Vietnam, with an area four times the size of Ireland, has a population of over 97 million. Despite impressive progress over recent decades, significant numbers of people, particularly those from ethnic minority groups, continue to live in poverty and represent the ‘furthest behind’ in Vietnam. Through our support, local government is better able to respond to the particular needs of poor ethnic minority communities and other marginalised groups. Importantly, we are helping men and women living in these communities, and local civil society, to have a say in decisions that affect them. In addition, we are facilitating partnerships between Vietnamese and Irish education institutions in order to improve the quality of research and teaching; and thereby help promote inclusive economic development.
- Our Work
Vietnam at a glance
Proportion of population living below national poverty line:
Ranking on UN Human Development Index:
115 of 188
Partner Country since:
Ireland and Vietnam
The Irish Aid Programme is managed by the Department of Foreign Affairs. The programme of bilateral cooperation with Vietnam was established in 2005 when Ireland opened an Embassy in Hanoi and Vietnam is the only Irish Aid partner country outside of Sub-Saharan Africa. The bilateral relationship between Ireland and Vietnam has been built on a very positive development cooperation partnership which has centred on reducing poverty among ethnic minority communities, sharing the experience of Ireland’s development through exchange between Irish and Vietnamese economic and social institutions, providing scholarship opportunities for talented young Vietnamese, and supporting Vietnam’s emerging civil society.
The Irish Development Experience and Sharing (IDEAS) programme continues to support capacity-building and strengthen strategic linkages between Ireland and Vietnam in the education, agriculture, agri-food, and business and economic sectors, including through peer-to-peer institutional links between state agencies and third-level education institutions, and through scholarships.
The development programme in Vietnam also provides support to strengthening the capacity of civil society organisations in Vietnam aimed at influencing policy response and service delivery in favour of groups that are marginalised on the basis of gender, migrant status, age, sexual orientation, ethnicity or disability.
In addition to our programme activities in Vietnam, Ireland’s Embassy in Hanoi supports a small number of projects in the neighbouring accredited countries of Lao PDR and Cambodia, as well as in Myanmar. These include humanitarian mine action focused on the clearance of mines and unexploded ordnance, mine risk education and disability support, a regional programme to reduce stunting and malnutrition by increasing rates of exclusive breastfeeding and improving infant and young child feeding practices, support to civil society, gender equality and women’s empowerment initiatives and support to address fragility and humanitarian needs in Myanmar. In addition, Ireland has been supporting crisis response and recovery across the region due to the Covid-19 pandemic and natural disasters resulting from climate change.
The Embassy supports growing trade and bilateral relations and people-to-people links between Ireland and Vietnam, including support for our expanding Irish community and the provision of consular services and assistance.
A new five-year Mission Strategy for Ireland’s engagement in Vietnam, Cambodia and Laos will be published in 2022 and will set out the proposed areas of focus and intervention, aligned to Ireland’s development cooperation policy, A Better World. Current and future areas of support are informed by analysis of the differing needs in each of the countries, the potential impact of Ireland’s relatively modest funding, and a focus on the furthest behind in each of the three countries.
Over its history, Vietnam has been occupied by external powers, most recently China, France, Japan and the United States. The country was reunified under the rule of the Communist Party of Vietnam in 1975, shortly after US military withdrawal. It remained isolated and largely closed to the outside world, having been subject to international sanctions, until the early 1990s.
Vietnam is a one-party state, led by the ruling Communist Party of Vietnam. In 1986, the National Party Congress opened up the economy to foreign investment and has committed to bringing about national economic reform, as well as reducing poverty through its Socio Economic Development Plan. Vietnam joined the World Trade Organisation (WTO) in 2007, integrating Vietnam into global trade systems. The current Vietnamese leadership took office in 2016. Successive governments have prioritised delivering economic growth, improving living conditions and ensuring social stability. Vietnam seeks strong relations not only in its region but also globally, and places an emphasis on multilateral approaches.
The EU-Vietnam Partnership and Cooperation Agreement entered into force on 1 October 2016. The PCA sets out new and existing areas of cooperation in sectors such as economics, trade and investment, science and technology, natural resources, climate change and environment, security, health, education, research and many others. . The European Union- Vietnam Free Trade Agreement (EVFTA) took effect on August 1 2020 paving the way for increased trade between the EU and Vietnam.
Vietnam is a member of the UN and ASEAN. Vietnam served as a member of the United Nations Human Rights Council for the 2014-2016 term, on the United Nations Economic and Social Council (ECOSOC) for the 2016-2018 term and as a non-permanent member of the United Nations Security Council over the period 2020-2021.
