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Viet Nam at a Glance

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The Mekong River Delta is one of the most highly productive and densely populated regions of Viet Nam

Viet Nam is located in Southeast Asia with a total land area of 329,314 square kilometers and a coast line of approximately 3,200 kilometers. According to the 2009 national census, the total population was estimated at 85.85 million, with women accounting for 50.60% of the total. In Viet Nam, the SRB rose from 106.2 boys per 100 girls in 2000 to 112.3 boys per 100 girls in 2012 and this sharp trend continues to rise. SRB imbalance is largely caused by favouring sons and placing lower values on girls. Viet Nam's average annual population growth rate was 1.2% between 1999 and 2009, down from 1.7% in the previous 10 years.  The urban population now accounts for about 29.6% of the total and between 1999 and 2009 the average annual growth rate of the urban population was 3.4% per year , mainly due to migration. (Viet Nam General Statistics Office 2010, United Nations 2010)

Viet Nam has 64 cities and provinces. Ha Noi in the north is the capital city with the population of approximately 6.45 million people while Ho Chi Minh City in the south is the largest urban area, with a population estimated at 7.16 million. There are an 54 different ethnic groups in the country. (Viet Nam General Statistics Office, 2010)

GDP growth was an estimated 5.3% in 2009, one of the highest rates in the world but lower than past years due to the effects of the global economic crisis.

For more detailed economic, social and environmental information, see the UN Data website and the World Bank's Viet Nam Data and Statistics section.

A Success Story of Economic Growth and Poverty Reduction

Over the last several decades Viet Nam has gone through a period of rapid socio-economic development.  After reunification in 1975, Viet Nam switched its focus to reconstruction and development. However, due to the severe damages caused by many years of war, policy weaknesses and a difficult international environment, Viet Nam’s economy experienced a long period of crisis during the 1970s and 1980s. To overcome these difficulties the Doi Moi (renovation) process was initiated in 1986 with the following main elements:

    • Shifting from a planned centralized economy based on public ownership to a multi-sector economy based on the market;
    • Democratizing social life by building a state on the basis of the rule of law;
    • Strengthening external cooperation with other countries.

      On the back of these reforms Viet Nam has seen rapid economic growth. Since 1990, Viet Nam’s GDP nearly tripled based on an average annual GDP growth rate of 7.5% - up until the global economic crisis in 2008. Growth suffered in 2008 (6.2%) and 2009 (5.3%) and is estimated to remain sluggish in 2010. Nevertheless, The percentage of the population living below the poverty line, estimated at 58% in 1993 has decreased to under 12% in 2009.  Domestic resources for development have increased and international trade and foreign direct investment have dramatically expanded over the past two decades.

      Viet Nam is currently nearing the end of its Socio-economic Development Strategy for 2001 – 2010 and is planning for new the Socio-Economic Development Strategy (SEDS) for 2011 – 2020.   The previous two SEDS (1991-2000 and 2001-2010) have helped Viet Nam advance from a largely poor, agricultural-based economy to a wealthier, market-based and rapidly developing one, increasingly integrated into the regional and global community.   In 2010 it is estimated Viet Nam will enter middle income country status, and the new SEDS aims to establish the foundation for Viet Nam to become a modern, industrialized country by 2020.

      Based on the Millennium Development Goals (MDGs) and the country’s own aspirations, Viet Nam has also established its own 12 development goals (referred to as Viet Nam’s Development Goals or VDGs), which include social and poverty reduction targets. The VDGs reflect the MDGs and at the same time take into account the specific development features of Viet Nam. The VDGs are integrated into the national socio-economic development strategies and are translated into specific targets.

      The Government of Viet Nam has issued many documents to guide the implementation of the MDGs and the VDGs. These include the Comprehensive Poverty Reduction and Growth Strategy (approved in 2002), and the Orientation for a Sustainable Development Strategy (also called Viet Nam’s Agenda 21, issued in 2004). A range of socio-economic programmes has also been launched throughout the country.

