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Tuesday, 25 June 2019 14:24
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Working on ethnic affairs in Vietnam in the current period

(LLCT) - During the renewal process of our country, the Party and the State have attached great importance to dealing with the ethnic affairs and have achieved remarkable results in many fields, including economics, politics, cultural-societal, and national defense-security; however, there are still many obstacles and shortcomings in the daily goal of assisting our ethnic minority countrymen. Therefore, it is necessary to continue implementing multiple different solutions in order to effectively deal with ethnic affairs, contribute to the consolidation of national unity, ensure political stability, and increase resources for the sustainable development of the country in the new period. 

Keyword: minority, ethnic minority, dealing with the ethnic affairs, policy, laws about minorities.

Vietnam is an united country comprised of 54 brotherly ethnic groups, though the Kinh are the overwhelming majority with around 85% of the total population. Vietnamese minority groups share the tradition of maintaining unity and standing together during the process of building and defending the country. In its revolutionary leadership, our Party always attaches great importance to ethnic affairs and puts forward minority policies that fit a consistent principle: every person, regardless of ethnicity, is equal to every other person, and we must live in unity with one another with mutual support for development(1). The Party’s policies were and are welcomed and actively implemented by all minority groups, giving great impetus and contributing to the victory of the national revolution and democracy as well as to great achievements of the socialist revolution. In this current period, with the requirements of the nation’s comprehensive and synchronous renewal course and international integration that are posed by intertwined opportunities and challenges, properly relating to our minority ethnic groups is of great importance in building and promoting the strength of national unity bloc and striving for the goal of building a strong and prosperous country.

In reality, many policies and laws towards minorities – particularly towards ethnic minorities in remote or poverty-stricken areas – have been translated into practice and are reflected in many achievements in basic fields of the social life.

As for economic life, there have been radical developments in ethnic minority areas. Their living conditions have improved dramatically while the infrastructure and appearance of these areas has increasingly improved. Inter-commune and inter-district roads and border patrol roads have been constructed, expanded, and upgraded. By 2015, 100% of communes and 97.8% of villages in these areas were provided with electricity, while 99.4% of communes and 93.3% of villages were connected with tarmac roads. Nearly 100% of communes had primary schools, 92.9% of communes had secondary schools, 58.6% of communes and 78.1% of the villages had cultural houses, 99.5% of the communes had medical centers, nearly 92% of the communes had joined the national electricity network, 80% of communes had small water works, and 65% of the communes had domestic water works(3). The economy has shifted towards commodity production, which is appropriate for the features and characteristics of each area, contributing to the improvement of people’s livelihood. The economic growth rate of the Northern mountainous area has reached over 10%, while that of the Central and Southern area is 12% and that of the Central Highlands is 12.5%. The average income and living conditions of ethnic minorities have been constantly increased and many household families have even crossed the poverty line and now live in good conditions.   

As for politics, the equal rights for minorities, as stipulated in the Constitution, have been expressed in all fields of social life. All minority groups live together in harmony and consensus with mutual respect and support, actively participating in the development process of the country. The grassroots political system in all ethnic minority areas are regularly consolidated with increasing efficiency and effective operations; the contingent of cadres, especially ethnic cadres, are given a voice in planning for promotion, training, and fostering according to requirements and tasks of the new situation. According to the survey results of training for ethnic cadres, 71.3% of the ethnic interviewees gave good and rather good marks(4). Among the cadres’ contingent, the percentage of ethnic cadres included in Party and State agencies from central level to local level continues to rise.

As for culture, the cultural development goals set for ethnic minority areas have been reached in many places. The cultural institution is increasingly completed. According to a survey result, 100% of communes now have post offices; 44% of communes have cultural houses; 62.5% of villages and hamlets have community houses; 15.9% of households know how to perform traditional dances; 65.1% of households can hear radio broadcasts; 88.8% of households can watch television broadcasts; 56.8% of villages and hamlets have radio broadcasting systems; 84.9% of households have televisions; 75.4% of ethnic households have telephones; 7.7% of households have computers; and 6.5% of households have an internet connection(5). Many traditional cultural values of ethnic minorities have been preserved and promoted. The sense of preserving their own positive traditional values while leading a civilized lifestyle, including weddings, funerals, and festivals while building a new rural life have been enhanced. Regarding the preservation and promotion of ethnic minorities’ traditional and cultural values, 76.9% of ethnic interviewees said the work has been done well or rather well, while 21.3% said it has not been done well yet and 1.9% said it is hard to assess(6).

