A United Nations independent expert in extreme poverty called on Vietnam to take further steps to ensure that ethnic minorities are not left behind in the nation's impressive march toward middle-income status.
"The road ahead is much more difficult," said Magdalena Sepulveda, the UN independent expert on human rights and extreme poverty at a Tuesday (August 31) press conference that marked the end of her nine-day visit to the country.
Sepulveda, who was invited here by the Vietnamese government, praised the country's rapid reduction of its poverty rate from 56 percent in 1995 to 10 percent in 2010. Sepulveda noted, however, that ethnic minorities are "overrepresented" in these numbers.
Though the state has invested heavily in infrastructure in areas where ethnic minorities live, she said, in some cases these improvements do not lead to better lives. According to Sepulveda, the government's antipoverty policies must take into account the "cultural barriers" that prevent these groups from being integrated.
That includes providing training in bilingual education, expanding social protection and including those who live in extreme poverty in the policy-making process.
"It's possible to keep growing without investing in additional resources to include everybody," she said. The UN expert advised that investment will "pay back" in the long term.
Sepulveda is the second independent UN expert who has visited the country. She will present her full report on the poverty and human rights situation in Vietnam to the UN Human Rights Council in March 2011.