• Indigenous peoples in Vietnam

    Indigenous peoples in Vietnam


Vietnam is considered a multi-ethnic country with 54 recognized ethnic groups, of which 53 are ethnic minority groups. Although the country voted in favor of UNDRIP, it does not recognize ethnic minorities as indigenous peoples and has not ratified ILO Convention 169.

There is no specific law on ethnic minorities, but an agency at the ministerial level, the Committee on Ethnic Minority Affairs, is in charge of the affairs of ethnic minorities. The government of Vietnam has ratified CERD, CEDAW and CRC.

Indigenous peoples in Vietnam

Indigenous peoples in Vietnam account for about 13.4 million people, or 14.6% of the national population (95 million). Vietnam has 54 recognized ethnic groups, 53 of which are minority ethnic groups, and is therefore considered a multi-ethnic country. The Government of Vietnam does not apply the term "indigenous peoples" to any of these minority ethnic groups. The term "ethnic minorities" is used instead.

Poverty is still high among ethnic minorities. In 2015, the poverty rate registered for ethnic minorities was 23.1%, while the national poverty rate was 7%.

All ethnic minorities have Vietnamese citizenship, and the Vietnam Constitution guarantees that all people have the same rights. Ethnic minority groups have their own culture and different traditions.

Main challenges for the indigenous peoples of Vietnam
One of the challenges for indigenous peoples in Vietnam is land tenure and the allocation of forest land to communities. Policies, laws and regulations related to land and forest tenure vary according to the different provinces of Vietnam.

This creates a situation of uncertainty and insecurity for many MS, as well as an unequal distribution of land. For example, in 2015, only 26% of the total area of forest land was allocated to households and 2% of that land was allocated to communities for management. However, some communities complained that the quality of the forests allocated to households and communities was low, with no plant cover and difficult to generate income from these forest lands.

Possible progress for the indigenous peoples of Vietnam

UN-REDD is the first program in Vietnam to promote the participation of ethnic minorities (MS) at all levels of the country. It was held in Vietnam with the technical support of UNEP, FAO and UNDP since 2009.

Members of the MS Network, with the support of the Center for Sustainable Development in Mountain Areas (CSDM), have been organized and strengthened to participate in developing, implementing and monitoring the REDD + processes in these six pilot provinces. One of the important elements of the activities related to REDD was the pilot test of FPIC (free, prior and informed consent) in the six provinces of UNREDD.

Recently there has been a step towards equality in access to land, although results are still expected. This Land Law on Marriege and Family requires, for married couples, to register both names for a jointly owned plot, unless both decide to register only one name.

The Indigenous World 2021: Vietnam

As a multi-ethnic country, Vietnam has 54 recognized ethnic groups, 53 of which are Ethnic Minority (EM) groups. These groups comprise an estimated 14.1 million people or around 14.7% of the country’s total population of about 96 million. Each EM group has its own distinct language, culture and traditions. The term “ethnic minorities” is often used interchangeably with “Indigenous Peoples” by international agencies working in Vietnam.

All EM have Vietnamese citizenship, and Vietnam’s constitution recognizes that all people have equal rights. Among EM communities, there is a higher proportion of peoples living in poverty. Multidimensional poverty rates in the Northern Mountains and Central Highlands regions, where the majority of EM live, is more than two times higher than the national average. The proportion of people without education certificates in EM groups is double that of the Kinh and Hoa (Chinese-Vietnamese) ethnic groups. In addition, the gaps in income and expenditure between the EM and Kinh and Hoa people have widened over recent years. 

Vietnam is a member of seven out of nine core international human rights instruments and continues to consider the possibility of accession to the International Convention for the Protection of all Persons from Enforced Disappearances (CPED) and the International Convention on the Protection of all Rights of Migrant Workers and their families (ICRMW). Vietnam has not ratified ILO Convention No.169  and, although Vietnam voted in favour of the UNDRIP, it does not recognize ethnic minorities as Indigenous Peoples.

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IWGIA - International Work Group for Indigenous Affairs - is a global human rights organisation dedicated to promoting, protecting and defending indigenous peoples’ rights. Read more.

Indigenous World

IWGIA's global report, the Indigenous World, provides an update of the current situation for indigenous peoples worldwide. Read The Indigenous World.

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