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Monday, 24 May 2021 16:50
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Non-traditional security: Problems and solutions for ethnic minority areas

(LLCT) - It is an urgent requirement for countries, especially the developing ones to protect national security against non-traditional security threats. For Vietnam, all areas of social life, including ethnic minority areas are under strong influence of non-traditional security threats. Therefore, the situation is identified and examined and trends and development of non-traditional security problems in ethnic minority areas are forecast is essential, then appropriate solutions to such problems are proposed.

Keywords: non-traditional security, ethnic minority areas.

1. The Communist Party of Vietnam’s perception of non-traditional security

After the end of the Cold War, the concept of non-traditional security has been internationally mentioned since the 90s of the 20th century. Since then, non-traditional security has become a great concern of nations and peoples around the world, it is one of the important topics discussed at many regional and international forums and is an important content in many aspects of bilateral and multilateral relations. Non-traditional security is a new concept of national security that is different from traditional security; it reflects a change in people’s perception of security and an expansion of the connotation of national security. If traditional security considers national security as the protection the country from external and internal political and military threats or offensives, non-traditional security not only protects national sovereignty but also protects its people and community. It is transnational as it threatens internal and external factors of the living and development environment of social and public communities, people of each country in close relationship with the region and the world.

The emergence of non-traditional security does not affect traditional security, it is separated from the latter because these two issues are always interwoven and can be mutually exchanged in some certain conditions. In the modern world, each country’s security including traditional military and political security is facing many non-traditional challenges such as economy, culture, society, information, and environment, resources, terrorism, etc.. Accordingly, national security is supplemented with new contents, creating historic changes on the following aspects:

Firstly, power, traditional territories disputes are gradually transformed into disputes over natural resources and resources serving socio-economic development, hard power and soft power disputes to expand the space of influence to serve the national interests.

Secondly, with the advantages of science and technology and great economic potential, Western powers always actively use tricks to aggravate conflicts and difficulties in underdeveloped countries and socialist countries to force them to depend on their area of influence.

Thirdly, the increasing globalization, along with the robust development of science and technology, especially information technology, has facilitated new development opportunities for countries, ethnicities and also generated new dangers of fragility in modern society. The risk of cyber security, the rapid development of smart weapons with the power to destroy, pollute the environment of the earth and that surrounding the earth, the severity of natural disasters and epidemics are on the rise. The corruption of morality or psychological disturbance, the crisis of belief of young people due to the pressure of life are making humanity increasingly unsafe and putting us at risk.

Fourthly, terrorism, racism, and religious extremism are increasingly developing.  Their violent anti-social activities with sophisticated tricks are serious threats to the security of every nation.

Fifthly, in the development process, humanity is faced with the dangers from its own development which are the depletion of resources, the increase of the earth temperature, sea level rising, and the worsening living environment, epidemic diseases for humans, plants and animals. Such problems are increasingly complicated.

Sixthly, in the process of globalization, when the “hard border” between countries is almost broken, the “soft border” has not been able to form a highly effective security barrier, the security of races becomes unpredictable due to the influence of external factors, and it is beyond people’s expectations and vigilance. This also means the more pressure and more risks to national security.

For Vietnam, before the 11th Congress, although the Communist Party of Vietnam had not officially used the concept of non-traditional security, it identified signs and problems of non-traditional security. The 8th Congress (June 1996) said: “The world faces many global issues (environmental protection, population explosion curbing, diseases prevention and eradication, etc.), no country can settle them on its own, there must have multilateral cooperation”(1). The 9th Congress (January 2001) continued to affirm and added the issue of international crime fighting. The 10th Congress further added and developed: “Many pressing global problems require countries and organizations to coordinate to resolve; The widened gap between the rich and the poor; population growth coupled with migration flows; scarcity of energy sources, depletion of natural resources, destruction of natural environment; the getting – worse climate, accompanied by terrible natural disasters; major epidemics, increasing transnational crime”(2). At the 11th Congress (April 2011), he Party officially used the non-traditional security concept with identified issues such as counter-terrorism, environmental protection and climate change response, population explosion curbing, dangerous epidemics prevention and curbing(3). The 12th Congress (January 2016) pointed out a number of global issues such as financial security, energy security, water security, food security, climate change, natural disasters, epidemics, cyber-security, ethnic conflict, religion, terrorism(4). At the same time the attention was paid to “new forms of war,” with implications of the possibility of the transformation between non-traditional and traditional security.

In the book “Understanding Terms in the Document of the 12th National Congress of the Party” co-edited by Phung Huu Phu, Nguyen Van Dang, and Nguyen Viet Thong, the authors said: “Non-traditional security can be understood as a type of transnational security caused by non-political and non-military factors that directly affect the stability, development and security of each country, region and the world. The contents of non-traditional security are urgent emerging issues such as: resources depletion, population explosion, exhausted ecological environment, religion conflict, ethnicity, poverty, diseases, money laundering crime, and so on. Non-traditional security has more clear manifestations internationally. It has become a global problem and global security. The more globalization develops, the more traditional, non-traditional security will spread and become more intense”(5).

