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MDG campaign receives huge youth response in Viet Nam
02 May 2005

Ha Noi: Young people in Viet Nam have enthusiastically responsed to the Millennium Development Goals campaign launched by the United Nations Viet Nam Country Team. The initiative has drawn not only attention but also support of thousands of Viet Nam’s youth in helping to achieve the Goals. TakingITGlobal, an online community of young people, shares the highlights of the campaign.

During the last two years of 2003 and 2004, young people in Vietnam were stirred up by a Millennium Development Goal youth campaign launched by the United Nations Vietnam Country Team. Since its first launch in 2003, the campaign has involved more and more young Vietnamese people in many innovative programmes.

Thanks to the campaign’s series of initiatives, to the receptive interest, and the opening support from the youth union, government agencies and bilateral donors, youth in Vietnam are now more aware of the MDGs and the country’s current development challenges. Many youth, thus, have been ready to contribute to the achievement of the MDGs.

Among the campaign’s most influential mobilizations, the Young Initiative to Promote Volunteerism for the MDGs competition was very successful. The competition itself was already a good initiative, more interestingly, it specifically encouraged the youth to propose an initiative or a creative plan to stimulate volunteerism for the MDGs among young people in Vietnam.

The two winners of the competition in 2003 and 2004 have done this and more.

Nguyen Van Dung, “Mister Youth Volunteer” of 2003, spent a month bicycling on a 2,100-km journey along the S-shaped country to bring the MDG message to young people. Nguyen Thi Tuyet Mai, “Miss Youth Volunteer” of 2004 went backpacking through 23 provinces (13 of which are among the poorest). She experienced 80 days living with the poor, encountering different MDG issues in reality and sharing the MDG story with people, particularly the young. However long those amazing journeys were, Dung and Mai, both have given a great impetus to the growth of youth volunteerism for the MDGs in Vietnam. After going back, they still keep going on their MDG journeys but in some different ways and their stories continue to enthuse more and more people.

“Thang’s Journey” was another booming point of the MDG youth campaign in Vietnam. Thang, which means “victory,” is actually a character of an MDG booklet first published in 2003. On Thang’s travel from the North to the South of the country, he comes across MDG concerns such as extreme poverty in rural areas, student dropouts, and a person living with HIV. Designed in the popular Japanese manga-style comic strip, “Thang’s journey” not only conveys the MDGs well to Vietnamese youth but also provides the readers with key national data on each MDG, and gives them some suggestions to take action on the MDGs.

Actually, besides a lot of new friends made along the journey, Dung and Mai always had Thang by their side. They introduced Thang to everyone they met and gave out the booklets. “’Thang’s journey’ has so far been a success and used in an increasing number of UN projects for training and information purposes,” writes Catherine Callens in the Vietnam MDG Youth Strategy. Callens, the UN Communications Officer in Vietnam, says that although the booklet has gone through a third printing in 2004, “it will be printed more if there are more demands from youth.”

Personally, I am sure that with some over 20 million of Vietnamese people probably categorized as youth, the publication was very limited. It is recommended that those who have read the “Thang’s journey” can spread the word about the book among their friends. Anticipation is high for a brochure of Mai’s journey which will be issued soon.

It is also impossible not to mention the “Towards a Better World” music quiz programme. In collaboration with the Vietnam Students’ Newspaper, this interesting competition, asking contestants to demonstrate their knowledge of the MDGs by linking them to songs, was launched in April 2004. After five months, it received over 5,000 entries from all over the country. Although it was rather hard for the judges to choose the best one, the first prize went to Le Thi Phuong Thao and Dinh Thi Bich Ngoc from the Foreign Trade University of Hanoi.

Apparently, that music competition was no less successful than the other programmes in the MDG youth campaign. Although it might sound superficial to say music and media when combined is the best effective way to approach young people, an idea to send the MDG messages through music and media is highly appreciated. The following two big events in the Vietnam MDG youth campaign’s calendar 2003 and 2004 could possibly prove that. A free and grand MDG youth concert which involved some very famous Vietnamese pop bands and singers was held in the West Lake Water Park in 2003. The concert attracted a live audience of around 12,000 youth and proved to be a very effective way to communicate the MDGs.

In 2004, there was a complementary music programme on TV called “Towards a Better World.” This time, some of the country’s top musicians performed several songs selected by the contestants of the music competition. The show, which was aired nationwide, also featured discussions among the artists, UN Heads of Agencies and some young people on the MDGs.

Last but not least, on the UN Day (October 24) in 2003, several high schools and universities of Hanoi, the capital of Vietnam, had an opportunity to talk to staff from different UN agencies. It was actually an MDG student outreach initiative, part of the MDG Youth Campaign, which involved the UN staff giving presentations on the MDGs and distributing the “Thang’s journey” booklet to students. Certainly, those lucky students could never forget the day because there had never been any similar exchange between the UN staff and the Vietnamese students before and this was the first time the MDGs came that close to them.

It has been only one year and a half since the official launch of the MDG youth campaign in Vietnam. Many young Vietnamese people have enthusiastically been engaged in various programmes of the campaign. Naturally, their awareness of the MDG development issues in Vietnam is also growing. Still, as “actions speak louder than words,” it is then their turn to make contributions to the country’s MDG achievement by 2015 and further to a future of sustainable development for Vietnam.