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Country Learning Groups: Vietnam

A ‘learning group’ retreat was held in March 2009, bringing together eight people from government, civil society, academia and the media who have been key participants or critical observers of integrating environmental objectives into development over the years. It was hosted by the Viet Nam Poverty Environment Programme (PEP) – a programme of the Ministry of Natural Resources and Environment (MONRE) and UNDP, and was facilitated by IIED. The Group was informed by a preliminary session on environmental mainstreaming with 70 participants from a wide range of backgrounds.

The Group began the retreat by reviewing the main achievements in linking environment and development over the last 20 years. Many approaches were the product of government action at central and decentralised levels, but are increasingly also of business, civil society, donor and media action. But in spite of good plans, there remain many policy and capacity constraints. These are mainly located in government, as well as in cultural norms, and in a market system that creates short-term financial incentives uninformed by environmental costs and benefits.

Having reflected on the key challenges for the next 10 years, the Group generated several key ideas which are currently being developed, including:

  • A resilient green economy in a middle-income country: As Viet Nam approaches middle income status, it is time to ask how the economy can be shaped so that it is resilient to climate change, and ensures security of food, fibre, fresh water and clean air for all Vietnamese people, as well as sustaining private income and public revenue from Viet Nam’s rich resources. A study of the economic implications of environmental change is suggested, along with a conference on ‘preparing for green growth’ in a middle-income Viet Nam.
  • Commune level environmental regulations: Seeing the success of pilot commune-level environmental regulations in tackling local environmental health and waste problems, the possibility of nationwide scale-up is being explored.
  • A poverty-environment decree: A catalytic poverty-environment decree is suggested to tackle mainstreaming leadership and coordination problems, and to link the energies and resources of sector and provincial authorities
  • Cross-province rivers management: In view of the difficulties of target-setting when it comes to cross-provincial pollution issues, a regional ‘living rivers’ mechanism is being explored, to establish common but differentiated responsibilities between provinces

For report, see: Bass et al. 2010

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