It is known that you have been living and working here for quite a while now, what has impressed you the most during your stay?
Caitlin Wiesen: I have been here for one year and a half and Vietnam is a fantastic country. One of the most remarkable things in Vietnam is the development model. It is a model that not only aims at economic growth but also promotes civilization and social progress.
Vietnam has one of the highest human development index for its income category, its people, its culture, its very rich diverse and socially-beneficial activities. All of these are activities aimed at benefiting people. Really wonderful!
What about Hanoi capital, where you live and work, which also became the venue for the Democractic People's Republic of Korea (DPRK) - US historical summit?
Caitlin Wiesen: I’m fond of Hanoi. Maybe because I’m living here so I’m a little bit bias. For me, Hanoi is not only a dynamic city, but it is also the “City for peace”. And it was amazing that exactly 20 years after being awarded that title, Hanoi became the venue for the DPRK - US historical summit last week. There were different perceptions on the success or lack of success of the summit, but one thing that indisputable is the fantastic role that Vietnam played as the host.
Vietnam is definitely increasing as a destination country for peace but also for investors. And people will see many more visit, especially as Vietnam is assuming its chairs of ASEAN next year and also having aspiration for the United Nations Security Council seat.
You are positive about the human development index in Vietnam. But still, Vietnam has to face problems like bureaucracy and corruption. So are there any conflict between these two main factors?
Caitlin Wiesen: I think that’s part of the reason that we’re here.
The government is making an enormous impact on making anti-corruption first priority and we know it’s also the citizens’ concern. There’s a happy index that measures citizens’ impression on performance.
However, Vietnam still has much work to do and that's why we are here today. The anti-corruption law adopted in November 2018 has actually extended the scope of adjustment to both private and public sectors. I think that’s the key to achieve the goal.
I hope that addressing corruption in the private sector will create additional resources and motivation to achieve development. The company is less corrupt, they show more integrity and that's what we aim for. When they are provided with tools for codes of conduct and internal control mechanisms, they will improve integrity, transparency and trust. Therefore, businesses will become more attractive and attract more foreign investment.
How do you feel about the labor situation of Vietnamese women and furthermore, the gender equality here?
Caitlin Wiesen: Vietnam holds an enormous opportunity for women, they work very effectively and play an important role in the economy. So these are wonderful but it needs to have more quality. As other countries, women need more equity and pay, being given respect and dignity for the works that have been done. At the same time, it is necessary to fully label the participation of women in society and in work.
So Vietnam needs to be commended for lots of extremely good works that have been done. If you look at the human development index, looking at indices such as women empowerment and income, these are actually quite good and quite strong relative to other countries.
To achieve full gender equality as you said, what issues need to be addressed?
Caitlin Wiesen: I think there are different ways which Vietnamese government is working on these but it also needs to take some shift in attitude, norm and behavior and that can take times. It’s necessary to shift the behavior on how women are perceived. There are still room for further improvement but I think what to be commended is the commitment at its highest level for equality for women.
So what will UNDP do to support Vietnam in the meanwhile and in the future?
Caitlin Wiesen: Vietnam has witnessed an impressive development over the past period of time. However, there are still people who are some of the poorest in ethnic minorities, who are difficult to reach geographically. And many of them are women. UNDP will always be looking at those who are most left behind.
So the question is how can we reach this target group? How can we bring them into development so they can fully contribute and benefit from?
We find that the reason for the underdeveloped life of this group is due to structure and facility issue. Accommodation is hard to access with difficult roads and transportation. Besides, some of them want to respect their own culture, they find it unnecessary to participate in the new business process which is different from what they do everyday. So we need a specialized approach.
UNDP has been considering ways to engage with minority communities. We want to bring in industry 4.0 technology, bringing in e-commerce, providing platforms that comes to the women that they can sell their products on, enabling them to use some of the technology to improve their access and outreach, and also, showing them how organic things that are produced locally can be sold better in market.
So there are some of the ways that UNDP is doing to create engagement with the above-mentioned community. I think that it would be very important to bring in real development for women who are left behind into the economic atmosphere so they can give full contribution to themselves, to their family and also to the growth of Vietnam.
Thank you very much!