2. Factors resulting in non-traditional security issues in ethnic minority areas

Currently, ethnic minorities in Vietnam reside in vast areas. They play a particularly important strategic role in politics, economics, security, defense and ecological environment protection. Vietnam’s mountainous and ethnic areas account for nearly three-quarters of the natural area, including 21 upland provinces, 23 provinces with mountainous districts and communes and 10 delta provinces. Those places are where ethnic minorities live. In the country’s development history, the residence areas of ethnic minorities are key strategic areas to maintain and protect national border.

Over the past years, the Party and State of Vietnam have had many undertakings and policies on socio-economic development in ethnic minority areas, thanks to which, the lives of the people have been constantly improved. However, many difficulties are still present, specifically: chronic poverty has not been pushed back among ethnic minorities in the Northern mountainous areas; there is a considerable disparity in living standards between Kinh households and ethnic minority households living in the same area; ethnic minority households still have many difficulties in accessing the necessary resources for production such as education, capital, markets and agricultural land. According to Dr. Nguyen Cao Thinh, Deputy Director of General Department, Committee for Ethnic Minorities: 53 ethnic minorities in Vietnam currently have about 13.4 million people. Nearly one third of ethnic minority households are poor or near poor, 7 ethnic minorities have poverty rates above 50%, especially those with very high poverty rates such as O Du (66.3%), Co (65.7%), the most worrying thing is that up to 21.8% of ethnic minorities cannot read and write Vietnamese. Thus, if the literacy rate is reduced by 1.2% each year, it will take 25 years for some ethnic groups to eradicate illiteracy(6) and especially the trend of living interspersed among ethnic groups increases. This is one of the issues with factors directly related to the non-traditional security that the enemy has been trying to use to distort the Party and State.

From the fundamental issues, some non-traditional security issues related ethnic minority areas are as follows:

Firstly, the issue of human security which is manifested in poverty, malnutrition, domestic and social violence, safety of life, trafficking in women and children, social security, health insurance, social protection, medical examination and treatment services, gender equality.

Secondly, economic security reflected in food security, the rich and the poor gap, exploitation, employment, income, market access, economic development infrastructure.

Thirdly, information and communication issues in ethnic minority areas.

Fourthly, the issue of religious-belief conflict, religious conflict; ethnic divisions, separatism, terrorism; reactionary operations of hostile and reactionary forces, peaceful evolution,  riots  in ethnic areas.

Fifthly, the gap between rich and poor, social inequality and social inequality among ethnic communities; current situation of health and education in ethnic minority areas and problems.

Sixthly, the issue of national cultural identity, international cultural integration; social evils in ethnic minority areas; safety and order of society.

Seventhly, the issue of climate change; depletion of forest resources, pollution of the ecological environment.

Eighthly, the issue of land disputes, settlement, free migration; the management, allocation and use of development resources and energy sources.

Ninthly, the issue of ethnic identity, ethnic structure change, in-blood marriage, child marriage, cross-border marriage; ethnic divisions, ethnic conflicts, ethnic conflicts; social solidarity, social integration and national equality.

From the above fundamental issues, it is obviously seen that the impacts of non-traditional security risks in our country’s ethnic minority areas are very severe, long-term, and transnational, of regional and global scales. Preventing and responding to these threats is not limited to a country; the active cooperation of all countries, regional and international organizations, of each individual and of the whole social community is required. The risks posed by non-traditional security in our country’s ethnic minority areas are closely related, with synergistic effects in all areas of life; in which, defense and security are key areas, subject to a great impact.

3. Measures to cope with the impacts of non-traditional security on ethnic minority areas

Solution 1: The building of an all-people national defense and people’s security in ethnic minority areas should be fostered, the awareness of people about national defense should be raised as required in the new period. The objectives and tasks of national defense set by the Resolution of the12th Party Central Committee should be thoroughly grasped and educated extensively for the whole society, especially for people of ethnic groups in remote and ethnic minority areas. Non-traditional security threats should be studied systematically and comprehensively; security and defense threats information should be further studied and communicated and exchanged. Awareness and sense of social responsibility and community responsibility of the authorities should be raised at all levels, at socio-political organizations, unions and strata in ethnic minority areas to deal with non-traditional security threats. Actions to take advantage of the ethnic issues, religions to entice and incite a part of ethnic minorities against the government, conducting riots should be timely smashed; resolutely dealing with  law-defying people; at the same time patiently persuading people who had followed bad elements to return to their villages to live in peace and observe the law; treating equally people with repentant past and mistakes, contributing to maintaining political security and social order and safety in ethnic minority areas.

