Vietnam with an area four times the size of Ireland has a population of over 88 million. Despite the impressive progress it made in the past two decades, significant numbers of people, particularly those from ethnic minority groups, continue to live in poverty. Through our support, local government is better able to understand and respond to the particular needs of poor ethnic communities as well as people with disabilities. Importantly, poor men and women living in these communities are getting opportunities to have a say in decisions that affect them and policies at national level are increasingly responsive to their needs.
Vietnam at a glance
Proportion of population living on less than $1.25 a day:
Ranking on UN Human Development Index:
121 of 187
Partner Country since:
Ireland and Vietnam
Since we opened our Embassy in Vietnam in 2005 and established our official aid programme, Irish Aid has worked with a variety of partner organisations including government institutions, UN agencies, international and national research institutions, mass organisations and cicil society organisations to deliver on our development objectives.
We have set out these objectives in our Vietnam Country Strategy Paper 2011 - 2015 (PDF), which supports the Government’s Socio-Economic Development Plan 2011 - 2015. This strategy will be extended for one year to the end of 2016; a new mulityear strategy will be in place from 2017.
In addition to our programme activities in Vietnam, we support a samll number of projects in the neighbouring accredited countries of Laos PDR and Cambodia a Regional Programme in Vietnam, Cambodia and Laos PDR focusing on unexploded ordnance in highly contaminated areas. A modest bilateral programme of assistance for Myanmar/Burma was also approved in late 2013 and is managed from our Embassy in Hanoi.
Other assistance through our aid programme supports the work of local and international aid agencies in Vietnam through our civil society funding schemes for work on disability and livelihood support for people living with HIV, participatory planning and organisations that support micro-enterprises.
We have a strong focus on improving trade relations between Ireland and Vietnam and we support strengthening the capacity of central government, research agencies and the private sector in economic management. We also seek to promote research and learning partnerships between higher education institutions in Ireland and Vietnam
Over its history, Vietnam has been occupied by external powers, most recently China, France, Japan and the United States. The country was reunified under the rule of the Communist Party of Vietnam in 1975, shortly after US military withdrawal. It remained isolated and largely closed to the outside world, having been subject to international sanctions, until the early 1990s.
Vietnam is a one-party state, ruled by the Communist Party of Vietnam. In 1986, the National Party Congress opened up the economy to foreign investment and has committed to bringing about national economic reform, as well as reducing poverty through its Socio Economic Development Plan. Vietnam joined the World Trade Organisation (WTO) in 2007, thus integrating Vietnam into global trade systems. Vietnam is currently in negotiations with the European Union to formulate a Free Trade Agreement with the EU. The country’s financial and administrative systems have sought to modernise in order to be able to address the challenges of growth and integration into the global economy.
The 2011-2015 period is being defined by Vietnam’s emergence as a lower middle income country, as well as by rapid demographic changes. The country’s priorities during this time include investing in education, skills and healthcare and building strong and effective public institutions.
Thanks to a stable political environment and reduced rate of inflation, economic growth has remained relatively high in recent years in Vietnam and is estimated to be 6.0% in 2014. Agriculture currently accounts for 17.6% of GDP, 30% of exports and 60% of employment. The majority of the rural population makes its living by growing and selling crops (rice accounts for 45% of agricultural production), raising and selling livestock and fish and from forestry products. Industry accounts for 38.4% of GDP and the services sector accounts for 43.9%. Vietnam’s biggest exports in 2013 were smart phones, replacing garments as Vietnam’s major export.
The average income per year in Vietnam has increased from US$635 per person in 2005 to an estimated UD$1,960 in 2013. . However, compared to some of its neighbours, Vietnam remains a relatively poor country with only a third of the average income of China or Thailand.
Vietnam is ranked 127th out of 187 countries on the United Nations’ Human Development Index (Ireland is currently ranked seventh). It is on track to meeting nearly all the Millennium Development Goals (MDGs) by 2015. It has already achieved MDG 1 – to halve poverty by 2015. In the past 15 years over 34 million people have been moved out of poverty. However an estimated 12 million people are still living in poverty, the majority from Vietnam’s 53 ethnic minority groups, with most living in rural and remote mountainous areas. The poor are most vulnerable to economic shocks, in particular, high inflation.
Of the five million Vietnamese living with a disability, over 70% live in poverty. Two thirds of people with disabilities are of working age but fewer than 3% have undergone any vocational training and few are in formal employment.
