Plenary Meeting International Support Group - ISG
30th May 2001

Chaired by
H.E. Minister Le Huy Ngo, MARD
Mr. Edouard A. Wattez, Resident Representative, UNDP
Ms. Guerrieri Fernanda, Chief Representative, FAO

Time: 8:00 – 17:00, 30th May 2001.
Venue: Bao Son Hotel,  2 Nguyen Chi Thanh, Hanoi
Participants: Members of ISG Steering Board, representatives of relevant line ministries and sectors, representatives of all donors and international organisations involved in agriculture and rural development, and news agencies.

 Morning Session: Anchor

Afternoon Session: Dialogue Forum

1. Ms. Kathleen McLaughlin, Chief Representative, CECI-Vietnam asked:

What is the role of the ISG model in decentralisation process and sector-wide approach?

2. Mr. Pham Van Ngoc, Manager, Action AID Vietnam asked:

Rural development with focus on economic aspects only is insufficient, but requires further focus on social issues, especially food security. Is ISG process involved in these activities, and does it have collaboration with other sectors?

- The appraisal of projects currently takes time really, making it difficult for it to be carried out. For example, it is very difficult to make out detailed plans for each year of a five-year –long project, or to clarify the beneficiaries... Should it be improved for easier performance?

- In the case of a project with participation from many sides, who have their own procedures, it is very difficult for coordination. What are the inter-sectoral efforts for the settlement of this issue?

3. Ms. Do Hong Phan, Director, Center for resource development and environment (Redeen):

- Suggestion: In fact, ISG process is under the MARD‘s scope, however, it is usually involved in such inter-sectoral issues as rural development and water resources management. Therefore, the scale, functions and scope of the ISG activities should be widened and strengthened for better co-ordination.

- Although, MARD is currently managing three important resources: land, water and forests, it is only shown in science studies. Could you please explain more about management tasks?

- Regarding agriculture policy, is it necessary for MARD to have a comprehensive policy on rural development? Where is it presented and studied by whom?

4. Mr. Ola Moller, Second Secretary – Swedish Embassy:

MARD’s viewpoints toward coordination of rural development issues? At present, many donors focus on geographically support, what is the risk of this leading to the fragmentarisation of efforts in rural development?

5. Mr. Alessandro Pio, Country Principal Officer, ADB:

Suggestion: there are some aspects relating to the establishment and maintaining of the ISG database. What’s important is that the experience drawn from current databases on rural development, including the ones by UNDP and REFAS, etc. should be evaluated. It is the common sense that information updating is always difficult, particularly the information of plans and pipeline projects, the information-updating methods are different from different databases, therefore, the most general standards (in terms of forms of information/reports) are needed in order to facilitate the information exchange among the databases.

6. Ms. Guerrieeri Fernanda, Chief Representative, FAO in Vietnam:

The suggestion by NGOs regarding the proposal of the Technical Working Group on Gender to join the ISG activities is also important to be taken into consideration, MARD‘s viewpoints?

7. Mr. Tham, Representative from Department of Flood, Storms Controlling and Dykes Management-MARD:

The criteria and conditions for the offering of codes to ODA projects? Has this become a legal document? Does the code offering take time? Does it conflict the advocated active mobilisation of ODA sources as regulated in the Law on Water Resources and the Ordinance on Storm and Floods Controlling which states that the Department of Flood, Storms Controlling and Dykes Management and International Co-operation Department of MARD shall take active role in mobilisation of ODA sources?

8. Ms. Nguyen Phuoc Binh Thanh, Program officer, Royal Netherlands Embassy:

- Hunger eradication, poverty reduction and creation of off-farm jobs need solutions for market issues, from land issues to rural financial services, please explain more about this.

- Increased disasters have caused risks to farmers and rural enterprises, what are detailed solutions in support of farmers in natural disaster-suffering areas?

9. Ms. Louise Bukha, Advisor – Canadian Embassy:

ADB presentation talked about the transition from a rural economy to an industrialised and urban economy. There seems to be a choice of strategies: either support the development of a strong rural economy, or prepare for transition to an urban and industrialised economy. MARD’s viewpoints and preparations?

10. Mr. Nicolaas Bakker, First Secretary, Royal Netherlands Embassy:

Congratulates MARD on the consolidation of the ISG mechanism. On the issue of rural and industrial development: are there any special planning for densely-populated areas? And what could donors contribute in this case?

