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Viet Nam at a Glance

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mekong_delta_boats
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
      Hanoi_urban
      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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      The Secretary-General's Message on World Day Against Trafficking In Persons

       

      30 July 2015 - Around the world, criminals are selling people for profit.  Vulnerable women and girls form the majority of human trafficking victims, including those driven into degrading sexual exploitation.

      Trafficked persons are often tricked into servitude with the false promise of a well-paid job. Migrants crossing deadly seas and burning deserts to escape conflict, poverty and persecution are also at risk of being trafficked.  Individuals can find themselves alone in a foreign land where they have been stripped of their passports, forced into debt and exploited for labour.  Children and young people can find their lives stolen, their education blocked and their dreams dashed. It is an assault on their most basic human rights and fundamental freedoms.


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      The Secretary-General's Message on World Youth Skills Day

       

      15 July 2015 - I welcome this first-ever commemoration of World Youth Skills Day.  On July 15th each year, the international community will underscore the value of helping young people to upgrade their own abilities to contribute to our common future.

      While overall more young people have greater educational opportunities than in the past, there are still some 75 million adolescents who are out of school, denied the quality education they deserve and unable to acquire the skills they need.

      We may see an understandably frustrated youth population – but that picture is incomplete.  With the right skills, these young people are exactly the force we need to drive progress across the global agenda and build more inclusive and vibrant societies.


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      The Secretary-General's Message on World Population Day


      11 July 2015
      - Not since the end of the Second World War have so many people been forced from their homes across the planet. With nearly 60 million individuals having fled conflict or disaster, women and adolescent girls are particularly vulnerable.  Violent extremists and armed groups are committing terrible abuses that result in trauma, unintended pregnancy and infection with HIV and other diseases.  Shame and accountability rest squarely on the shoulders of the perpetrators who wage cowardly battles across the bodies of innocents.


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      The Secretary-General’s Message on the International Day against Drug Abuse and Illegal Trafficking

       

      26 June 2015 - In September, leaders from around the world will meet at the United Nations to adopt an ambitious new sustainable development agenda to eradicate extreme poverty and provide a life of dignity for all.  This ambition, while achievable, must address various obstacles, including the deadly harm to communities and individuals caused by drug trafficking and drug abuse.

      Our shared response to this challenge is founded on the international drug control conventions.  In full compliance with human rights standards and norms, the United Nations advocates a careful re-balancing of the international policy on controlled drugs.  We must consider alternatives to criminalization and incarceration of people who use drugs and focus criminal justice efforts on those involved in supply.  We should increase the focus on public health, prevention, treatment and care, as well as on economic, social and cultural strategies.  


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      The Secretary-General’s Message on the International Day of Yoga

       

      21 June 2015 - During a visit to India this year, I had the opportunity to practice yoga with one of my senior advisors.  Although he happened to be a son of the country, I might equally have done the same with many other colleagues from different parts of the world.  Yoga is an ancient discipline from a traditional setting that has grown in popularity to be enjoyed by practitioners in every region.  By proclaiming 21 June as the International Day of Yoga, the General Assembly has recognized the holistic benefits of this timeless practice and its inherent compatibility with the principles and values of the United Nations.

      Yoga offers a simple, accessible and inclusive means to promote physical and spiritual health and well-being.  It promotes respect for one’s fellow human beings and for the planet we share.  And yoga does not discriminate; to varying degrees, all people can practice, regardless of their relative strength, age or ability.