Vietnam’s economy is a development success story. Political and economic reforms (Đổi Mới), launched in 1986, made a shift from a centrally planned to a market economy and transformed the country from one of the poorest in the world to lower middle income status by 2016. Vietnam is hoping to achieve middle income status by 2030. Thanks to a stable political environment and low rate of inflation, economic growth has remained relatively high in recent years in Vietnam, averaging 6.4% per year over the last two decades. . The majority of the rural population makes its living by growing and selling crops, raising and selling livestock and fish and from forestry products.
The EU-Vietnam Free Trade Agreement (EV-FTA), and the emergence of the ASEAN Economic Community have provided importantopportunities for Vietnam to attract more Foreign Direct Investment (FDI) and boost trade links.
The average income per year in Vietnam has increased from US$635 per person in 2005 to an estimated USD$2,700 in 2019 However, compared to some of its neighbours, Vietnam remains a relatively poor country.
Vietnam now faces a challenging period to remain competitive with other economies in the region where labour costs are lower, while trying to attain the higher value added and living standards of more developed neighbours.
Vietnam is ranked 117th out of 187 countries on the United Nations’ Human Development Index (Ireland is currently ranked second). Vietnam achieved four of the eight Millennium Development Goals (MDGs), those focused on poverty and hunger, education, gender equality and maternal health. A National Action Plan to implement the 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development (NAP 2030) is in place with 115 targets for achievement across all SDGs by 2030. According to the most recent report on progress towards the SDGs, however, Vietnam is expected to achieve only 5 out of 17 SDGs by 2030: Goal 1 on elimination of poverty; Goal 2 on zero hunger; Goal 4 on quality education; Goal 13 on climate actions and Goal 17 on global partnerships, with two (Goals 12 and 14) deemed very challenging.
Social outcomes in Vietnam have improved dramatically across the board. The national official poverty rate fell from 58% in 1992/93 to 6.7% in 2018 However, statistics mask the reality of multi-dimensional poverty and the inequality in the distribution of human development across the population at the country level. Approximately 6 million people still live in extreme poverty and more than 5 million live just above the poverty line and could easily slip back to extreme poverty. Economic growth has not benefited the population equally.
The poverty rate in rural areas is considerably higher than that of the urban areas. Vietnam’s 53 ethnic minority groups, most of whom in rural and remote mountainous areas are disproportionately affected by poverty: although they comprise just 14% of the population. , ethnic minorities account for 86% of those living in poverty in Vietnam. The poor are the most vulnerable to economic shocks, in particular, high inflation, and have reduced coping mechanisms in the event of frequent natural disasters arising from climate change and disease outbreaks, such as Covid-19. Preventing malnutrition remains a challenge, especially among ethnic minorities, who continue to suffer unacceptably high levels of childhood stunting (almost 34% compared to a national average of 19.6%).
In Vietnam 7% of the population lives with disabilities, in part due to its war legacy. Disability is significantly correlated with poverty, school attendance rates for those with disabilities are far below those of non-disabled persons, and disabled people face many barriers to employment.
Gender remains a determinant of poverty and vulnerability in Vietnam, in spite of equal attendance at primary school and one of the highest female labour force participation rates in the world. Ethnic minorities experience significantly greater gender inequality than the general population.
Vietnam ranked as the world’s thirteenth-most vulnerable country to climate change and disasters in the Global Climate Risk Index for the period 2000-2019.
Ireland’s annual development cooperation programme supporting development in Vietnam and the Mekong Sub-region (Laos, Cambodia and Myanmar) has totalled an average of €6 million to €10 million per year in recent years with a focus on reaching the furthest behind, nutrition, mine action and education.
In Vietnam, we support the implementation of the Government’s Socio-Economic Development Plan through our focus on increasing inclusion and encouraging innovation. We do this by working with a variety of partners at national and local level including government institutions, UN agencies, international and national research institutions, mass organisations and civil society organisations.
In Cambodia, Lao PDR and Myanmar, we fund interventions targeting very poor and vulnerable communities through partner organisations that have strong presence on the ground and work closely with local authorities in each country.
A holistic approach to the development of ethnic minority communities
Ireland’s development cooperation efforts in Vietnam retain a key focus on ethnic minority development, where Ireland has added value and gained insights from work done to date.