11. Ms. Kathleen Mclaughlin, Chief Representative, CECI Vietnam:

MARD's preparations for its commitments to international trade? Its possible impacts on rural economy and farmers’ livelihoods? How should farmers be prepared in this context? How to support this area? Do the pilot projects for rural development Vice Minister talked about relate to this issue?

12. Mr. Do Manh Hung, Mekong Committee:

WB has made some recommendations for MARD with reference to the priorities for the rural development strategy including the promotion of off-farm employment in rural areas. However, as it can seen in the presented WB portfolio of projects, seemingly, WB has not yet a project that can really enhance the off-farm employment in rural areas, if it is on the basis of three issues: traditional occupations, capital sources, and markets (national and international)?

13. Mr. Vu Tien Luc, Department of Water Resources and Hydraulic Works Management, MARD:

Should MARD report mention more clearly the co-operation among the ministries involved in inter-sectoral issues in the formulation of a legal framework, and legal documents on water, forestry and land resources?

14. Mr. Nguyen Thanh Tung, Program Officer, UNDP:

Information is the key for development. Have some programmes of the Government and MARD not yet taken an account on the information aspect? Has MARD had any particular training programmes (in addition to mass media) for localities and people on information access?

15. Ms. Truong Thai Phuong, Director General, External Finance Department, MOF:

Comments:

16. Ms. Nguyen Thi Phuong Lien, Program Officer, Danish Embassy:

- Also regarding the sector-wide approach, many donors including DANIDA apply this approach, however, their thought of implementation is seemingly the same as when the project approach is applied? Is it necessary for MARD, MPI and Office of the Government to share the organisation of a workshop on difficulties encountered during the implementation of the sector-wide approach in Vietnam (for example, the Agriculture Sector Support Programme - ASPS has no counterpart fund. Another example is that in the case of the post-harvest technology project, while DANIDA wants to center its resources in geographical focus, the Department of Agriculture Extension of MARD want to spread resources?

- MARD's human resources training strategy? Are there any difficulties in training as their English language skills are limited?

17. Ms. Guerrieri Fernanda, Chief Representative, FAO

18. Vice Minister Cao Duc Phat sums up the Meeting


 Morning Session: Anchor

 1, Minister Le Huy Ngo opens the Meeting. In his opening speech, the Minister extends thanks to the community of donors for their precious contributions to the cause of Vietnam’s agriculture and rural development over the past time. The Minister tells the forum since higher requirements for development demand better and higher quality in management and coordination of development resources, it is necessary to have further and better collaboration and coordination between Vietnam and the international donor community. The International Support Group (ISG) of MARD, a coordination model, based on a multi-stakeholder forum, for cooperation and development, is the shared initiative of the donor community, which is suitable to the development trend.

 The Agenda of the Meeting is introduced and agreed by all the participants.

2, Vice Minister Cao Duc Phat presents the report ‘Major Focuses and Thrusts of the Agriculture and Rural Development Sector, and the National Programs’, including three parts with some important contents as stated hereunder:

     + Part I – An overview of the agriculture and rural areas 2000-2001: Agricultural production in 2000 and in the first 4 months of 2001; Industrial and business development in rural areas; Infrastructural development; Job creation, income generation, and hunger eradication and poverty reduction (HEPR).

     + Part II – Development Priorities of the sector in the upcoming years: shift of the agro-economic structure of in light of Government Decree 09; development of science and technology, development of markets for agro-products; development of suitable infra-structure to push up the shift of economic structure; Human resources development; Policy and institutional renewal, including Land policies, Investment policies, Policies on agricultural credits and farmers, and Policies on international economic integration; Strengthening of State administration, and promotion of democratic exercises in rural areas.

     + Part III – National Programs: Hunger Eradication and Poverty reduction programmes, including national programme for HEPR and employment, Programme 135 “Socio-economic development in 2,235 specially disadvantaged communesProject for eradication and replacement of opium crops; The Five Million Hectare Reforestation Program,National Program for rural water supply and sanitation;Enforcement of the Law on water resources, including completed tasks and the issues that occurred during its implementation; and International co-operation activities.

