Factsheets about Vietnam as of April 2004

I/. Progresses in the exercise of Human Rights in Vietnam

1. Basics

- In recent years, Viet Nam has recorded outstanding achievements in ensuring human rights in economic, social and cultural fields. Viet Nam’s Human Development Index (HDI) has remarkably risen, from 0.560 in 1995 to 0.688 in 2003, ranking 6th in the region, 28th in Asia and 109th in the world (the ranking in 1995 was 7/10, 32/50 and 122/201 respectively). This is a proof of Viet Nam’s attention given to the comprehensive development of its people. Viet Nam’s average life expectancy has increased year after year (from 65.2 in 1995 to 67.8 in 2003). Progress has been made in public health. Budget for healthcare has doubled in five years (1996-2001). By 2003, the number of hospitals and clinics has increased by 17.7 times (13,092 compared to 741); and the number of doctors and nurses by 156.9 times as compared with those of 1945.

- National programs on employment have yielded good results. 4.325 million jobs were created in three years (2001-2003). Urban unemployment was reduced to 5.78% in urban areas. 140,000 workers and experts have been employed on definite periods abroad, mainly in Malaysia, South Korea, Japan and Taiwan.

- There has been good progress in improving equality among ethnicities. The percentage of ethnic minority pupils at primary level has increased from 16.7% in 1998-1999 school year to 17.5% in the 2001-2002 school year, from 8.9% to 12% at the lower secondary level. There are 344 boarding secondary schools with 59,160 pupils from minority ethnics throughout the country.

2. Poverty reduction programmes

- In 2002, the Vietnamese Government began to implement the Comprehensive Poverty Reduction and Growth Strategy and after two years has made significant progress. In 2003, Vietnam’s GDP expanded by 7.2%, export increased by 22% and FDI grew by 10%. The Government has allocated nearly 20 billion VND for Hunger Eradication and Poverty Reduction programmes, building 140,000 houses for the poor, providing free health care cards for 2.45 million people. As a result Vietnam’s poverty incident has been remarkably reduced from 17.2% in 2001 to 14% in 2002 and 11% in 2003.

- Poverty reduction programmes focus on developing the infrastructure and basic social services for communes in remote areas. So far, basically each commune has one health clinic and more than 97% of the communes are accessible by car. The 135 programme, after four years of implementation, has helped improve the socio-economic conditions of 2362 especially poor communes and 316 especially disadvantaged districts in 49 provinces. About 13,000 projects have been executed with the total investment of 2,958 billion dongs from the central budget and 166.5 billion dongs from local budgets. 1700 billion dongs equal to more than 50% of the programmes' capital has been invested in 1700 communes in the northern mountainous region.

3. Socio-economic Development in the Central Highlands:

-The Vietnamese Government has always given attention and priority to socio-economic development of the Central Highlands. In recent years, the Central Highlands has become one of the fastest growing regions of the country with an average growth rate of 9.9% (higher than the national average rate). The income per capita of Dak Lak and Gia Lai provinces in 2003 was 3.4 million dong (about US $220) and that of Lam Dong and Kon Tum provinces was 3 million dongs (about US $200). 99% communes in the region have roads to the centres (the figure for the whole country is 97.4%). 89%-97.4% of communes are connected to national electricity grid (89% nationwide). And 45% of households in rural areas have clean water.
Poverty reduction programs in the Central Highlands have been actively implemented, cutting the poverty rate from 24.9% in 2001 down to 17.4% in 2003. The State has made big investments in irrigation works, helping maintain production during the dry season. At present, the State is assisting the central highlands provinces in building reservoirs, irrigation works and providing seeds and fertilizer for farmers who suffer losses due to drought. Poor households are provided with loans to buy houses on installation at low interest rates. There have been also policies to address ethnic minorities’ needs for housing and farming land. They are encouraged, through subsidy (4 million dong or US$ 250 per hectare), to reclaim land for cultivation and husbandry.

- The infrastructure in central highland provinces has been improved. Each province has thousands of kilometers of asphalted road and a low voltage electricity grid. In the near future, tens of bridges will be built in the Central Highlands while a project aimed to install a pipeline to bring oil to Dak Lak and Kon Tum is underway.

- The State of Vietnam gives special attention to improving cultural and spiritual life for ethnic minorities. So far, there have been 40,000 radio programmes broadcasted in six ethnic minority languages and 6,000 ethnic music programs. The project on “Investigation, Collection, Translation, Publishing and Preservation of Central Highlands Epics” has been implemented during which 456 works and 208 artisans have been found.