Promoting the inclusive and sustainable development of ethnic minority communities is a complex issue requiring collective action by government, development partners and communities themselves. Ireland supports a holistic approach, addressing ethnic minorities’ development needs from various dimensions including access to services, nutrition, gender empowerment, climate and environmental sustainability, and community voice and participation. To support these efforts, the Embassy coordinates closely with government, multilateral and international and local NGOs, each with different areas of expertise, to cooperate and share learning and innovative approaches to multiply the impact of their work.
Sharing experience and skills from Ireland
In response to strong interest and demand from our Vietnamese Government partners, we are contributing to critical analysis and public debate in Vietnam using Ireland’s own experience in economic management and independent studies from national research bodies.
Through the Irish Development Experience and Sharing (IDEAS) initiative, we are facilitating the exchange of ideas and strengthening strategic linkages between Ireland and Vietnam in the areas of education; agriculture; agri-food; and the business and economic sectors. We provide targeted scholarships for students from the region to study in Ireland focussing on labour market skills and the STEM subjects (science, technology, engineering and mathematics), as well as some opportunities for business development and entrepreneurship. We have provided seed funding, through the Vietnam Ireland Bilateral Education Exchange (VIBE) programme, to build co-operation between universities and research institutions in Ireland and Vietnam.
Helping shape national policies that benefit the most marginalised
Ireland provides support to strengthen the capacity of civil society organisations working to influence policy response and service delivery in favour of groups that are marginalised on the basis of gender, migrant status, age, sexual orientation, ethnicity or disability. Through its networks, the Embassy encourages respect for the basic rights needed for civil society to grow and flourish.
The Embassy’s development programme in Cambodia, Lao PDR and Myanmar focuses available funding on hunger/under-nutrition; delivering livelihood support for vulnerable groups in fragile environments; supporting civil society; crisis response and demining and unexploded ordnance (UXO) clearance.
Response to COVID-19
Ireland, through the Embassy of Ireland in Vietnam, has provided a total of €2,383,900 to support COVID-19 response and public health efforts in Vietnam, Cambodia, Laos and Myanmar since the onset of the pandemic in early 2020. This funding is additional to support provided by Ireland internationally through the COVAX facility and to Global Health (totalling €100 million) over the same period.
Funding has been channelled to partner organisations best placed to help protect frontline workers and support vulnerable communities worst affected by COVID-19, and for research efforts, in each country.
At national level, Vietnam has made significant progress over recent years:
- Vietnam has reduced the poverty headcount from very high levels in the early 1990s to 5.6% by 2018.
- Life expectancy risen from 70 years in 2005 to 75.4 years in 2019 (World Bank, 2019).
- Maternal mortality declined from 68 in 2000 to 43 per 100,000 births in 2017 (WHO, 2017).
- The national stunting rate of children under 5 reduced from 29.3% in 2010 to 19.6% in 2020 (National Institute of Nutrition Vietnam)
- The percentage of infants who are exclusively breastfed in the first six months has increased from 19.6 in 2020 to 45.4 in 2020 (National Institute of Nutrition-Vietnam, Annual Report).
How we have helped
Irish Aid has played its part in the progress made by Vietnam and the region. Development cooperation continues to be the primary focus of engagement. The total estimated programme expenditure was €45 million since 2017; of which €39.1 million between 2017 and 2020. Interventions funded by Ireland have been implemented through a mixture of grants to government, multilaterals, non-government organisations and civil society.
Notable results over this period include:
- 95 scholarships awarded to young talented Vietnamese candidates to pursue master programmes in Ireland and build capacity in Vietnam in areas where there is an identified skill deficit. A significant number of returned fellows are active Irish alumni in Vietnam, maintaining connections and networks with Ireland and the Embassy.
- 19 joint projects between Irish and Vietnamese higher education institutions have been supported through the Vietnam Ireland Bilateral Education Exchange (VIBE) programme.
- 61 community infrastructure projects and 329 initiatives for ethnic minority communities addressing food, nutrition, infrastructure, climate change & gender supported.
- 400 people with disabilities assisted to gain access to jobs or improved livelihoods.
- 1,123,009m2 of land cleared of land mines and unexploded ordnance in Cambodia; 250,000 people benefited from mine risk education in Cambodia, Lao PDR, Myanmar & Vietnam.
- 21 Centres of Excellence for Breastfeeding established in Vietnam & expanding to the region.
- 5,000 children, 100,000 mothers and 300 health workers in Cambodia and 15 hospitals in Lao PDR benefited from Ireland’s Covid-19 response funding.
Irish Aid’s Vietnam Mission Strategy 2017-2020 (PDF English version and PDF Vietnamese version) sets out how we respond to the changing development environment in Vietnam.
See the Vietnam Mission Strategy Leaflet.