 On behalf of MARD, the Vice Minister highly appreciates and expresses gratefulness for the considerations of international donors for Vietnam agriculture and rural development, expects to further develop the co-operation and receive strong support from countries, international organisations for the implementation of the program, which has been worked out. Vice Minister also requests that donors pay attention to assistance for integration, market integration, science and technology, and promotion of direct investment in agriculture and rural development.

 3, Report “Important Amendments and Supplements Of the Government’s Decision on Management and Utilization of ODA Resources” – by Mr. Ho Viet Ha, Deputy Director General, Department of External Economics, MPI. The report focuses on the major changes of the ‘Regulation on the Management and Utilization of the Official Development Assistance” issued in attachment with the Decree No 17/2001/NDCP dated 4th May 2001.

 4, Dr. Le Van Minh, Director General, International Cooperation Department -ICD/MARD, Deputy Chairman of the ISG Steering Board, presents a report on three issues “International Support Group (ISG) of MARD: A new Approach for Coordination”, “5 Million Hectare Reforestation Program Partnership: Process and Initial achievements, Brief Process Report on Natural Disaster Mitigation Partnership (NDM-Partnership). These issues would be reported to Donors’ Consultative Group Meeting (CG) June and November 2001 on the request of the Government.

5, The presentation by Mr. Edouard A. Wattez, UNDP-Vietnam Resident Representative, touches on some major issues as follows:

     + Overall Programme for the next years (2001-2005), with focus on: Poverty, globalisation, Non-state, private Sector, Development, public services delivery/PAR, Rule of law, environment and disaster management.

     + 6 priorities in agriculture and rural development over the coming years: Provision of services to farmers; regional imbalance; rural poverty; challenges of global economic integration and its possible impacts to agriculture and rural sector; PAR process; environment protection and natural disaster mitigation.

6, Mr. Alessandro Pio, Country Principal Officer of ADB makes a presentation on possible directions of future ADB operations in agriculture, rural development and natural resources management. He says that ADB is currently preparing its Country Strategy and Program (CSP) covering the 2001-2005 period. It is proposed that ADB support the Government’s vision of economic modernization and poverty reduction by addressing dimensions which will make growth and the structural transition pro-poor and sustainable. ADB would selectively focus its operations on three pillars: pro-poor sustainable economic growth, social development, and good governance. Mr. Pio also highlighted ADB’s direction in support of Vietnam in the areas of agriculture and rural development, water resources development, and forestry; rural development. ADB support activities will pay special attention to coastal areas in Central and Highlands (agriculture, forestry and rural development), Red River Basin, Dong Nai River Basin and some rivers in the Central (water resources management).

7, Mr. Cao Thang Binh, Program Officer, World Bank-Vietnam, presents the overarching operational objective of WB, that is, poverty reduction and factors for achieving this, comprising of: creating opportunity for improved productivity, income and employment; Ensuring equity: sharing the benefits of growth regionally, with the poor, women and ethnic minorities; Reducing vulnerability. The presentation also cites rural development as number-one issue in the direction of WB activities in Vietnam, and mentions priorities for rural development for the ten-year strategy: intensifying production, diversifying production, sustainable natural resources management, promoting rural off-farm employment, ensuring the widely-shared growth benefits. WB Portfolio of on-going rural projects and portfolio of pipeline projects are also presented.

8,Mr. Brian Doolan, Chief Representative, CARE International Vietnam, with comments and ideas from over 60 international Non-governmental Organizations (INGO) in Vietnam, presents current issues in Rural Development and Environmental Protection in Vietnam that INGOs are interested in. The presentation mentions the role of more than 500 INGOs actively working in Vietnam in support of rural development through their commitments to the cause of poverty alleviation and their skills as well as experience gained from the implementation of programmes with the participation of people at grass-root levels. The presentation also proposes that increased resources be allocated to development in the upland areas that provide home for the most disadvantaged ethnic minorities, expresses concerns in strengthening linkages between existing environmental and developmental strategy frameworks and between the key Government institutions with responsibilities within these areas, confirms the commitments to continuing INGO active engagement in this process and encourage the Government and donors to engage the rural development and environmental INGOs in the piloting of innovative approaches under the Forest Sector Support Program, and supports the proposal of Technical Working Group on Gender to join the ISG process.

Note:The above-said reports and presentations are all circulated to the participants, and are available at the ISG Secretariat.

