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Inequality a threat to goals

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UN officials discuss what the nation can do to achieve the remaining Millennium Development Goals and maintain the five it has reached.

john_hendraJohn Hendra, UN Resident Co-ordinator

I think Viet Nam faces some very specific challenges which have the potential to undermine the achievement of Viet Nam's development goals, including the Millennium Development Goals (MDGs).

First, we are seeing signs of rising inequality in cities like Ha Noi and HCM City, and this is starting to come through in some key indicators, such as measures of income inequality, as well.

A second challenge relates to the quality and affordability of social services such as health and education. The Vietnamese pay very high out of pocket costs for these services compared to other countries in the region. The quality of these services is also a concern and we are seeing better off families going overseas for health care and sending their children to overseas universities as well. As a middle-income country, Viet Nam now needs to focus not only on the availability of services, but ensuring access to quality social services for its entire people.

Viet Nam also faces challenges in consolidating the gains made so far, in particular in the context of the recent economic downturn, which has impacted on food security and driven up food prices, with disproportionate impacts on the poor. Climate change also poses threats to MDG achievement, as natural disasters, together with economic shocks, can have a very immediate impact on those living close to, or just above, the poverty line.

Finally, although governance is not explicitly mentioned in the MDGs, it is fundamental to achieving MDG targets and goals, as recognised in the Millennium Declaration. The draft of Viet Nam's ten year Socio-Economic Development Strategy for 2011 – 20 clearly outlines Viet Nam's commitment to strengthen its governance system and institutions. However, Viet Nam still faces challenges in developing policies which are evidence-based, in implementation and monitoring of policy and legislative frameworks as well as in broader institutional development and public administration reform. These are also critical issues in a rapidly changing environment as Viet Nam is now a middle-income country and will continue to face increasingly complex challenges which require a cross-government, multi-sectoral response, such as climate change.

Eamonn Murphy, UNAIDS Country Director


It will be the result of increased efforts that Viet Nam may reach the goal on HIV/AIDS. Viet Nam is doing a lot now but it will need to do even more to meet goal number six. There are a number of issues that Viet Nam will need to look at. The MDGs, that we often call AIDS plus MDGs, particularly MDG number four (reduce child mortality) and five (improve maternal health), and the link between these should be seen to be done together: prevention of mother-to-child transmission of HIV, access for women to healthcare services that they need during their maternal period, and children do not need to be born with HIV in Viet Nam.

Viet Nam will need to scale up significantly prevention activities to achieve the MDG. Every US$1 invested now in prevention will save US$8 in treatment costs later. This is a significant saving for Viet Nam in the context that the global economic situation means less and less international assistance for development issues, including HIV. In Viet Nam now, 90 per cent of funding for HIV prevention comes from the international community. That is not sustainable.

Viet Nam needs to reprioritise some of its activities. There are a number of activities which are very expensive and provide low impacts. So Viet Nam could reprioritise resources from them to put them into low cost and highly effective activities.

The rate of access to treatment is now 54 per cent. It's a significant increase – three times over the figure it was three years ago. So Viet Nam has made major efforts in trying to achieve this goal.

But we also need to maintain MDG 1 because there are more and more families affected by HIV, which might force some back into poverty.

We need to include civil society. The programme will not be done by the Government alone. The Government needs to draw the resources of private sectors and civil society more widely to deal with this.

A lot of HIV-related issues in Viet Nam are sensitive, such as issues around sex work or drug use. This is actually discouraging people from accessing the very services that they need. They are not brave enough to access social services or healthcare services in Viet Nam because of fear of stigma and discrimination. We really see that in many children living with HIV/AIDS not being able to access education as stipulated by Vietnamese law. We still hear the language of social evils being used. We need to address this and change some of these attitudes... so that we move away from this fear-based approach and achieve a sustainable response.

Suzette Mitchelle, UNIFEM Country Representative


The representation of women at the National Assembly is 25.8 per cent, which is actually one of the highest in the Asian region. But as you go further down, the representation of women is getting lower. Women constitute 16.27 per cent of the total officials in charge at the communal level. So although we can claim that Viet Nam is leading on representation of women at national level, once we go down to communal level, we'll see a very different picture. So there is the need to look at issues not just at national level but to go down to much more lower levels, particularly when you're looking at the decision-making role of women.

 

As reported by Viet Nam News service, 21 September, 2010

 

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