As for social development, education, and health care for ethnic minorities, there have been some new developments. Schools’ infrastructure has been upgraded, ethnic minority boarding secondary and high schools have been consolidated and developed in scale, and operational quality has been enhanced. Educational and training policies for teachers and students have been properly and timely implemented with clear purpose, creating conditions to increase teaching and studying quality, attracting children of ethnic minorities to schools. By July 2015, the proportion of ethnic students older than 15 who were literate reached 79.8%. Meanwhile, the proportion of children attending primary schools is 98.6%, that of those going to high school is 41.8%, and that of those going to college or university is 6.5%. Health care, epidemic disease prevention, food safety, and hygiene and environmental hygiene in ethnic minority areas have been improved and radically developed. Attention is paid to communal medical centers, while the contingent of medical cadres has developed in terms of both quality and quantity. 48.8% of ethnic people use medical insurance cards; the percentage of ethnic women from the ages of 15 to 49 going to medical facilities for pregnancy checkups is 70.9%; the percentage of married women using contraceptive methods is 76.88%; the percentage of ethnic women having a third child has dropped to 18.8% (the national average rate is 14.48%); 63.6% of ethnic minority women go to medical facilities for childbearing; and 3,395 out of 4,126 communes have childhood vaccination rates of at least 90%. The average life expectancy of ethnic minority people is 73.23 (in which that of men is 70.64 and that of women is 75.98)(7). Survey results about the quality of health care for ethnic minorities shows that 47.2% of ethnic interviewees rate it as good, 36.3% rated it as so-so, 5.6% rated it as not good yet, and 0.9% said it was difficult to rate(8). Hunger elimination and poverty reduction in ethnic minority areas have gained notable outcomes: the ratio of poor households decreases at an average rate of 3-4% per year, particularly in rural districts that are subject to Program No. 30a; many ethnic minorities have very low rates of poor households, even below the national average rate. Groups that have achieved this include the Hoa (3% poverty rate), the Chu Ru (4.6%), the Ngai (5.5%), the San Diu (8.5%), etc. Ethnic minority people very much appreciate the hunger elimination and poverty reduction programs, and up to 79.6% of ethnic interviewees consider the policy implemented in ethnic minority areas very effective or rather effective(9). Preventing and combating social evils has also reached admirable results: 42.6% of ethnic interviewees said the programming is good, while 46.35% gave it medium marks and 8.3% said it is not good yet and 2.8% said it is hard to assess(10).

As for national defense-security, the security in ethnic minority areas has been ensured and relations between ethnic minorities have been consolidated. Destructive activities of hostile forces have been timely disabled, while the illegal dissemination of religious materials has been brought under control and border security has been maintained. 36.1% of ethnic people in the survey said that ensuring security in ethnic minority areas in the recent past has been very effective and 59.3% said it has been rather effective, while only 3.7% said it hasn’t been effective and 0.9% said it is hard to assess(11).

As for international cooperation in terms of minority work, the coordination with international partners has been promoted in the fields of research and experience sharing; support for and investment in ethnic minorities’ debts have been encouraged. External communication, exchange activities, and relationship establishment between peoples, administrations, and border guard forces of our country and neighboring countries have been focused on, contributing to the enhancement of solidarity and friendship along the border and construction of a peaceful, friendly, and cooperative border for common development.

Despite all these great achievements, there are still some obstacles and limitations in dealing with ethnic affairs in the recent past. The building and implementation of minority policies and laws still lacks regulations on the policy making procedure; tasks, authorities, and responsibilities at each level of promulgating policies are not clearly identified. Many minority issues, though defined in documents and resolutions of the Party, have not been or are not fully reflected in legal documents, the constitution, and resolutions. There haven’t been enough sustainable development policies implemented in ethnic minority areas. Nevertheless, much content of minority policy still overlaps or is ineffective and is not close to addressing the reality of the situation in ethnic minority areas, especially in regards to resources for implementation, which has limited the effectiveness of the law and policy system. Supervision, inspection, reviews, and summing-up of minority policy implementation has not been regularly conducted. The review, building, correction, and completion of some minority projects and policies remains slow and of limited quality.

Regarding the economic development of ethnic minority areas, their growth rate is rather high but the contribution to national economy is still low and not proportional to their potential. The infrastructure system has improved but is still not able to meet the requirements of socio-economic development. The structure transformation speed remains low. Agricultural production remains a big proportion of the economy and operates in a spontaneous manner, while small production hasn’t promoted potential strong points of each area. Local industry and processing industry have not developed; commerce and services still do not meet the production requirements and livelihoods of ethnic minority people. Although hunger elimination and poverty reduction programs have had radical results in comparison with that of the past, the proportion of poor households according to multi-poverty standards is still high; there remain many ethnic minority groups and ethnic areas that have lower socio-economic development rates than the average rate of the whole community.

