Viet Nam News
HÀ NỘI — Switzerland has pledged to continue its support to Việt Nam through overseas development assistance (ODA) projects, which focus on achieving sustainable economic growth.
Speaking at a workshop to review the completion of 25 years of Swiss Agency for Development Co-operation (SDC) in Việt Nam last Friday, Swiss ambassador to Việt Nam Beatrice Maser Mallor said that as Việt Nam had become a lower-middle-income country, Switzerland’s assistance needed to be adjusted to reflect this new reality.
“Perhaps SDC’s most significant achievement has been to give people a voice in the local government and to promote people’s participation in decisions affecting their livelihoods at the grassroots level,” she said.
Between 1992 and 2016, SDC’s primary focus was to alleviate poverty and improve local governance. This paved the way for a new phase of bilateral development co-operation between the two countries, with SDC’s sister organisation – Switzerland’s State Secretariat for Economic Affairs (SECO) – to take over from 2017 onwards.
Việt Nam will continue to benefit from SDC’s various regional and global programmes that tackle climate change, water and food security, said Tim Enderlin, head of SDC in Việt Nam. Over the past 25 years, an estimated 4.6 to 6.8 million people nationwide have benefited directly and indirectly through 32 SDC programmes, with a total assistance of CHF216 million (approximately US$236 million).
“SDC’s programmes help people ‘climb’ out of poverty. I don’t like the phrase ‘lift people out of poverty.’ I think people do this themselves, with SDC’s assistance,” Jacob Gammelgaard, independent reviewer of SDC’s portfolio in Việt Nam, said. Other than promoting local governance, all of SDC’s programmes contribute to poverty reduction through self-empowerment.
Speaking at the workshop, deputy minister of the investment and planning ministry Nguyễn Thế Phương said the collaboration between the two countries made effective use of Switzerland’s expertise and experience in development, most notably, decentralisation and local-level planning, which is in line with the government’s policy of fostering grassroots democracy.
“Our co-operation spanned various areas, from education, vocational training, capacity building, management and public administration reforms to urban development planning and rural livelihoods,” he said.
Independent assessment based on documentation and interviews with stakeholders and beneficiaries rated 43.5 per cent of SDC’s portfolio disbursement as excellent and very good and 29.7 per cent as good, while 17.3 per cent and 4.1 were rated as below average and failed, respectively. Three OECD’s (Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development) criteria to assess the programmes, namely sustainability, effectiveness and impact, and a fourth criterion of replicability was added.
Some of SDC’s flagship programmes include the one-stop shop model which aims to streamline public administrative services and is now implemented nationwide; the Strengthening Vocational Training Centres programme to build a base of Vietnamese researchers and educators; and the Market Access for the Rural Poor programme that helps rural products reach more customers locally and abroad.
The northern Hoà Bình province is a long-time beneficiary of SDC’s investment, seeing rural and forestry development, improved public services in agriculture and community participation programmes between 1998 and 2015.
Deputy Chairman of the provincial People’s Committee Nguyễn Văn Dũng said, “SDC projects approached people directly to mobilise their participation in planning, implementing and monitoring their community plans. The projects’ practices were institutionalised by the decisions of the provincial authorities. This substantively contributes to the implementation of grassroots democracy.”
Incidentally, 2016 also marked the 45th anniversary of Việt Nam-Switzerland diplomatic relations. — VNS