4. Religious freedom

Viet Nam has six major religions, namely Buddhism, Catholicism, Protestantism, Islam, Cao Dai, Hoa Hao with the total number of 18,358,345 followers, specifically:

- Buddhism has 9,038,064 followers, accounting for 12% of the population (including 1.2 million Khmer followers), which consists of 33,066 monks (21,606 of Mahayara, 9,415 of Therevada), 9,065 senior dignitaries. There are 14,590 worshipping places, 3 Buddhist Universities with over 1,000 monks and nuns, 4 Buddhist college courses with 842 monks and nuns; 30 Buddhist intermediate schools with 3,000 monks and nuns, 37 Buddhist primary classes with 2,500 monks and nuns. 2.500 Khmer monks are studying in Buddhist higher and intermediate classes in Pali. In 2003, the Vietnamese Government allocated 106,515 m2 of land to the Buddhist Church of Viet Nam to build the Buddhist University in Soc Son, Ha Noi. The Ministry of Culture and Information is assisting the Buddhist Church of Viet Nam in publishing the Buddhist Culture Magazine and launching a Buddhist Website. In February 2004, the Central Executive Buddhist Council of the Buddhist Church of Viet Nam attended the Buddhist Leaders’ Conference in New Delhi, India.

- Catholicism has 5,303,445 believers, accounting for 7.2% of the population, including 2 cardinal archbishops, 1 archbishop, 36 bishops, 2,410 priests, 11,147 clergymen, 4,390 monks and missionarists, 6,033 churches and chapels, 3 archdioceses, 25 dioceses, 2,040 parishes. In terms of training institutions, there are 6 grand seminaries with 1,044 seminarists. The Vietnamese Government has been creating favourable conditions for the Catholic Church to implement "the Holy Year 2004".

- Protestantism has 622,000 followers equal to 0.65% of the population (prior to 1975, it had only 205,000 followers), including 872 clergymen. It organises religious practices in 446 churches and chapels (prior to 1975, there were only 380 churches and chapels). In the Central Highlands alone, there are 304,876 followers of 8 sects. 25 Protestant branches of the Christian and Missionary Alliance (CMA) have been recognised. The branch recognised most recently is in Amaron, Gia Lai on 13 April 2004.

- Cao Dai has 2,276,978 followers or 3% of the population, 7,104 priests and 1.284 worshipping places. The Cao Dai Tay Ninh Management Council continues to send dignitaries from provinces and cities to oratories. Ban Chinh Dao of the Long An Cao Dai opens 4 Hanh duong classes for practitioners and believers.

- Hoa Hao Buddhist Branch has 1,232,572 believers, accounting for 1.5% of the population, 534 priests and 522 worshipping places. The Representative Committee of Hoa Hao Buddhist Branch is preparing for the Hoa Hao Buddhist Congress in the second term.

- Islam has 64,991 believers, 699 mullahs, and 77 worshipping places. An Giang People's Committee has created favourable conditions for representatives of mosques in the province to establish a mobilising committee to convene a congress and to honour the representative of the Muslim Community in An Giang.

II/. Some new developments of humanitarian programmes coordinated by the government of Vietnam and the U.S

1. Departure programme

- As of February 2004, there have been 519,628 migrants under departure programmes agreed between the two countries among whom 247,099 people went under the ODP, 90,942 under the AC, 165,147 under the HO and 16,440 under the ROVR. With a tradition of humanitarianism and goodwill, the Vietnamese Government has agreed to let the US side implement the programmes for former US Government’s employees in Southern Vietnam before 1975 (U11). However, the number of people accepted under this programme is very small (about 449 people or 3% out of total 15,000 people).

- At present, the two sides are negotiating the humanitarian resettlement (HR) for those who might have been eligible for previous programmes but did not present applications before 30 September 1994 deadline. A Working Minute of humanitarian resettlement principles was signed at the meeting between the Vietnamese and US delegations on 29-30 March 2004.

2. The MIA issue

- To date, Vietnam and the United States have carried out 77 joint searching missions. The Vietnamese side has conducted 25 unilateral investigations and transferred the US side 820 sets of remains.

- Vietnam has created favourable conditions for the US side to access and study thousands of pages of documents and objects used during the wartime to gather information on MIAs. Vietnam has also provided active cooperation in three-party (with Cambodia and Laos) and four-party (with the US, Cambodia and Laos) searching activities.

3. The clearing unexploded ordnance and landmine

- It is estimated that between 350-850,000 tons of Unexploded Ordnance and 3 millions landmines remain scattered across all 64 provinces with ordnance buried at depth up to 10m. Between 5-10% of the land area of Vietnam remains contaminated. In Quang Tri province alone, there are estimated to be 100,000 victims with an on-going accident rate of approximately 500/year.

- Since 1996, a number of projects have been implemented by international groups, clearing 2,400 ha of land (with the total budget of USD 10 millions). Two U.S. organisations have taken active part in investigations of landmine and unexploded ordnance in Vietnam: VVMF (Vietnam Veterans Memorial Foundation) and VVAF (Vietnam Veterans America Foundation). From 1995 till the end of 2003, with the support from VVAF, rehabilitation programmes have produced and distributed assistive devices to 6,361 adults and children (with the total of 10,020 orthotic devices, 122 prosthesis, and 426 wheelchairs). VVAF and BOMICO (Ministry of Defense) signed on Febrary, 25th 2004 the Landmine Impact Assessment and Technical Survey Programme. This project consists of two phases: phase 1 covering 3 Central Provinces with total budget of USD 1,158,000; phase 2 (broader covering) up to USD 3,000,000.