      Taken together, these strategies and collective efforts have taken Viet Nam from being one of the poorest in the world only a few decades ago to a rapidly growing middle income country. In general, Viet Nam’s growth record over the past two decades has been largely driven by a combination of steady economic reforms, integration into the world economy and a stable macroeconomic environment.

      Current Challenges
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      Rapid urbanization presents many challenges for management of Viet Nam's citiesAt the same time, major challenges to Viet Nam's development persist, and new ones have emerged in recent years. These include climate change and increasing social and economic disparities.  Economic growth has been associated with an increase in inequality, particularly a widening rural-urban income gap. Poverty rates remain high, particularly among ethnic minorities, which comprise 14 percent of the population and live mainly in these remote upland areas. About 90 percent of the poor live in rural areas. Poverty still affects close to 15 per cent of Vietnamese people, including around 50 per cent of the ethnic minority population.  (UN 2009, GSO 2010).

      Viet Nam is among more than 40 developing countries identified to have done better than expected in human development terms in recent decades, says the 2013 Human Development Report (HDR). According to the global report of the UN Development Programme, Viet Nam’s human development progress has increased by 41 percent in the past two decades. In 2012, Viet Nam ranked 127th out of 187 countries – which is in the ‘medium’ category of human development.

      Viet Nam has made significant achievements in relation to achieving the MDS,  and is on track to achieve most of the targets set by the MDGs by 2015. However, an "unfinished agenda" remains in relation to several of the MDGs including maternal mortality and malnutrition, and water and sanitation.

      Progress at the aggregate level masks significant disparity between different groups and regions in relation to achieving key MDG targets and indicators. For example, infant mortality is significantly higher than average in regions such as the Central Highlands and the north. And as is well known, maternal mortality is much higher in certain regions and among ethnic minority populations while the Maternal Mortality Rate (MMR) is static at the aggregate level.

      Despite advances in reproductive health (RH) and gender equality, significant gaps remain: people living in remote areas lack adequate access to gender-sensitive RH information and services, and large population segments practise unsafe health behaviours. Young women are at high risk from unwanted pregnancies, unsafe abortions and sexually transmitted infections, including HIV. Nationally, the number of people living with HIV (PLHIV) is increasing rapidly. Socio-economic change has contributed to increased internal migration, and since the majority of migrants, particularly women, are of reproductive age, they are especially vulnerable to RH related risks, including HIV.

      While women’s representation in political and managerial positions is improving, women remain under-represented in all levels of administration, especially at provincial and local levels. Much remains to be done in capacity building for better governance; fighting corruption; enhancing the role of the media; and creating an enabling environment for business development. The institutional and legal framework for greater people’s participation and civil society development, accountability and transparency at all levels are not fully in place.

      Viet Nam is also prone to natural disasters, including typhoons, storms, floods, droughts, mudslides, and forest fires, with the poorest people in society the most vulnerable. More than one million people require emergency relief each year. At the same time, climate change models predict that that Viet Nam will be one worst affected countries globally.

      Finally, much remains to be done to implement environmental laws, strategies and global conventions, and improve environmental governance, in order to ensure that fast economic growth will not lead to environmental degradation, greater health risks or rapid depletion of biodiversity and other natural resources.

      Viet Nam’s Development Strategy

      To address these and other related challenges, the development strategy of the country is set out in the various ten-year SEDS approved by the Government and the Communist Party, and the five-year plans and sectoral plans derived from these. The strategy and plans for 2011-2010 are currently being finalized, and have been informed by national consultations conducted through the Party with mass organizations such as the Women’s, Youth and Farmers’ Unions and the Viet Nam Fatherland Front, the UN and other international and national partners. The Millennium Development Goals and other international commitments provide consistent benchmarks against which Viet Nam is able to measure progress.

