Australia has redirected A$10.5 million of assistance towards mitigating the negative impacts of COVID-19 on the economy and Vietnamese lives and livelihoods. — Infographic of Australian Embassy in Việt Nam
By Robyn Mudie*
When I returned to Việt Nam last year, decades after my first posting here in 1993, I was amazed at how far and how fast a country could develop over a 25-year period, and how much had changed. At the same time, I was heartened by how much was familiar, and by a strong sense of continuity in Việt Nam’s society and culture. Something that had not changed, and probably never will, was the steely determination, solidarity and enduring community spirit of the Vietnamese people.
In recent months, as the COVID-19 global pandemic has ravaged the world, these qualities have come to the fore once again. As Australia’s Ambassador to Việt Nam, I have been impressed and inspired by the swift and decisive actions taken by the Government of Việt Nam to tackle the threat of COVID-19 and to contain its impact on the lives and livelihoods of the people of this wonderful country.
With just a few hundred confirmed cases at the time of writing and zero recorded deaths, Việt Nam’s management of the pandemic has been exemplary, deservedly capturing the world’s attention. A fast and proactive response, informed by science and lessons learnt from past experience, together with strong and transparent public communication, have been critical to Việt Nam’s success.
While Việt Nam is rapidly developing its “new normal”, there are still many formidable challenges ahead. Both here in Việt Nam and in Australia, we must remain vigilant to new waves of infection. We must both seek to manage the serious economic and social impacts of COVID-19, amid continuing global uncertainty.
Australia and Việt Nam are steadfast friends and long-standing partners. Throughout this crisis, we have been working closely together, collaborating on vaccine research, exchanging information and sharing lessons learned from our health responses. In the months ahead, we will continue to work together to help our economies and our people to recover.
The Australian Government provides more than A$70 million (US$48.7 million) in official development assistance to Việt Nam every year with the intention of helping Việt Nam achieve its socio-economic and development aspirations. Our assistance places an emphasis on economic reform, human resource development, private sector engagement, climate change, gender equality and innovation. This week, we redirected A$10.5 million of this assistance towards mitigating the negative impacts of COVID-19 on the economy and Vietnamese lives and livelihoods.
The COVID-19 crisis has sharply demonstrated the importance of maintaining free and open trade and maintaining a rules-based global trading system in order to support critical supply chains and ensure regional stability. The Australian Government will therefore provide additional funding through our strategic partnership with the World Bank Group to support the Government of Việt Nam with high quality economic advice and information sharing. As we shift our focus to economic recovery, Việt Nam and Australia are working closely together on an Enhanced Economic Engagement Strategy to boost two-way trade and investment and accelerate the economic recovery of our nations and the broader region.
We will also provide critical support to women and girls who have been disproportionately affected by this crisis. We know that domestic, sexual and gender-based violence increases during crises and disasters. Evidence suggests this is happening across the globe during the COVID-19 pandemic. Building on our longstanding support for gender equality in Việt Nam, Australia will fund a campaign to address violence against women and children in partnership with UNFPA, UNICEF and UN Women.
Australia will also provide additional support to the Provincial Governance and Public Administration Performance Index (PAPI), an initiative that collects and analyses information from thousands of Vietnamese citizens each year. Trusted and independent information is a critical part of good public policy, and is more important now than ever before, as we address the complex policy challenges COVID-19 has thrown our way.
Australia has made a commitment to helping its friends and neighbours recover from COVID-19. As the effects of this global crisis continue to unfold, Australia stands with its neighbours, including Việt Nam, as we work together to minimise the human, economic and social costs of this pandemic, and chart a course to economic recovery.
* Robyn Mudie is the Australian Ambassador to Việt Nam