Afternoon Session: Dialogue ForumAnchor

1. Ms. Kathleen McLaughlin, Chief Representative, CECI-Vietnam asked: Anchor

What is the role of the ISG model in decentralisation process and sector-wide approach?

Dr. Le Van Minh: ISG Steering Board includes 10 representativesof the donor community, including NGOs, and representatives of ministries and sectors of the Government. Assisting the Steering Board is ISG Secretariat (which has just been consolidated). The establishment of Thematic Ad-hoc Groups (TAG): TAG1 on Agro-economic Integration and Policy, and TAG2 on Water resources management were also officially approved by the ISG Steering Board during its second meeting recently held on 8th May 2001. The Government decided to establish the ISG Trust Fund in support of ISG activities. The donor community and MARD made active contributions to the Trust Fund in terms of finance and consultants. ISG Steering Board meetings are held four times a year, and Plenary Meeting once a year. ISG Secretariat is responsible for keeping the donor community and international organisations as well as national agencies informed of these meetings and ISG activities. ISG activities will create a co-ordination mechanism in support of MARD management and coordination over aid and other forms of international assistance.

Regarding sector-wide approach, ISG process is the very forum in service of new approaches such as the sector-wide approach, multi-stakeholder approach, and other approaches as activities of partnerships. Such issues of the sector as forestry and water resources will be discussed at the Steering Board meetings and plenary meetings. Technical advisors include representatives of potential donors, NGOs and other stakeholders are invited to participate in the forum for the exchange of views and experience relating to various sectors inside MARD.

2. Mr. Pham Van Ngoc, Manager, Action AID Vietnam asked: Anchor

- Rural development with focus on economic aspects only is insufficient, but requires further focus on social issues, especially food security. Is ISG process involved in these activities, and does it have collaboration with other sectors?

- The appraisal of projects currently takes time really, making it difficult for it to be carried out. For example, it is very difficult to make out detailed plans for each year of a five-year –long project, or to clarify the beneficiaries... Should it be improved for easier performance?

- In the case of a project with participation from many sides, who have their own procedures, it is very difficult for coordination. What are the inter-sectoral efforts for the settlement of this issue?

Dr. Le Van Minh:

The strategies for rural and mountainous areas development of the donors, in general, have been made quite clear, such as the ones of WB, ADB, Sweden, Denmark, EU, German... ISG process is serving the general coordination for projects. If the ISG Steering Board finds it necessary, a TAG (on rural and mountainous areas) will possibly be established. However, even the donors themselves have various concepts of the approach for the development of Vietnam’s rural development, especially the upland development issues. At many meetings on rural development of Vietnam held by MARD, among the donor community, their viewpoints of a starting point are very different. It is said that some donors said that rural development should start from infrastructure construction, but some from human resources training, etc. That is the reason why co-ordination is currently a burning issue. Recently in the Meeting of Asia-Pacific Forum, FAO touched on issues that agricultural sectors should take into consideration: food security, natural disaster, biotechnology, and gene applied in agro-products (GMO). At present, MARD pays great attention and concerns to biotechnology, or natural disaster management undergone for Central Provinces, and maybe for the nation-wide in the future; food security has also been strengthened... All of those issues have not been clearly shape-taken under the ISG framework. However, ISG mechanism will certainly create conditions for the development of activities in service of those aspects in the future.

Regarding the improvement of project procedures, Government’s Decree No 17 has many advances against Decree No 87. Hopefully, disadvantages will gradually be removed. The Government of Vietnam is always willing to settle the barriers of the procedures, with a viewpoint that the simpler the procedures are, the higher the effectiveness is.

3. Ms. Do Hong Phan, Director, Center for resource development and environment (Redeen):Anchor

- Suggestion: In fact, ISG process is under the MARD‘s scope, however, it is usually involved in such inter-sectoral issues as rural development and water resources management. Therefore, the scale, functions and scope of the ISG activities should be widened and strengthened for better co-ordination.

- Although, MARD is currently managing three important resources: land, water and forests, it is only shown in science studies. Could you please explain more about management tasks?

- Regarding agriculture policy, is it necessary for MARD to have a comprehensive policy on rural development? Where is it presented and studied by whom?

Vice Minister Cao Duc Phat:

Thanks and agrees with Ms. Phan‘s proposals.

Management of resources is, in reality, a core task. Water resources management is presented in irrigation issues, management of forests in forestry ones, and management of agriculture lands in agricultural issues. These important resources should be paid special attention.

