Facilitating 'Rights to Development' for Ethnic Minorities in Upland Vietnam: From Rhetoric to Building Practices of Culturally Sustainable Development
In the past decade in Vietnam, an area of increasing focus and dialogue about international development dialogue practice has been in the area of support for ethnic minority communities. Many of the 53 recognized ethnic minorities in Vietnam are among the poorest, most disadvantaged communities in the country. To address high relative levels of poverty and disadvantage, major programs sponsored by UNICEF and the UNDP have been developed to work in tandem with national poverty alleviation measures, including the 135 Program of the Vietnamese Government. A major challenge for both national and international programs has been in translating well-intentioned development proposals into outcomes that are sustainable in terms of cultural relevance and acceptance by local communities. The review of the UNDP's Highland Peoples Program (1996-2002) provides an example of negative opinions of stakeholders as to the relevance of the project, issues about the ownership of the program, donor interest in the thematic area, and issues relating to the effective implementation. (Highland People Project Mid term Assessment, 2001, p. 2)
A key area of learning from this and other program experiences, therefore, has been in the realization that better outcomes can be achieved when international and government agencies engage with ethnic minority communities more directly through grass roots involvement in planning, program development and implementation. This paper identifies some of the recent promising examples of participatory program development involving ethnic minority communities with a view to contributing to an understanding of how to best facilitate culturally relevant and sustainable development. The cases studies will discuss experiences with community participation in education sponsored by UNICEF and supported by the Ministry of Education and Training in Son La and Lai Chau and Quang Tri Provinces. Another set of cases, involving the use of community-based planning in land and natural resource management programs in Ha Giang Provinces and Quang Nam Provinces, supported by the UNDP and the WWF and Vietnamese government agencies, will also be critically reviewed.
Keywords: Cultural sustainability, ethnic minorities, development practice, participation
Dr Paul Chantrill
Lecturer in Community Development, School of Social Work and Applied Human Sciences, University of Queensland
Local and international community development, comparative study of Indigenous peoples and ethnic minorities and social policy in developing countries, youth justice reform.
Community Development, Development Studies, The Experience of Difference, Filed Placement (Behavioural Studies).
International Commission on Folklore and Legal Pluralism Development Studies Association.