Significant government resources are invested in health and education and in initiatives designed to tackle poverty in remote regions. While Vietnam is working towards a social welfare system and access to benefits has increased, still only one million people, just over 1% of the population, are receiving regular social assistance.
Irish Aid’s Vietnam Country Strategy Paper (PDF) sets out how we respond to the changing development environment in Vietnam.
Over the five-year period of the Vietnam Country Strategy 2011-2015, we have been providing in the region of €55 million in support. We spent in excess of 13million in support of our development programmes in 2015 (see Summary of Partner Country Expenditure by Sector) – Annex 9 Irish Aid Annual Report 2015
In Vietnam, we support the implementation of the Government’s Socio-Economic Development Plan by focusing on increasing inclusion and encouraging innovation. We do this by working with a variety of partners at national and local level including government, mass organisations, UN agencies, international research institutions and non-governmental organisations in a number of key areas.
Responding better to needs of poor people at commune level
This programme will ultimately result in the delivery of better-quality services for one million poor households from ethnic minorities. It is improving the skills of government staff working with ethnic minority communities at commune level -the lowest level of government in Vietnam. The idea is that more decisions are made and more money is being managed at local level in response to the needs of communities.
Community groups, businesses and non-government organisations are also involved in the design and implementation of these new initiatives, which are being piloted with the participation and involvement of local communities.
Helping shape national polices that benefit the poorest
It is recognised that the large-scale national poverty reduction programmes that have worked so well over the past twenty years do not adequately target the specific needs of poor people, particularly those from ethic minority areas and people living with disabilities.
Better knowledge and understanding of the particular needs of these communities is needed if policies and programmes are to be successful in reducing poverty. Therefore, we are supporting research that documents the experiences, opinions and realities faced by poor people and communities.
We are working closely with national and provincial governments to make sure that the evidence generated through the research is available and used to improve the design of existing policies to reduce poverty and to develop new strategies that will target initiatives and resources in ways that benefit the poorest.
We do this though our contribution to the National Targeted Programme for Sustainable Poverty Reduction, which operates at central level and in eight provinces.
Sharing experience and skills from Ireland
In response to strong interest and demand from our Vietnamese Government partners, we are contributing to critical analysis and public debate in Vietnam using Ireland’s own experience in economic management and independent studies from national research bodies.
Through the Irish Development Experience and Sharing (IDEAS) initiative, we are facilitating the exchange of ideas between Vietnamese officials and their Irish counterparts in areas such as banking regulation and economic management.
The programme has been running since 2009. Visits to Ireland and Vietnam by officials on both sides allow for an exchange of knowledge and experience in macroeconomic governance. Lessons learnt from the Irish economic experience are also shared through workshops, conferences, scholarships and an entrepreneurship training component.
At national level, Vietnam has made progress in these areas:
- Poverty rate of the 64 poorest districts in Vietnam reduced from 58.3% of people living in poverty in 2010 to 33.2 in 2014.
- Life expectancy has risen from 70 years in 2005 to 75.4 years in 2012.
- Maternal mortality declined by two-thirds between 1990 and 2009.
- The National stunting rate of children under 5 reduced by 8% between 2007 and 2013.
- The rate of children under 5 who are underweight reduced from 21.2% in 2007 to 16.2% in 2013.
How we have helped
Irish Aid has played its part in the progress made by Vietnam by:
- 115 hectares of land cleared with 2,243 mine items destroyed, benefiting 23,982 people in Cambodia.
- Food security improved for 252,000 rural households in Myanmar.
- 70 community infrastructure projects completed to improve essential services to the poorest ethnic minority in Vietnam.
- In 2014 Irish Aid funds contributed to the destruction of 2,681 unexploded ordanance releasing 291,366 m2 of land to communities from farming and business activities.
- In 2014, Ireland provided support for small scale infrastructure projects including 67 construction schemes for irrigation dams, small bridges and water reservoirs.
- Awarding,in 2014, twenty-five scholarships to skilled Vietnamese graduates to UCD to pursue postgraduate studies in banking, finance and business administration. A further six scholarships were awarded to Vietnamese candidates for higher level courses in technical and development areas in other Univetsities in Ireland.
- A number of new nutrition programmes were initated in 2013 and targeted on ethnic minority groups in remote areas which have begun to show potential to scale up to larger programmes.
- In 2014, 2,682 people with disabilities have secure employment and improved livelihoods as a result of the Civil Society programme from 2011 to 2014. 119 companies/organisations recruited people with disabilities with support from Irish Aid from 2011 to 2014. A further 979 people with disabilities received vocational training during this 4 year period.