Vietnam/ 4. Current issues in cultural policy development and debate  

4.2.4 Cultural diversity and inclusion policies

Vietnam is a multi-ethnic country with over fifty distinct groups (fifty-four are recognised by the Vietnamese government), each with its own language, lifestyle and cultural heritage. The largest ethnic groups are: Kinh (Viet) 86.2 percent, Tay 1.9 percent, Tai Ethnic 1.7 percent, Mường 1.5 percent, Khmer 1.4 percent, Hoa 1.1 percent, Nùng 1.1 percent, Hmong 1 percent and others 4.1 percent.

The Government requirements show that ethnic minority groups consist of following characteristics:

  • An intimate understanding and long stay in the territory, land, or area of their ancestors and have close connection to the natural resources;
  • Self-identification and recognition by neighbouring members due to  their distinctive culture;
  • A language different from the national language
  • A long traditional social and institutional system; and a self-provided production system.

The equality and right of every ethnic person living in Vietnam has been clearly stated at the highest level in the constitution of 1992. Its article 5 declares that: “The Socialist Republic of Vietnam is the unified State of all ethnicities living in on the territory of Vietnam. The State carries out a policy of equality, solidarity and mutual cultural assistance among all nationalities, and forbids all acts of national discrimination and division. Every nationality has the right to use its own language and system of writing, to preserve its national cultural identity, and promote its fine customs, habits, traditions and culture. The State issues a policy of comprehensive development and assistance, and gradually improves the material and spiritual living conditions of the national ethnic minorities”.

The Government also has in place a number of programmes aimed at the integration of ethnic minority groups into overall Vietnamese society and in particular their greater participation in mainstream economic life. Most of the Government’s programmes for ethnic minority development are the responsibility of the Committee for Ethnic Minorities Affairs (CEMA). The Government is seeking to address the inequities of both development and infrastructure provision in remote and mountainous areas with its cornerstone initiative-Programme 135, which provides assistance to communities, which have a high proportion of ethnic minorities, experiencing special difficulties. The programme also provides educational support to poor students.

Some Key Development Policies for Ethnic Minority Areas

Instruction 525/TT of November 1993 provides an overall policy framework for the accelerated development of mountainous areas and areas of ethnic minorities. The main points of Instruction 525 are: (i) the promotion of an economy based on consumer goods, instead of an economy of self-sufficiency; (ii) the development of the rural infrastructure, in particular the access roads to the villages and the supply of drinking water; (iii) the reinforcement of the existing education systems, the adaptation of education and training programmes to local conditions and the encouragement of informal education efforts; and (iv) the study of the causes of the insufficient food supply and the identification of ways to resolve this problem in each province.

Since 1968, Government policy has been aimed at settling the ethnic minorities and reducing shifting cultivation. This policy has been implemented in the form of programmes that encompass both natural resource management and reforestation, and the economic development of ethnic minority areas. Two main programmes have been the 327 Programme from 1992 to 1997, based on Decision 327 of September 1992 on the reforestation of deforested hills, and the Fixed Cultivation Programme targeted ethnic minority people in upland areas for many years. This programme has supported the resettlement of upland communities to lower-lying and less remote areas, and has restricted sloping land cultivation and promoted irrigated paddy or long-season cash crops. A New Economic Zone programme targeted at people moving into upland areas has been ongoing at the same time.

Two subsequent large-scale national programmes are being implemented and address the development of the forestry sector and poverty reduction in upland areas in a separate manner. The Five Million Hectare Reforestation Programme (5MHRP) based on Decision 661 has replaced Programme 327 and was on-going for a period of twelve years from 1998 to 2010. 5MHRP provides government funds for protected forest and special use forest. The 135 Programme, which started its second phase in 2006, implemented over a period of five years (2006–2010) planned and undertook infrastructure development in poor and remote communes, known as Zone III communes. Most of these communes are mountainous communes primarily inhabited by ethnic minority people. Subsidies and donations of agricultural inputs are also made available, for example through the Hunger Eradication Programme. The Fixed Cultivation Programme and the New Economic Zone Programme are still ongoing. The Fixed Cultivation Programme now mainly funds material for housing construction for newly married young couples and for households having lost their homes after landslides, fire, or flooding.

Chapter published: 30-11-2013