In terms of policy, the Government assigned MARD to be the focal point for synthesising the rural development issues together with other ministries and sectors in order provide consultancy for the Government, and MARD is responsible for implementation. However, we acknowledge that the rural development task has not been done as required. Currently, MARD is adopting pilot models for more comprehensive rural development, and asks each province to select three models for demonstration. For itself, MARD will directly be involved in 10 models. And, Departments in MARD are now supporting provinces to put forward proposals for projects, so they can be implemented right in the year 2001.

In terms of orientation and policy, in addition to national efforts in studies, UNDP, FAO and WB have also helped develop strategies, policies on rural development, however, it has not been made public. MARD has also used documents of national studies in order to formulate the rural development programme to submit to the Government. The ideas covered by those studies have been adopted for rural development over the past years. However, more efforts from the Government and further assistance from the community of donors are needed.

4. Mr. Ola Moller, Second Secretary – Swedish Embassy: Anchor

MARD’s viewpoints toward coordination of rural development issues? At present, many donors focus on geographically support, what is the risk of this leading to the fragmentarisation of efforts in rural development?

Vice Minister Cao Duc Phat:

It is true that there is fragmentarisation of efforts in agriculture and rural development, not only in the case of foreign funded programmes, but in government-funded programmes as well. Therefore, the Government has steered its ministries to have, necessarily, further close collaboration right from the Central. Within MARD, there is currently close collaboration between such programmes as: agriculture extension, resettlement for mountainous areas, etc. More importantly, the Government advocates more decentralising and offering authorities to localities, especially to district and provincial levels. As programs are implemented in a certain location, the collaboration must be established only at Central level, but also at all grass-root levels.

Dr. Le Van Minh:

There currently remain a lot of difficulties in co-ordination, the decentralisation of the Government is a very good idea, however, we will try our best to make programmes in line with the State policies, avoiding doubled efforts through better co-ordination.

5. Mr. Alessandro Pio, Country Principal Officer, ADB:Anchor

Suggestion: there are some aspects relating to the establishment and maintaining of the ISG database. What’s important is that the experience drawn from current databases on rural development, including the ones by UNDP and REFAS, etc. should be evaluated. It is the common sense that information updating is always difficult, particularly the information of plans and pipeline projects, the information-updating methods are different from different databases, therefore, the most general standards (in terms of forms of information/reports) are needed in order to facilitate the information exchange among the databases.

Dr. Le Van Minh:

Regarding ISG information system, we expect to have a comprehensive database on ODA-funded projects and programmes in the agriculture and rural development areas. In preparation for this database, we have made a combination between this database and ones by UNDP, MPI, and by other donors. With the assistance from REFAS project and UNDP, we have initially developed a database, and are currently finalising the methods for the information updating into this database. I hope that the database of the ISG process will be updated timely, and we will be able to share information with the donor community and other agencies.

The procedures for aid receiving have not been unified. Until now, we have been trying our best with the viewpoint of learning through working. For instance, through the activities of partnerships such as the Five Million Hectare Reforestation Program Partnership (5MHRP), the Natural Disaster Mitigation (NDM-Partnership), we have learnt a lot of things in harmonising the procedures of the donors and the Government. We hope that the procedures from mobilisation to disbursement of ODA sources will be unified.

6. Ms. Guerrieeri Fernanda, Chief Representative, FAO in Vietnam:Anchor

The suggestion by NGOs regarding the proposal of the Technical Working Group on Gender to join the ISG activities is also important to be taken into consideration, MARD‘s viewpoints?

Dr. Le Van Minh:

In terms of the gender issue, MARD currently has the Committee for the Advancement of Women with various active activities. What‘s important is that gender issues should link with development projects/programs in the sector. We will consider to put the gender issues in development activities and integrate them in the ISG process.

7. Mr. Tham, Representative from Department of Flood, Storms Controlling and Dykes Management-MARD:Anchor

The criteria and conditions for the offering of codes to ODA projects? Has this become a legal document? Does the code offering take time? Does it conflict the advocated active mobilisation of ODA sources as regulated in the Law on Water Resources and the Ordinance on Storm and Floods Controlling which states that the Department of Flood, Storms Controlling and Dykes Management and International Co-operation Department of MARD shall take active role in mobilisation of ODA sources?

