Sustainable Development Goals

The Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs), also known as the Global Goals, are universal targets designed to end poverty, protect the planet and ensure that all people enjoy peace and prosperity in each UN member state by 2030. They are intended to continue the progress made by the Millenium Development Goals (MDGs).1

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The SDGs are based on six themes including: human dignity, people, planet, partnership, justice and prosperity. The final two are new themes.2  The Sustainable Development Agenda is more comprehensive than for the MDGs and includes 17 goals, defined by 169 specific targets and 232 indicators. These targets move beyond social development and involve new targets for climate change, economic inequality, innovation, sustainable consumption, peace and justice and more. Each goal is interconnected and success in one will often address issues associated with another.3

Transition from the MDGs to SDGs

Vietnam localised the MDGs through the implementation of a Comprehensive Poverty Reduction and Growth Strategy (CPRGS) (2003). It aligned the MDGs with the country context to form the Vietnam Development Goals (VDGs). The VDGs were the basis for the development of two five-year Socio Economic Development Plans (SEDPs) from 2006 to 2010 and 2011 to 2015.4

A newly developed area in Southwest of Hanoi where National Convention Center and Hanoi Museum located; Photo taken June 2018 by Lan Nguyen via Flickr. Licensed under CC-BY-SA 2.0

While these plans contributed to impressive progress in reducing poverty,5 there were challenges with ensuring all citizens benefited from economic growth, particularly for women, ethnic minorities, migrants to urban areas, and informal workers who continued to lack social protection. During the Millennium Agenda, climate change also became an increasing  threat to Vietnam’s socioeconomic development.6  

By September 2015, Vietnam had only met three of the eight MDGs in full (poverty reduction, education and gender equality), along with some other targets related to infant and maternal mortality, and controlling the spread of infectious diseases.7 Much of the work required to meet the MDGs remained unfinished at this time.8

In 2017 the Government of Viet Nam and the United Nations responded to this through developing a joint ‘One Strategic Plan’ (OSP) aimed at integrating the SDGs with Vietnam’s Socio-Economic Development Strategy (2011-2020) and Socio-Economic Development Plan (2016-2020).9 This plan was focused on four key areas, which will be used to inform the way the SDGs are implemented,10 (see inforgraphic below).

Localization of SDGs in Vietnam

With support from UNDP, Vietnam developed a National Action Plan (NAP) toward SDGs to review its existing development strategies, policies, programs with respect to how well that align with the SDGs. This was used to develop Vietnam SDG targets (VSDGs) in consultation with national ministries, provincial agencies, civil society and development partners.11

The VSDGs were approved by the Prime Minister in 2016 and also have 17 goals but only 115 targets. There are both similarities and differences with the Global Goals.12

Global GoalsVSDGsSimilaritiesDifferences
End all forms of poverty everywhere

Vietnam is likely to meet SDG 1 on time, with some specific targets met ahead of schedule.Viet Nam only targets poverty reduction for poor households while the UN aims to reduce poverty in all households.

Vietnam has not integrated specific poverty reduction objectives for gender, vulnerable groups, children and geographical location.
Eliminate hunger, ensure food security, improve nutrition and promote sustainable agricultural development

National objectives that have been reflected in national policies are quite similar to the SDG 2 targets.The Global Goals integrate gender, vulnerable groups, and children into this goal but the VSDG targets are more general.
Ensure a healthy life and enhance welfare for all citizens in all age groupsNational and international targets are quite similar.

 Since 2015,  Vietnam has achieved some specific objectives of SDG 3 set by the UN, ex: goals 3.1 and 3.2.
Vietnam has targets for all SDGs but lacks specific indicators for some of these Some od these such as SDG target 3.5, 3.9
Ensure a quality, equitable, and inclusive education and promote life-long learning opportunities for allNational and international targets are quite similarMost of VSDGs are currently planned up to 2020. Vietnam’s plans for education do not yet have a clear focus on inclusive access for all.
Achieve gender equality; empower and create enabling opportunities for women and girlsNational and international targets are quite similar.Most of the new targets of Vietnam are up to  2020.

