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UN expert urges participation in local development

Update: November, 29/2013 - 17:00
Local people guides tourists visit Sapa.— Photo tuyengiao

HA NOI (VNS)— The United Nations Special Rapporteur for cultural rights Farida Shaheed held a press conference in Ha Noi this morning to report on her visit to Viet Nam which began on November 18.

The UN representative praised Viet Nam's economic record but called for greater participation from local people in development projects to create efficiencies.

"At present Viet Nam finds itself at an important juncture," the UN expert said. "Enormous progress has been achieved in the area of economic development, the reduction of poverty including in remote and rural areas, and the efforts towards the fulfillment of the Millennium Development Goals have been impressive.

"In the rural villages I visited, roads had been or were being built, schools established, and housing facilitated or repaired."

However, she recommended "such programmes would have been even more efficient had the participation of local communities and the use of their knowledge, including traditional knowledge."

During her 12-day visit to Ha Noi, HCM City, Da Nang, Hoi An (Quang Nam Province) and Sa Pa (Lao Cai Province), Shaheed met with key State authorities at the national and local levels.

The visit focused on important issues on the national agenda, including the arts, cultural identity and heritage, teaching history in schools, and the impact of tourism on cultural expression.

Viet Nam has become renowned for it's unique mix of cultural practices and heritage; harnessed for development and attracting swathes of international tourists.

"Multiple programmes have been developed to help people of ethnic communities sell their crafts and access the markets, as well as to showcase their traditional cultures through various festivals, community based tourism and performances," she told the press conference.

"This has allowed communities to participate in the economic development of their region, and has also enabled the Government to promote a more multi-cultural image of the country."

However, Shaheed also stressed that existing challenges needed to be dealt with.

"Measures are needed to ensure that the people whose cultural heritage is being used to promote tourism are being empowered to manage these activities to their best advantage," Shaheed said, recalling the situation in Sa Pa.

"People should not be obliged to perform rather than live their own cultures."

Shaheed will present to the UN Human Rights Council a comprehensive report with her findings and recommendations in 2014.—VNS

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