      The UN has advocated for a balance int he next SEDS between economic goals and targets and human and social development priorities. Looking forward to the next 5-10 years, the UN sees the need to consolidate the gains made to date, in order to ensure sustainable recovery, broad-based and inclusive growth, and greater social inclusion.

      For more information on how the UN works with the Viet Nam Government and other partners to address these issues, see The UN in Viet Nam.

      Spotlight

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      Talking about the One Health mission in Viet Nam with FAO experts

      18/07/2016 - After responding to emergency zoonotic outbreaks, the importance of One Health Approach has been emphasized worldwide in effectively preventing and controlling these diseases. In order to discover more about this approach within the Viet Nam country context, a discussion was held with FAO Viet Nam's Emergency Centre for Transboundary Animal Diseases (ECTAD) core One Health technical staff members (Pawin Padungtod – Senior Technical Coordinator, Nguyen Thuy Hang – One Health Advocacy and Communication Coordinator and Nguyen Phuong Oanh – Operations Officer to talk about their recent One Health assessment mission in Ha Giang and Quang Nam provinces.


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      Launch of UN Economic and Social Survey of Asia and the Pacific 2016

      The Asia-Pacific region's journey towards a successful achievement of the 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development should be driven by broad-based productivity gains and further rebalancing towards domestic and regional demand, says the United Nations Economic and Social Commission for Asia and the Pacific (ESCAP) in its latest flagship publication. The Economic and Social Survey of Asia and the Pacific 2016 underlines that such a strategy will not only underpin revival of robust and resilient economic growth but will also improve the quality of this growth by making it more inclusive and sustainable.


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      Asia-Pacific Regional Conference on Gender and Disaster Risk Reduction in Hanoi, Viet Nam


      In light of the new framework on disaster risk reduction and changing contexts of the post-2015 development agenda, UN Women and Government of Viet Nam, in collaboration with UNISDR and UNDP, and with support from the Government of Japan is organizing an Asia-Pacific Regional Conference on Gender and Disaster Risk Reduction to mark one year of the adaptation of the Sendai Framework. The aim of the regional conference is to provide a forum for Governments, the civil society, the academia and UN agencies and other development partners to discuss how gender equality and women's participation can be integrated into targets, indicators and actions when developing implementation plans at regional, national and local levels.


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      The Secretary-General’s message on International Women’s Day “From The Glass Ceiling To A Carpet Of Shards”

      8 March 2016 - As a boy growing up in post-war Korea, I remember asking about a tradition I observed: women going into labour would leave their shoes at the threshold and then look back in fear. “They are wondering if they will ever step into those shoes again,” my mother explained.

      More than a half-century later, the memory continues to haunt me. In poor parts of the world today, women still risk death in the process of giving life. Maternal mortality is one of many preventable perils. All too often, female babies are subjected to genital mutilation. Girls are attacked on their way to school. Women’s bodies are used as battlefields in wars. Widows are shunned and impoverished.


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      72 hours to make the world better for children with disabilities

      TOM (Tikkun Olam Makers) is an international non-profit organization using design and technology to address neglected problems. The TOM event is an intersection between challenges and technical solutions. Participants with different backgrounds and expertise gather together for a 72-hour “makeathon” and build a product to help someone in need. TOM focuses on inclusive designs with a reasonable price for people with disabilities. In Hebrew, Tikkun Olam means changing the world; and this is TOM’s mission. (See more information about TOM at www.tomglobal.org) Dead

      In 2016, the United States Consulate General in Ho Chi Minh City, the Embassy of the State of Israel, UNICEF, Disability Research and Capacity Development (DRD), FABLAB Saigon, and other partners from academia and the private sector will co-organize the TOM event in Ho Chi Minh City. This is a unique opportunity for children with disabilities and families to present their challenges, as well as share ideas of products that would help to reduce their challenges. Based on these ideas, technical teams will develop innovative solutions during a 72-hour “makeathon” to help children have a better life.