The grassroots political system in some ethnic minority areas remains weak. There are still loopholes in social management work and the aspirations and feelings of ethnic peoples, especially in remote areas and border areas, have yet to be fully understood. The contingent of ethnic cadres, though rising in quantity, is limited in quality. The cadres working in the grassroots political system mainly have a secondary school background, while over 50% of grassroots cadres have not been trained in a state management profession, like law or economics.

The socio-cultural life of ethnic minority people has been improved remarkably in many aspects, but their level of enjoying spiritual and cultural life is still low. Communication and receiving communication still faces many difficulties. The traditional and cultural identities of many ethnic groups have faded away. Some ethnic groups are even facing the danger of losing their cultural identities and are decreasing in population quantity and quality. The common situation is that education quality is low, and though primary education is universalized, the proportion of children in school at the correct grade level for their age remains low, and the higher the educational level the more children that stop attending school. There are still many illiterate people; illiteracy elimination work is not sustainable, leading to the high possibility of re-illiteracy. The health conditions of ethnic minority people have improved but are still lower than the national average. The death rate in children, malnutrition rate, and total birth and death rate in women remains high. Some treatable diseases, such as malaria, plague, leprosy, and thyroncus, still exist in mountainous areas. Medical services are still inadequate in comparison to demand and the needed quality and quantity of health care for ethnic minority people.

Many complicated developments still face security and social order in ethnic minority areas. Illegal logging, deforestation for cultivation, and wildfires taking place have directly affected the forest coverage and changed the climate. Illegal drug trafficking, cannabis planting, drug addiction, HIV prevalence, marriage to close relatives, accidents, free migration, fraudulence, trafficking in women and children, illegal working across the border, etc., continue to be complex problems to solve.

In order to overcome these obstacles and limitations requires the determination of the whole political system at all levels, all ministries, and all branches; at the same time, many well-orchestrated solutions should be implemented. The focus should be on the following points:

Firstly, we must increase the awareness of cadres and Party members (and the society as a whole) of the ethnic affairs and ways we are trying to solve them. There should be a consistent awareness and ideology from the central to local level over: these issues; the role of cadres, Party members, and the whole society in addressing these issues; and which cadres and Party members should be the core force addressing these issues. To do so, we should enhance the communication and distribution of the Party and State’s guidelines and policies around minority issues. The content of communication should be comprehensive and concentrated towards socio-economic development policies for ethnic minority areas. We must also eliminate modes of thinking that encourage discrimination towards minorities, as well as ways of thinking among some minorities that prioritizes waiting and depending on others, and instead enlarge national pride and make it our goal to resolutely fight against all conspiracies speaking against national unity. Diverse forms of communication and integrated communication networks speaking of concrete actions and deeds connected to ethnic people’s interests are needed.

Secondly, it is necessary to continue to complete guidelines, policies, and laws on addressing the issues in minority communities with the goal of ensuring the comprehensiveness, effectiveness, and sustainability of equality. It is necessary to regularly review the ongoing minority policy system, to which there should be timely correction and even abolishment of backward policies and supplementation of policies in accordance with the actual situation. Building policies should have the goal of addressing all fields of social life in ethnic minority areas without overlapping and unnecessary support; resources for implementation should be adequately calculated and fairly distributed to subjects. Particularly, to ensure the effectiveness and sustainability of projects, policy making should be based on full awareness of the features of minority areas, ethnic groups, cultures, geographical conditions, natural resources, and the environment in each area. We should make policies according to each individual location and development level, which should be connected with constructing new rural areas. Moreover, with limited resources for implementing policy, it is necessary to clearly prioritize and focus on building policies that focus on the most pressing issues, the biggest of which is poverty reduction policy integrated with sustainable development. To do so we will need to increase the quality of human resources and preserve and promote the cultural identities of each ethnic minority group.

Thirdly, we must strengthen and renovate the leadership of Party committees at all levels that address minority issues. Party committees should focus on: leading and guiding the realization, institutionalization, and implementation of resolutions and regularly supervising and inspecting the implementation of Party’s resolutions and decrees to ensure their effectiveness. At the same time, Party committees need to continue to focus on leading the consolidation of the political system in ethnic minority areas, enhancing the quality of the contingent of cadres in ethnic areas and performing minority tasks, renewing the methods of leadership over minority work.

Fourthly, we must promote the role of the Fatherland Front and mass organizations in solving the minority issue. The Fatherland Front and mass organizations should: actively take part in spreading and mobilizing all classes of people to help implement these policies; coordinate with the administration at all levels in spreading and guiding the ethnic people to eliminate harmful customs and habits, superstitions, and social evils; and get to know more about the aspirations and feelings of ethnic people, showing more concern for the protection of the legitimate rights and interests of ethnic people, particularly disadvantaged groups such as women, old people, children and poor people. Especially, the Fatherland Front and mass organizations should renew their content and methods of operation and actively build plans to take part in socio-economic development programs through policy criticism and supervision over program implementation. When organizing patriotic movements, the Fatherland Front, mass organizations, and local administrations should closely coordinate with each other and find ways to expand good models, good people, good deeds, and active elements among ethnic minority people.

