The poor by any other name

24 Jul 2015 by Richard Marshall, Nguyen Bui Linh and Sarah Reed

Making invisible urban poverty visible will be the first step to tackling it, to building more inclusive, sustainable societies. Photo: Christine Zenino [CC BY 2.0]
What urban poverty studies in Viet Nam might tell us about the changing face of Asian poverty   Roughly 54 per cent of the world’s population now lives in cities, with Asia and Africa urbanizing faster than other regions. Urbanization is generally seen as a route to rising prosperity and better living standards. But critical researchers like David Sattherthwaite and Diana Mitlin argue that standard ways of measuring poverty underplays its significant scale.   The risks? Without a complete understanding of the nature and scope of urban poverty, policymakers may fail to prioritize and worse still, lack the tools to tackle it. This, even as more and more people move to cities in search of jobs, better schools for their children, more security and better public services among a laundry list of benefits conflated with life in the cities.   Since 2009, the United Nations Development Programme has worked with Viet Nam’s Ho Chi Minh City authorities  to assess poverty using the Multi-Dimensional Poverty Index (MPI) a lens that is less susceptible to the shortcomings that more traditional yardsticks are riddled with. Developed by the globally-acclaimed poverty gurus Sabina Alkire and James Foster, the MPI allows us to measure the extent and intensity of … Read more

Leaving no one behind and leaving no one out in Viet Nam

17 Oct 2014 by Pratibha Mehta

Vietnam’s fight against poverty is incomplete and it’s running out of steam. Photo: UNDP in Vietnam
Over the last decades Viet Nam has rightly earned a global reputation for rapid and sustained reductions in poverty. The positive trends have been driven by rapid, fairly consistent and high labour intensity economic growth, Viet Nam’s integration within global trade and contributory demographic changes. Yet, all is not so rosy in the garden. Viet Nam’s fight against poverty is incomplete and it’s running out of steam. Economic growth has declined considerably since 2008 and poverty is unevenly distributed - severe deprivation is experienced by particular groups and the Ethnic Minorities especially so.  Major gaps are also evident in other Millennium Development Goal outcomes, like in health and education. I have learned that to understand poverty in Viet Nam one has to look beyond the averages and the sound-bites.  As I’ve travelled around the country, I have had the chance to meet some of those who have been left behind, including young unregistered migrant workers in urban areas, the disabled and elderly and single-headed households. I’ve been struck by their resourcefulness and courage, but too many still struggle against extreme poverty and inequality. And this is in spite of the often genuine efforts of the Government. There are many things to … Read more

In Viet Nam, community homesteads are the new law schools

10 Jul 2014 by Phan Huong Giang

Vulnerable groups have among the lowest rates of access to justice services in Viet Nam. UN Photo.
In the past decade, Viet Nam has achieved impressive economic growth and human development, but it is increasingly evident that justice services have not been able to keep pace with these rapid changes. UNDP justice surveys from recent years suggest that graduates from law school often lack practical knowledge of the realities of millions of ordinary Vietnamese citizens who seek legal services, even when their academic understanding of the law is sound. This not only affects their ability to empathise with and advise their clients on legal issues, it perhaps also accomodates a persistent reality that vulnerable groups-have among the lowest rates of access to justice services in Viet Nam. The problem is two-pronged: on the one hand, literacy on legal issues remains low among the public, and on the other, law students are insulated from ground realities by an antiquated education system that relies on rote learning. So we decided to make law school a little more interesting. Starting this month, 12 students from the Foreign Trade University (FTU) in the Vietnamese capital will be setting aside their class-notes for an exciting summer project with UNDP that will see them living in communities they might one day represent in the … Read more

How citizen-led data is supporting policies in Viet Nam

04 Jun 2014 by Jairo Acuña-Alfaro and Pratibha Mehta

Provinces across Viet Nam are now starting to shape their policies in response to priorities and experiences that citizens report in UNDP's annual PAPI survey. UNDP Photo
The relationship between governments and citizens has undergone a sea-change in most developing countries in the last decade, riding a tide of economic aspirations that are swelling the ranks of the middle class. Viet Nam is no exception. There seems to be a general rule of thumb: the more prosperous and educated citizens become, the more they want efficient and accountable governments.   Citizen-led monitoring and accountability are emerging as key features of the new Post-2015 development agenda as a means of enabling citizens to define the issues they believe should be prioritized in the development process. They are also vital if governments, both local and central, are to be held to account. With Viet Nam’s entry into the club of middle-income countries, citizens are increasingly demanding a public administration system that promotes equitable development, and spreads the dividends of prosperity across an ever-widening sphere. Citizens expect greater participation in the decision-making processes of public policies, as well as in their implementation and monitoring. It was in this context of increasing demands for greater citizens’ voice in government affairs that UNDP Viet Nam and its national partners looked for innovative ways for the government and citizens to better communicate with each other. … Read more