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Budget tracking survey - Financing Disaster Risk Reduction at local levels in Viet Nam

6 August 2013

This study is part of JANI (Joint Advocacy Network Initiative 2012-2013) project, funded by ECHO.

The history and civilisation of Vietnam stretch back to ancient times, but the country also has a long history of natural disasters. Water has always brought prosperity, enabling rice farming in irrigated fields, but it has also caused destruction and poverty as a result of repeated flooding. Settlements on the country's long coast-line have exploited sea products (including nước mắm or fermented fish sauce in brine) and seized opportunities for trade, but they have equally been in the path of devastating typhoons. People have always had to face these dangers, living trapped in the perpetual battle between Son Tinh[1]and Thuy Tinh[2].

In Imperial times, the centralised system devoted substantial resources to the improvement and maintenance of the irrigation or dyke systems, mainly to preserve the power of the Emperor. Communities were involved in the protection of their infrastructures. But changes in society, changes in the economy, and changes in community solidarity have profoundly modified the way people confront natural hazards. Dykes are now mainly built and repaired by companies in return for monetary payment, and plans are prepared by experts who sometimes have limited knowledge of local situations.

More recently, climate change has modified levels of rain and heat and increased the intensity of extreme events such as cyclones. Losses caused by natural disasters are estimated at about 1% of GDP [3]for the period 1989 - 2008[4], which is more than the growth of the agriculture sector in recent years[5].

The development of urbanisation, uncontrolled construction and infrastructure that does not pay enough attention to water management have also led to more damage. Take the following examples:  new settlement areas without drainage; roads on hillsides with no provision for evacuating water thus increasing the duration of flooding; river bank protection not properly built and supervised, and easily destroyed (Can Tho, May 2013); hydropower dams releasing water without warning (Cyclone Xangsane, Ketsana 2009); extending cultivated land in normally “good” flooding areas (Mekong Delta) using weak, easily breached dykes; building houses without reinforcement (based on the assumption that concrete is “strong”) and new public buildings which cannot withstand the force of storms. All these practices have unfortunately contributed to increasing the volume of damage and loss as a result of natural disasters.

Disaster risk reduction is a global objective: strategy, law, organisation, participation, partnerships, and integration in development plans are all needed to make real progress. Over the past 15 years Vietnam has made significant advances, but as the Views from the Front Line (VFL) surveys conducted in 2011 and 2013 [6]have shown, the financial resources to reduce the impact of natural hazards on lives and on property are lacking at various levels and notably at local level.

The Global Network on Disaster Reduction statement for a post 2015 HFA[7]includes the following recommendations:“Tackle the underlying causes of people’s vulnerability to disasters:

  • Strengthen local risk management and support effective social change processes, that address social and institutional  inequalities and power imbalances that exist between social, economic and demographic groups, and that underlie different forms of vulnerability;
  • Make strategic links with post-2015 development frameworks such as SDGs, MDGs, Climate Change, poverty reduction and conflict transformation, to achieve more policy coherence;
  • Promote resilience-based sustainable development frameworks that facilitate integrated programmes and support policies, and that balance human needs with environmental management and sustainability.”

At the recent Global Platform on DRR organised by UNISDR (and attended by a high ranking delegation from Vietnam), held at the end of May 2013 in Geneva, the Chair’s summary[8]indicates specifically the need for:

Strengthening risk governance:  There is strong evidence that empowerment of communities and local governments to identify and manage their everyday risks are a sound basis for building strategies, programmes and budgets. This should be a key element of risk governance. There is recognition that the prevention and reduction of disaster risk should be a normative obligation, encompassing risk assessments, the establishment of early warning systems, and the right to access risk information. Effective rules concerning stakeholders’ responsibilities and opportunities for engagement, as well as accountability mechanisms are necessary.”

Adequate financial resources are a crucial and central issue if we are to increase the capacities and reduce the vulnerabilities of local communities who are at the forefront of natural hazards. The present study aims to contribute to the collection of evidence-based information in the area of Disaster Risk Reduction (DRR) financing in Vietnam. The conclusion of the survey should be carefully considered: ‘’DRR does not exist in the actual administration of local affairs not because of lack of interest, but because no budget line has been earmarked specifically for DRR at all levels’’. The following question therefore remains important: ‘’How could a DRR objective without concrete expression in official budgets be reached, even if it is well targeted?’’

We hope that this study will contribute to the ongoing debate on this important right, that of communities to be protected from disasters.

Hue, 1stJune 2013 / Guillaume Chantry / DWF Project coordinator



[1]God of the Mountain

[2]God of the Water

[3]According to the Global Assessment Report 2013 - UNISDR released in May 2013, official data should be increased by at least 25% to represent the real impact of disasters in Vietnam

[4]Weathering the Storm: Options for Disaster Risk Financing in Vietnam / World Bank GFDRR June 2010

[5]Source / Government/GSO/Central bank Data for 2010 (Agriculture Contribution of 0,47% to GDP 6,78% growth), 2011(0,66%/5,89%), 2012 (0,44%/5,03%)

[6]Views from the Frontline surveys - GNDR Global Network of Civil Societies Organisationsfor Disaster Risk Reduction / DWF is member of GNDR and National coordinator for the surveys in Vietnam

[7]Hyogo Framework for Action 2005-2015