Solution 2: It is necessary to continue to well implement the policy of equality and national solidarity by speeding up the progress and efficiency of programs and projects with priority to socio-economic development in mountainous and ethnic minority areas. It is necessary to focus on developing traffic and infrastructure, promoting the strengths of each region, coupled with sustainable protection of the ecological environment; to proactively build, implement and inspect and supervise the implementation of programs and plans to respond to climate change, to prevent and control natural disasters for each period(7); to improve the quality of projection situation.  It is essential to resolutely maintain political stability, socio-economic stability in all circumstances, building and consolidating land borders in a peaceful, friendly and cooperative way”(8). It is also to bring into full play the internal strength, self-reliance of the people of all ethnic groups, at the same time, to increase the attention, support and assistance from central and local agencies throughout the country. The gaps and shortcomings in the combination of economy, defense and security in localities, especially strategic areas should be thoroughly overcome accordingly, facilitating ethnic minorities to realize social justice, quickly eradicate hunger and reduce poverty, have the right to study, play, enjoy cultural needs in accordance with the identity, tradition of each ethnic group, develop science - technology, care for material and spiritual life and health care. That is the most practical way for people to believe in the Party’s guidelines and policies, in the socialist regime. No one will listen to bad people inciting to do bad things, causing disunity, dividing solidarity among people, and these are also fundamental issues that create a solid foundation for the government to deal with non-traditional security threats in ethnic minority areas in the current situation.

Solution 3: It is necessary to actively, proactively fight on the ideological front, fight against the enemy to take advantage of the national issue to divide the solidarity between nations. In the struggle with the impact of non-traditional security factors of the current enemy forces, on the one hand, it is necessary to regularly expose the enemy’s evil conspiracy and evil intentions to the international peace-loving people; on the other hand, it is necessary to protect and mobilize the ethnic minorities who are the one who identify bad people and their cunning tricks to divide the people and destroy the great national unity bloc. Fighting on the ideological front, especially regarding issues related to non-traditional security in ethnic minority areas is the responsibility of the entire Party, the entire people, of the entire political system. The mass media needs more investment to better serve the struggle on the ideological front to combat the enemy’s conspiracy to divide the solidarity between peoples.

Solution 4: It is necessary to renovate the mobilization work in areas with ethnic minorities under the motto of being sincere, active, prudent, persistent, delicate and firm; using many methods suitable to the characteristics of each ethnic group and each locality. Officers working in ethnic minority areas must know the language of the ethnic group and perform well the mobilization work: respecting the people, being close to the people, understanding the people, and being responsible to the people. It is necessary to grasp the situation and mobilize people through reputable figures in the community, such as people with meritorious services to the revolution, village chiefs, and clan leaders. Staff at all levels of Party committees, authorities and mass organizations in the Fatherland Front at grassroots level should have comprehensive knowledge of non-traditional security issues in the current situation, know how to persuade people, understand its challenges to the ethnic minority areas. During the working process, each officer must be really exemplary before the people, speak and comply with the Party’s national policy, without being bureaucratic, corrupted, bossy, and authoritarian to avoid being taken advantage by the enemy to divide cadres with the people, dividing this group with others.

Solution 5: It is necessary to expand external relations, “properly invest and effectively use international assistance for national key projects, climate change response programs”(9); promote cooperation with other countries and international organizations, security agencies, and national police in non-traditional security, fight against terrorism, prevent and fight transnational crime; establish legal corridors, building cooperation mechanisms with regional and international countries, with relevant international organizations; attach importance to strengthening cooperation with ASEAN countries in dealing with non-traditional security threats, especially in international cooperation which must be selective and focused, contributing to minimizing the impact of non-traditional security risks on our country in general and ethnic minority areas in particular.

Non-traditional security issues in ethnic minority areas is a very important content of the task of protecting the Socialist Fatherland in the current situation. Because “hostile forces always seek to take advantage of the difficult life, low educational level of the people and the errors of all levels and sectors in the implementation of the national policy of the Party and State to incite and divide the nations, undermine the great national unity bloc, causing political instability”(10). Coping with non-traditional security threats is both a requirement and mission of the cause of national defense and security, and an important condition to firmly protect the independence and sovereignty, unification, territorial integrity, the regime, to maintaining peace, political stability and national security, social order and safety. To implement the task, it is required that the Party be highly determined, the entire society, the State have high consensus and share efforts to take appropriate and effective measures.



(1) CPV: Document of the 8th National Congress, National Political Publishing House, Hanoi, 1996, p.77.

(2) CPV: Document of the 10th National Congress, National Political Publishing House, Hanoi, 2006, p.74.

(3) CPV: Document of the 11th National Congress, National Political Publishing House, Hanoi, 2011, p.69.

(4) See CPV: Document of the 12th National Congress, National Political Publishing House, Hanoi, 2016, p.71-72.

(5) Phung Huu Phu, Nguyen Van Dang, Nguyen Viet Thong (co-editors): Understanding Terms in the Document of the 12th National Congress of the Party, National Political Publishing House, Hanoi, 2016, p.15.

(6) Kim Thu: Promoting the development of ethnic minorities - Noone is left behind, Electric Portal, Committee for Ethnic Minorities, April 26, 2017.

(7), (8), (9) CPV: Document of the 12th National Congress, National Political Publishing House, Hanoi, 2016, pp.144 -145, 150, 145.


(10) CPV: Document of the 7th Plenum - 9th Party Central Committee, National Political Publishing House, Hanoi, 2003, p.33.Dr. Nguyen Anh Tuan


Ho Chi Minh National Academy of Politics

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