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Speech by the Honorable Associate Professor, Dr. Bui Cach Tuyen, Vice Minister of MONRE – Vietnam

Official Vietnam Study Tour to South Africa, March 20-30, 2014


Professor, Dr. Bui Cach Tuyen, Vice Minister of MONRE – Vietnam Honorable Ms. Rejoice Mabudafhasi, Deputy Minister of Water and Environmental Affairs
Distinguished guests, ladies and gentlemen,

It is my great honor to have the opportunity to lead this official delegation to South Africa on behalf of the Government of Vietnam, to learn important lessons from South Africa’s experience in biodiversity conservation and management, especially in regards to wildlife and protected area management. I would like to express our sincere thanks to the Ministry of Water and Environmental Affairs, for hosting this study tour, for your hospitality, and for the excellent organization of this important visit.

Distinguished guests, ladies and gentlemen,

Vietnam is recognized as one of the most biodiversity countries in the world. It is home to a rich variety of ecosystems, species and genetic resources, many of which are endemic. At present, about 49,200 species have been identified, including 20,000 terrestrial and water plants, around 10,500 terrestrial animals, about 2,000 invertebrates and freshwater fish, and more than 11,000 marine species. Many new flora and fauna species new to science continue to be discovered and described for the first time in Vietnam, with more than 100 species described between 2006 and 2011 alone. These included 21 reptile species, 6 frog species and 1 ferret species.

In recognition of the importance of biodiversity, the Government of Vietnam has issued a relatively complete legal framework relating to biodiversity conservation. In particular, the Law on Biodiversity issued in 2008 and the Prime Minister’s approval in July 2013 of the National Biodiversity Strategy, Decree on the criteria for and management of endangered, rare and precious species prioritized for protection in November 2013, and National Biodiversity Planning in January 2014 marked an important milestone for conservation, as it created the legal basis for local community involvement in the conservation of natural resources through new mechanisms of co-management and benefit sharing.

Vietnam has also ratified several international agreements on conservation, such as the Convention on Biological Diversity (CBD), the Convention on Trade of Endangered Species of Wild Fauna and Flora (CITES), the Ramsar Convention on Wetlands of International Importance; and other agreements relating to biodiversity conservation such as the Convention Concerning the Protection of the World Cultural and Natural Heritage. To date, the Government of Vietnam has made great efforts to fulfill the country’s obligations to the conventions and promote biodiversity conservation in Vietnam.

However, despite these efforts, and accomplishments such as increased areas of ​​protected ecosystems, the discovery of new species meaningful to science, and the conservation, restoration and development of valuable genetic resources for selection and breeding, Vietnam still faces many challenges in achieving effective biodiversity conservation.

We are here this week to learn from South Africa’s experience in managing three issues that we have identified as priorities for biodiversity conservation in Vietnam: wildlife management and conservation, protected area management, and sustainable financing mechanisms for conservation.

Distinguished guests, ladies and gentlemen,

The illegal trade and consumption of wild animals and their products is rising in Vietnam and is the main threat facing the survival of many species. Unsustainable levels of consumption have led to the alarming decline of wild populations of many mammal, bird, and reptile species. In 2010, the Javan rhinoceros was declared extinct in Vietnam. Now tigers, elephants, saola, and a number of rare primate species also face the brink of extinction.

Vietnam recognizes the seriousness of the issue, and is attempting to manage it with a number of initiatives, including promoting international cooperation on wildlife: in December 2012, following the dialogue with South Africa on cooperation in fighting against poaching and illegal trade in rhino horns and rhinos, we signed an MOU to strengthen bilateral cooperation on biodiversity conservation. We have also signed MOUs with Laos in May 2012 and Indonesia also in December 2012, on cooperation in controlling trade in timber, wild plants and animals, and are in dialogue with Cambodia to develop a similar MOU.

Distinguished guests, ladies and gentlemen,

The other critical issue we are here to learn about is effective management of protected areas. Currently, the management of protected areas in Vietnam is based on ecosystem type, and responsibility is shared between the Ministry of Agriculture and Rural Development(MARD), the Ministry of Natural Resources and Environment(MONRE) and provincial and district People’s Committees.

Our system of terrestrial protected areas includes 164 special-use forests covering about 7% of Vietnam’s total land area, consisting of 30 national parks, 58 nature reserves, 11 species reserves, 45 protected landscape areas and 20 sites for scientific research and experiment. However, although a large number of protected areas have been established and operated for a long time, the consistency and quality of protected areas continues to decline as a result of infrastructure development, illegal logging and hunting activities, encroachment, grazing, aquaculture, forest fires, invasive alien species and other pressures.

Distinguished guests, ladies and gentlemen,

In recognition of the shortcomings of our current biodiversity management system, we would like to look to South Africa to gain an understanding of alternative structures and their effectiveness, in order to propose a recommendation for Vietnam as well as strengthen further cooperation on specific area including:

  • Share information on biodiversity conservation such as legislation on management of wildlife and Protected Area, wildlife and rhino trade cases;
  • Exchange visits to both countries on related trainings, workshops and programs;
  • Promote information to the public and media on bilateral cooperations
  • Cooperate to develop project on biodiversity conservation and combating illegal trade in endangered wildlife.

Knowledge gained from this tour will greatly assist Vietnam in its goals of reducing demand for and consumption of illegal wildlife products in Vietnam, and securing a sustainably financed and effective protected area management system, as well as strengthening bilateral cooperation between our two countries under the Memorandum of Understanding on biodiversity conservation and management.

Finally, Vietnam once again confirms our commitment to biodiversity conservation and management. We very much welcome and appreciate the continued cooperation and support of South Africa in this regard, and we look forward to more opportunities to work together on these issues in the future.

Thank you very much.