Dr. Le Van Minh:

There have, up to now, been a lot of aid requests for projects from many agencies sent to donors, causing the overlapping in aid requests, therefore making MARD as well as donors confused. If there is no coding system, it is impossible to recognise what the priorities of MARD are. Thus, ISG is responsible for the collection of information, then submits it to MARD for classification and codes offering. It should be noted that as a code is not a licensing seal, it will not take much time, while possibly saving time in management due to one focal point for all aid requests, and avoiding the fact that donors have to waste their time considering non-coded projects. On the basis of coded projects, donors can take the requests into account. This will also offer convenient conditions for the people in charge of project implementation and aid management in the future.

The code-numbering system and the procedures for code-based management are still under the drafting process in order to collect comments. When the necessary conditions are available, then ISG process will submit the system in writing to MARD for issuance.

Regarding new dyke management projects, MARD is trying its best with the hope that in July to come an Agreement for the NDM-Partnership, which shows MARD‘s priority for this area. The Government of the United States also made a commitment to grant an amount of US$ 950.000 for the development of a map covering flood-prone areas for the seven provinces in the Central of Vietnam, and for the consolidation of the information system for warning of floods and storms.

8. Ms. Nguyen Phuoc Binh Thanh, Program officer, Royal Netherlands Embassy:Anchor

- Hunger eradication, poverty reduction and creation of off-farm jobs need solutions for market issues, from land issues to rural financial services, please explain more about this.

- Increased disasters have caused risks to farmers and rural enterprises, what are detailed solutions in support of farmers in natural disaster-suffering areas?

Vice Minister Cao Duc Phat:

Vietnam’s hunger eradication and poverty reduction are based on agriculture and rural development. The measure now is to continue renovating the policy on market of goods, services and other market factors, with an aim to create integrated markets. In terms of credit and capital issues, the banking sector is trying its best to solve. The Land Law is still under discussion for amendments to include further market factors. Natural disaster prevention and controlling have been paid great concerns from the Government and people after four years of severe natural disasters. The settlement of this issue must be unified from planning to implementation. Disaster factors must be taken into account for all on-going construction works, which needs constant step-by-step efforts.

9. Ms. Louise Bukha, Advisor – Canadian Embassy:Anchor

ADB presentation talked about the transition from a rural economy to an industrialised and urban economy. There seems to be a choice of strategies: either support the development of a strong rural economy, or prepare for transition to an urban and industrialised economy. MARD’s viewpoints and preparations?

Vice Minister Cao Duc Phat:

Up to 77% of the population, 90% of the poor people are residing in rural areas, making some 40% of the GDP (out of which the agriculture value accounts for 70%). Agricultural growth rate is only 6% per year, consequently, the gap between rural and urban areas seems to be widened. The Government pays special attention to agriculture and rural development in an effort to limit that gap, making opportunities for rural people to benefit from the achievements of the Doi Moi reform. However, we have not yet been satisfied with those achievements, but expect to further develop agriculture and rural areas in the orientation of industrialisation, modernisation, application of the advanced technology, and development of off-farm employment in rural areas (occupations based on rural materials and labour, rural small and medium size enterprises). In terms of credit, land and technology issues, the Government has just had a Direction for settlement of those issues in order to develop employment in rural areas.

10. Mr. Nicolaas Bakker, First Secretary, Royal Netherlands Embassy:Anchor

Congratulates MARD on the consolidation of the ISG mechanism. On the issue of rural and industrial development: are there any special planning for densely-populated areas? And what could donors contribute in this case?

Vice Minister Cao Duc Phat:

On the formulation of development plans, MARD has three institutes (of agriculture, irrigation, and forestry) with the functions to help MARD formulate plans, mainly plans for the whole nation. And, plans for each locality belong to its responsibility. MARD asks these agencies to put forward plans suitable to conditions of the market-oriented economy.

11. Ms. Kathleen Mclaughlin, Chief Representative, CECI Vietnam:Anchor

MARD's preparations for its commitments to international trade? Its possible impacts on rural economy and farmers’ livelihoods? How should farmers be prepared in this context? How to support this area? Do the pilot projects for rural development Vice Minister talked about relate to this issue?