Fifthly, we must invest in socio-economic development and improve both the material and spiritual life of ethnic minority people.

For economic development, it is necessary to review, supplement, and complete planning, especially for target areas, followed by the identification of goals, requirements, and prioritized and competitive economic fields in each area. We should create an environment to attract sources of investment capital for developing infrastructure and implementing programs and projects to develop production and trading of advantageous products; we should support and attract investment from enterprises that need lots of employees and are environment-friendly. We can do this by building policies encouraging business start-ups and encouraging ethnic minority people to strive to make money. We should develop models of household economies, farms, and new collectives in accordance with development levels and characteristics of each area, and, at the same time, expand models of linking produce consumption with input agricultural material supply. State-run farms should be rearranged in order to support units that operate effectively and attract many ethnic employees, and we should as well dissolve units that operate ineffectively in order to recover productive land and transfer it to ethnic minority people for management. We must focus on solving the problem of ethnic people lacking productive land while still tightening the management of the transfer and purchase of land in ethnic minority areas. Besides these goals, the method of allocating capital for production development must be renewed towards focusing on only one management point, as well as mortgage guarantees to avoid small and scattered support.

In dealing with cultural and social issues, it is necessary to renew preservation methods and promote the traditional culture of ethnic minorities towards combining preservation with promotion, paying attention to flexible preservation and effectiveness in terms of economic development. Particularly, we should promote the role of ethnic people themselves in preserving and promoting traditional culture, which will enhance exchanges and build an advanced culture deeply imbued with national identity and ethnic colors. In the educational field, we should focus on increasing teaching and studying quality to fight against illiteracy. Together with maintaining and developing a network of boarding schools and policies that support ethnic minority people and poor households, it is necessary to sum up and assess the enrollment regime in an objective manner. In the medical field, first of all it is necessary to invest in material facilities and equipment and build a contingent of doctors and nurses for grassroots medical centers/stations to better serve the health care demand of ethnic people. In addition, we need to properly correct regulations on using medical insurance towards creating the best conditions for ethnic minority people. Moreover, we should build and implement projects preventing demographic decrease among ethnic minority groups, especially those with high rates of consanguineous marriage and child marriage. As for social security, we should build a multi-level network of social security to prevent poverty, food shortages, and backsliding into poverty. Meanwhile, we should build risk-resistance funds for ethnic people to meet the requirements of ensuring social security for vulnerable groups and impoverished people. Besides all this, we need to focus on characteristic social issues in ethnic minority areas such as internal contradictions among ethnic people related to land disputes and religious beliefs, free migration and across-border ethnic group relationships.

Sixthly, we must strengthen the fight against the use of minority issues for bad purposes and further enhance international cooperation to solve minority-related issues. In fighting against the use of minority issues for bad purposes, it is necessary to pay great attention to communication and mobilization to make ethnic people fully aware of the Party and the State’s minority guidelines and policies. We can further strengthen the building of a strong and clean political system and increase the efficiency and effectiveness of implementing minority policies, through which ethnic people’s trust is further built up in the Party and the State. To do so we need to stay well-informed of the situation and build a contingent of core cadres and prestigious people in ethnic minority areas. At the same time, we should closely combine economic development with security and national defense insurance, as well as build a strong composition of national defense and security within ethnic minority areas that comprises both people and infrastructure. Along with increasing ethnic minorities’ rights, it is necessary to enhance international cooperation in minority-related issues, accordingly creating a status of mutual interest and making sure other countries better understand Vietnam’s policies in place to support minority communities.

(*) The article is the research outcome of Project “Ensuring rights of our country’s ethnic minorities in the context of globalization and international integration” which belongs to the National Scientific and Technological Program for the period 2016-2020, Code No. CTDT.10.17/16-20.

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Endnotes:

(1) CPV: Documents of the 7th Plenum of the 9th Party Central Committee, National Political Publishing House, Hanoi, 2003, p.30.

(2) The National Committee: Report on “Workshop on recommendations of minority policies for the period 2016 - 2020”, September 2015.

(4), (6), (8), (9), (10), (11) The survey results of the author in 2017.

 (3), (5), (7) General Department of Statistics: Survey data on socio-economic situation of 53 ethnic minorities, http://www.cema.gov.vn.

Assoc. Prof., Dr. Le Van Loi

Department of Science Management,

Ho Chi Minh National Academy of Politics

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