Vietnam, my home country, is hardly known to Western public other than its war with the US, despite the subordinate’s important geopolitical stance and its position as a major trade partner in Southeast Asia. This article will demonstrate my view on how SDGs are being exercised, with SDG 17 and 8 at a national level, and SDG 1,2,3 at a more local scope in addition to my personal experience.
Partnerships (SDG 17) and Economic Development (SDG 8)
Regarding partnerships, Vietnam has been focusing on strengthening diplomatic relations with its neighbours, primarily those of ASEAN and APEC. These trading blocs have long been Vietnam’s most reliable partners for multilateral relationship alongside trade thanks to its geopolitical position and long-standing image as a friendly partner. Moreover, Vietnam has showed numerous successful attempts in building bonds with more countries for a global outreach, namely the US, China, or Russia. Thus, Vietnam’s first steps have been successful despite cultural differences and the societal progression gap between Vietnam and the aforementioned major countries. Especially, this contributed to its position as a non-permanent member of the UNSC for the second time in history, starting on January 1, 2020. This is a heavy duty, yet very promising since Vietnam will certainly need to rely on more developed countries to flourish in the future.
However, rather than tackling poverty, air pollution, inequality, etc., the Vietnamese government has generated more measures towards economic growth and job creation (SDG8). Such inconsistency might prevent Vietnam from fully integrating and benefiting from globalisation. Hence, regardless of the time it takes, its government needs to more effectively tackle poverty, social inequality and air pollution.
Vulnerable groups (SDG 1,2,3)
According to Vietnam’s Voluntary National Review on the Implementation of SDGs, caring for the poor, children, women, and ethnic minorities has been one of its primary concerns.
From a national outlook, speaking of SDG #1, the Vietnamese government has only targeted solving poverty for poor households while the UN aims to reduce poverty in the whole nation. Also, there has not been enough specific poverty-reduction objectives for each of the groups mentioned above. More information on the exercise of SDGs at this level can be found here: https://bit.ly/2xiSBD9.
At a more local scale, so far there have been lots of voluntary shelters being built for people who are disadvantaged, disabled, or homeless, etc. Celebrities and influencers have done a great job in promoting voluntary activities. This includes caring for children’s daily activities, building schools in rural areas, and donating clothes and food to regions with ethnic minorities such as the far Northern region of Vietnam. Vietnamese students, especially those in secondary, high schools and universities, have also been more and more willing to spend time at local hospitals and orphanages to take care of disadvantaged children and elderly patients.
Based on my personal experience, I have also organised some voluntary trips to the SOS Children’s Villages Vietnam as a member of the Student Council in Chu Van An High School. It was touching to see how some children of the same age as me suffer so much hardship as they are left homeless, orphaned, disadvantaged and uneducated. During several day-long journeys there, my team organised some singing and dancing competitions and taught them handicrafts, for which we received lots of appreciation from the children and the centre managers. Thus, as an activist civil servant, I would certainly encourage the youth to take such actions and localise the 17 SDGs for the betterment of Vietnam because without such activism, sustainable development will become an unreachable target.
Such centres exist prevalently in many cities of Vietnam, but some disadvantaged children still being left on the street or under the bridges as a lack of caring centre persists. This suggests the uncertainty for a stable stream of donation to running shelters let alone those homeless, as businesses have not paid as much attention to them. Therefore, it is urgent that more not-for-profit organisations, both in Vietnam and its partners, to fund more voluntary projects and to directly visit the aforementioned centres for the livelihoods of vulnerable people and reducing social inequality of this country.
In conclusion, sustainability and social equality is still an issue in Vietnam. This is not only due to the private sector dominating the country still prioritises profit-making rather than employing those SDGs. But this also results from the lack of social awareness of such disparities and sufferings and thus measures to counter poverty and improve national well-being.