Vice Minister Cao Duc Phat:

This is a very big problem. Vietnam has already joined ASEAN and is currently promoting the implementation of its commitments with AFTA. By 2006, the tariff of most agro-products will be reduced by 0-5%, non-tariff barriers will be removed, the ASPS issues will be unified in accordance with ASEAN standards, participated in the implementation of APEC commitments and preparing itself for WTO membership negotiations ... International integration is aimed at pushing up the development of agriculture and rural economy. Therefore, Vietnam's agriculture has been one highly characterised by goods, for example, rice, coffee, tea, pepper, oil... This will be convenient for Vietnam to integrate into the world market. However, the market situation in 2000 was not convenient for Vietnam's agro-products.

The important challenge of integration is how to increase the competitiveness. The Government advocates supporting farmers to increase the competitiveness of agro-products, however, at present, the way can not possibly be the same as in the past (which was to steer the farmers), instead of that, a good environment should be created for them. The State manages mainly through policies, and ensures common interests.

Vietnam has been adopting the open-door policy for 15 years now, however, its WTO join-in has meet a lot of new things. MARD would like to express thanks to the community of donors who have been supporting its international integration.

12. Mr. Do Manh Hung, Mekong Committee:Anchor

WB has made some recommendations for MARD with reference to the priorities for the rural development strategy including the promotion of off-farm employment in rural areas. However, as it can seen in the presented WB portfolio of projects, seemingly, WB has not yet a project that can really enhance the off-farm employment in rural areas, if it is on the basis of three issues: traditional occupations, capital sources, and markets (national and international)?

Mr. Cao Thang Binh, Program Officer WB:

Mr. Hung's comments are completely true. WB has two types of activities: lending and non-lending activities. The non-lending activities in the period 2001-2003 focus on how to develop off-farm employment in rural areas in Vietnam in order to take clear shape of difficulties before large credit projects can be formulated. The projects that WB has presented right here have been prepared in accordance with the list of pro-nation strategic projects which was made in 1988 (old). Recently, WB has held a meeting in Hoi An, and have been aware that it is necessary to have a project to promote off-farm employment in rural areas, however studies should be done before negotiations (possibly in 2004-2005), depending on the preparation speed.

13. Mr. Vu Tien Luc, Department of Water Resources and Hydraulic Works Management, MARD:Anchor

Should MARD report mention more clearly the co-operation among the ministries involved in inter-sectoral issues in the formulation of a legal framework, and legal documents on water, forestry and land resources?

Vice Minister Cao Duc Phat:

Regarding laws and legal documents, particularly the policies in distribution of resources: water, land...MARD is currently formulating and adjusting the legal status and legal documents to make them suitable to the new economic management mechanism... The Law on Forestry Protection and Development is being amended, leading to changes in a series of documents. MARD has in coordination with the Land Administration General drafted the revised Land Law to submit to the National Assembly for consideration. Law formulation is a process of seeking and expressing efforts to renovation.

14. Mr. Nguyen Thanh Tung, Program Officer, UNDP:Anchor

Information is the key for development. Have some programmes of the Government and MARD not yet taken an account on the information aspect? Has MARD had any particular training programmes (in addition to mass media) for localities and people on information access?

Vice Minister Cao Duc Phat:

Information has increasingly shown its role in the new mechanism, and is a very imperative need of farmers. Recently, MARD consolidated the information system, with the major focus being the Information Center for Agriculture and Rural Development (ICARD), aiming at collecting national and international information, disseminating information through radio, newspapers, and television. The international community has also supported MARD in terms of information. ISG process has published the ISG News Letters, and is under the establishment of a website for information exchange not only at the Central level but at grass-root level as well. Hopefully, more assistance for the development of this area will be supported.

Dr. Le Van Minh:

MARD has recently received an amount of US$ 2 million from the Netherlands through UNDP for the implementation of the Public Administration Reform (PAR) Project. This project includes a component for information policy planning, with a hope to have a best policy on information and training for MARD. Many donors have expressed their interests in participating in the activities of planning an information strategy, for example, French Government is having discussions with ICARD of MARD about possible assistance. Australian Government  supports MARD with information in water resources development. MARD will finally make an overall conclusion on the whole information system.

Vice Minister Cao Duc Phat:

On training, on one hand, science and technology should be paid attention, however, the future of agriculture and rural development is said to be trained human resources: experts, scientists, managers, technicians and farmers. MARD would like to thank donors for their supports to the strengthening of capacity of MARD and locality staff.