Some indicators have not yet been adapted for the local context. Localised indicators should be considered for SDG targets 5.1, 5.2, 5.4, 5.a, 5.b, and 5. c.
Ensure availability and sustainable management of water and sanitation for allNational and international targets are quite similar.The National plan does not integrate inclusive development elements into water related targets.
Ensure access to sustainable, reliable and affordable energy sources for all citizens.National and international targets are quite similar and  capable of achieving the goalVSDG 7 does not yet collect data on the energy intensity of economic development (VSDG target 7.3) Currently data is not available for monitoring targets 7.a & 7.b
Ensure sustainable, comprehensive and continuous economic growth; and generate full, productive and decent employment for all citizens.SDG 8 is expressed in government plans at many levels. However, implementation is generally weak at the moment and greater effort will be required to match expected outcomes.VSDG 8 currently is only sets targets up to 2020 and lacks specific indicators for measuring inclusive development.
Develop a highly resilient infrastructure; promote inclusive and sustainable industrialization; and promote renovation.National and international targets are compatible, but will require change locally to be achieved.Most targets are currently only planned to 2020, with no specific targets for inclusive development.

Vietnamese policies do not yet address the sustainability of existing infrastructure.
Reduce social inequalitiesNational and international targets are compatible and achievable.Vietnam has not yet provided data to evaluate this goal.

Data on financial inclusion as well as the proportion of the population who have experienced discrimination are not yet systematically collected.
Promote sustainable, resilient urban and rural development; ensure safe living and working environments; ensure a reasonable distribution of population and work in each region.National and international targets are compatible but will require strong efforts to achieve them.Data on some aspects of these goals are not yet collected such as the size of informal settlements in urban areas of the quality of housing. This is also true for indicators related to inclusive public transport and participation in decision making about urban planning.
Ensure sustainable production and consumption.Vietnam has promulgated the National Action Plan for Sustainable Production and Consumption until 2020 with a vision to 2030 (2016)Sustainable production is more of a focus in Vietnam compared to sustainable consumption..

There is low social awareness and a lack of technical and financial support for these issues.
Respond in a timely and effective manner to climate change and natural disastersVietnam is country that is significantly affected by climate change and natural disasters. There are many national policies and strategies in place to respond to these challenges. “Tolerance” to climate change is understood at a basic level in Vietnam but is not measured in a sophisticated way for monitoring VSDG indicators.

A unified process for disaster risk response is still lacking and institutional capacity for this is currently weak.
Sustainably conserve and utilize the ocean, the sea and marine resources for sustainable developmentMost of the specific objectives of Goal 14 (14.1, 14.2, 14.4, 14.5, 14.6, 12a, 14b) are included in the national policies of Vietnam.SDG target 14.3 on ocean acidification is new focus for Vietnam that needs attention.

Currently there are few Marine Protected Areas in the country (0.26% of total natural area) and few planned to 2020. This also required attention.
Sustainably protect and develop forests; conserve biodiversity; develop eco-system services; combat desertification; prevent the degradation of and rehabilitate soil resources.

Vietnam has paid attention to biodiversity conservation , especially for forest ecosystems.

SDG targets 15.1 - 15.9 and 15a - 15c are generally in line with current Vietnamese policies.
Vietnam focus on forest ecosystems is not consistent with efforts for aquatic, marine, coastal or desert environments.

Vietnam does not yet have a strategy for this goal after 2020 and lacks some of the data required for effective monitoring.
Promote a peaceful, democratic, just, equitable and civilized society for sustainable development; ensure access to justice for all citizens; develop effective, accountable and participatory institutions at all levels.The targets for SDG 16 have been well reflected in Vietnamese policies, especially the constitution.Some indiators proposed by the UN are not easy to collect in Viet Nam such as the proportion victims of violence, crime reporting rates, illicit financial flows and corruption, and the distribition of small arms.
Strengthen and promote global partnerships for sustainable developmentVietnam has promoted multilateral trading systems; and strengthened global partnerships with the country relatively well.

