2013

Speaker: United Nations Resident Coordinator Ms. Pratibha Mehta
Date:      25 January 2013
Event:     Policy Forum on Land Management in Ethnic Minority Areas

Mr. K’Sor Phuoc, Chairman of the Ethnic Council of the National Assembly

Mr. Danh Ut, Vice-Chairman of the Ethnic Council of the National Assembly

Mr. Son Phuoc Hoan, Vice-Minister, CEMA

Members of the National Assembly, participants from Government agencies, provinces and ethnic minority groups

Representatives of the development partner community

Ladies and Gentlemen

Let me start by thanking the Ethnic Council of the National Assembly and the Committee for Ethnic Minority Affairs for organizing this policy forum and engaging with national and international partners to support the advancement of ethnic minorities.

The focus of today’s forum is of utmost relevance to most Vietnamese, including ethnic minority groups. Land is the ultimate source of human sustenance. It is vital for food security, shelter, income generation and cultural identity. Land has long been recognized as a key productive asset that can lift people out of poverty and allow them to prosper and grow. This is especially true for ethnic minorities, whose livelihoods are so dependent on agriculture and forestry – and whose progress in the Millennium Development Goals has not been at par with other parts of the country.

The United Nations in Viet Nam therefore welcomes the efforts of the Government and National Assembly to revise the 2003 Land Law as a fundamental instrument of securing inclusive and equitable development in Viet Nam. The revision of the law offers an opportunity to re-think land issues in the context of Viet Nam’s continued people centric socio-economic development. Some of the pivotal issues have been covered in a joint policy brief prepared by development partners in November 2012 and which have been shared widely, including with various Committees of the National Assembly as well as at the Consultative Group meeting in December of last year. The key messages of this brief will also be presented at today’s Forum; they are relevant for land management in Viet Nam as a whole, and for development of ethnic ninority people in particular. Let me briefly highlight a few key considerations building on this work.

Development partners strongly support the Government’s commitment to transparency and public participation as fundamental principles of the new Land Law. Land management choices that are transparent and responsive to the needs of the community serve to promote the State’s own interests. Use of land for public interests rather than economic or commercial purposes is reflected in Viet Nam’s Constitution.

We welcome the Government’s commitment to ensure that people can receive adequate compensation for their land. International best practices suggest that the use of independent land valuation (which was successfully piloted in Ho Chi Minh City) and application of market mechanisms could more effectively determine fair compensation for land recoveries, thereby preventing potential conflicts. Furthermore, in line with the gender equality goal of the Government of Viet Nam, the development partners recommend to retain joint husband and wife name on the land use rights certificate and to strengthen implementation of this.

Ladies and gentlemen:

The focus of today’s forum is specifically on the issue of land and ethnic minorities. The recent research and grassroots consultations on land issues in ethnic minority and mountainous areas came up with the following key findings to be considered in re-thinking the land policies:

Firstly, many ethnic minorities lack access to land, especially fertile land for cultivation. The impact evaluation of Programme 135 Phase II showed that ethnic minority households in the poorest communities in Viet Nam hold on an average only 5% of fertile land, as compared to 30% held by Kinh majority in the same areas. Indeed, Viet Nam has implemented programmes to provide cultivation land to poor landless households; however, research shows that this practice needs to be continued and sustained.

Some solutions that have been recommended in this regard include that planning of land-reliant development projects, such as state agro-farms, mining enterprises and hydro-power plants, carefully considers the socio-economic impact on the affected people. Other measures could include allocating land of inefficient state-owned farms to ethnic minority people, and accelerating the issuance of land use certificates.

Secondly, traditional and customary practices in land use are very important to the livelihoods and spiritual well-being of many ethnic minorities. Customary practices, traditions and indigenous knowledge often offer the most appropriate and sustainable solutions for effective and equitable land management and land-related conflict resolution.

Thirdly, suitable land use policies can support and enhance economic and environmental protection objectives of the regional and local development programsme. This is especially true for Viet Nam’s forests that have long provided home and livelihood to ethnic minority communities. Policies that empower local communities to manage forests in a sustainable manner have been internationally recognized to achieve poverty reduction and conservation goals.

Last but not least, the process of the Land Law revision, formulation and implementation of land policies stand to benefit greatly from the participation of ethnic minority people. It is encouraging to note that the views of ethnic minorities are increasingly being solicited and we hope to hear their perspectives in today’s Forum.

I hope today’s discussion comes up with practical recommendations for land use and management that are sensitive to the needs and aspirations of ethnic minorities. Indeed, land is central to Viet Nam’s continued development, and appropriate land policies can help communities across this country realize their fullest potential and enjoy a life of prosperity, equity and dignity.

I once again thank the Ethnic Council and the Committee for Ethnic Minority Affairs for this opportunity to address a key development issue. As we approach the festive Tet season, I would like to wish all participants happiness, peace and success in the New Year of the Water Snake!

Xin Cam on va Chuc mung nam moi!