15. Ms. Truong Thai Phuong, Director General, External Finance Department, MOF:Anchor

Comments:

- Agriculture and rural development and poverty alleviation are very high priorities of the Government and donors, therefore, high coordination is needed for projects. One important content that should be reviewed and evaluated is the disbursement of ODA resources with a view to draw reasons for success and restrains, which should be jointly done by the Government and donors. If MARD has had no program for the settlement of this issue, it should assign the ISG process to carry out this task.

- In order to attain achievements from the sector-wide approach, time is needed to consider how to apply this approach. In my opinions, the sector-wide approach should only be applied at macro level to such specified steps as identification, formulation, and appraisal. And, its implementation should be done at provincial level. Experience has shown that the projects implemented at both central and local levels have met a lot of difficulties, and the less donors a project is supported by, the more effective it will be. Regarding decentralisation, the rights to participate of local beneficiaries should be paid special attention, particularly in the case of the projects designed at central level. Regarding the aspect of procedures and practices, more should be improved to better serve the disbursement process.

- Most of the agricultural projects include credit components. Review and evaluation should be done to know if credit saturation point has been reached, as the disbursement of credit components is difficult to be done. While it is required by the donors that credit must be granted to farmers themselves, which is a very hard requirement, the Government offers preferential credit to the poor. As a result, foreign credit capital will impossibly compete with preferential capital provided by the Government. Therefore, rural credit policy should also be an activity that ISG process should take into consideration and study in order to translate it into its activities.

Vice Minister Cao Duc Phat:

The financial mechanism of the donors and that of the Government have not yet been unified, it is, therefore, necessary to have flexible solutions. In order to increase the sector’s ability to receive support, from the Central to localities, human resources should be developed. We expect the donors to support this area.

16. Ms. Nguyen Thi Phuong Lien, Program Officer, Danish Embassy:Anchor

- Also regarding the sector-wide approach, many donors including DANIDA apply this approach, however, their thought of implementation is seemingly the same as when the project approach is applied? Is it necessary for MARD, MPI and Office of the Government to share the organisation of a workshop on difficulties encountered during the implementation of the sector-wide approach in Vietnam (for example, the Agriculture Sector Support Programme - ASPS has no counterpart fund. Another example is that in the case of the post-harvest technology project, while DANIDA wants to center its resources in geographical focus, the Department of Agriculture Extension of MARD want to spread resources?

- MARD's human resources training strategy? Are there any difficulties in training as their English language skills are limited?

Vice Minister Cao Duc Phat:

This suggestion is completely exact. MARD will try its best. MARD is currently making plans for human resources training, firstly in foreign languages. ADB has also had a project for training on rural project management for the sector.

17. Ms. Guerrieri Fernanda, Chief Representative, FAO:Anchor

ISG Plenary Meeting has been improved much in terms of quality. ISG's strengthened activities have shown MARD's efforts. The development of the ISG process is also an example of success in capacity building.

We should be very conscious that co-ordination is a very important task as our resources are limited. ISG process has been keeping right tracks.

Thanks MARD and ISG Secretariat for the on-going tasks.

18. Vice Minister Cao Duc Phat sums up the Meeting: Anchor

- Thanks the participants for their participation and comment/suggestions to MARD on directions, policies and measures for Vietnam's sustainable agriculture and rural development.

- Thanks the participants and donor community for their comments to the sector's priorities. Maybe, although their presentations are made in different ways, high consensus is made in terms of contents. More efforts are needed for agriculture and rural development, however, new viewpoints, new ways of doing things, capital sources, and techniques for the implementation of those priorities are also needed. MARD would like to thank the community of donors for their financial and technical support for the sector over the past time.

- Welcomes and highly appreciates efforts of International Non-governmental Organisations involved in ISG activities and agriculture and rural development activities.

- Welcomes comments and suggestions of the participants, representing the donor community, for ISG activities in the future. MARD will take best use of these comments/suggestions and expects further support from the donor community.

- Welcomes the proposal by the Technical Working Group on Gender to integrate its activities into the ISG activities. We will take this issue into consideration.

- On behalf of MARD Minister, H.E. Mr. Le Huy Ngo, expresses thanks to participants and the donors for their support.

International Support Group - ISG/MARD

Cao Duc Phat

Vice Minister, MARD
Chairman, ISG Steering Board

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