Areas of focus include improved North-South, and South-South cooperation; greater cooperation on international cooperation on science and innovation; increase export market share and the promotion of public-private partnerships for national infrastructure.
Vietnam has not set a target for increasing exports from Vietnam globally.
 Source: Office of Sustainable Development, Ministry of Planning and Investment. Information in the table above is extracted from the Synthesis Report:  Reviewing 17 common goals and 169 specific objectives of the United Nations Sustainable Development Agenda 2030 to assess the situation and identify appropriate, feasible targets on the condition of Vietnam, as the basis for the nationalization of the global sustainable development goals. (2016), Access June 2018. 

Means of Implementation

To enable the achievement of the VSDGs several legal and policy frameworks have been established in Vietnam. These include:

  • Agenda 21 on Sustainable Development (2004);13   
  • The Sustainable Development Strategy 2011-2020;14
  • The National Action Plan on Green Growth (2014); 15
  • The Socio-Economic Development Plan for 2016-2020; 16 and
  • The National Action Plan for Sustainable Development in Vietnam;17   

The NAP defines specific goals for a period between 2017 to 2020, as well as 2020 to 2030. Financing for the implementation of the NAP will be accessed through state budget, private sector, as well as foreign sources, including both official development assistance (ODA) and foreign direct investment (FDI). A Fund for Sustainable Development has been set up to mobilize domestic and foreign resources to achieve of SDGs.18

While billions of dollars were required to implement the MDGs, trillions of dollars will be required for the SDGs.19 However, a gradual decline in attracting  FDI inflows into key sectors and Vietnam’s increasing public debt are major challenges.20 21

The focus of ODA is defined by the Joint Strategic Plan (2017-2021), based on consensus between the the Government of Vietnam and the United Nations about national development priorities.22

Vietnam’s population of 93 million people is expected to peak  between 2020 and 203023 As such, young people have been recognized as particularly important for national efforts to achieve the SDGs.24

Monitoring and Evaluation

The United Nations Statistics Committee has developed a Code of Statistical Indicators for monitoring and evaluating the implementation of SDGs and their 230 indicators. Vietnam has developed comprehensive legal frameworks for producing these statistics, including: the Vietnam Statistical Law 2015; the Vietnam Statistical Development Strategy 2011-2020; and the Vision to 2030, a National Statistical Indicator System that currently covers 39 SDGs indicators.25

Vietnam’s progress with respect to this goal is outlined below:

The feasibility of 230 indicators

129/230 indicators are feasible;

101/230 indicators are infeasible (There is no methodology, methodology available but not clear, indicators with new concepts, indicators request a new disaggregated and need a lot of time to collect research solutions, alternatives).


89/230 indicators have available data

141/230 indicators have no available data.

Indicator integration into national statistical system

30 indicators have been integrated into the 2015 Statistics Law

(Source: MPI’s report on “Enhancing implementation of the 2030 agenda in Vietnam)

Reporting requirements on the progress of implementing the SDGs are clearly outlined in the National Action Plan to implement the 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development. The Ministry of Planning and Investment assumes primary responsibility and coordinates the activities of each sector and level of government down to commune levels development plans.


The Vietnamese Government considers that reporting on the implementation of SDGs needs to involve broad participation by all stakeholders. 26 Sharing information about the implementation of SDGs is believed to be key to effective policy-making. The General Statistics Office of Vietnam has identified a key task to develop an SDG database in Vietnam that enables local citizens to engage in monitoring progress, as well as reporting internationally and comparing outcomes regionally.27 Vietnam is part of the 2018 Voluntary National Review of the High-Level Political Forum on Sustainable Development.


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