A three to four per cent reduction in the number of ethnic minority poor households each year is one of the main targets of a new five-year (2016-2020) plan targeting the minorities.

At a policy forum held in Hanoi on January 29, officials explained that the new target was set in the context of ethnic minorities making up 56 percent total number of poor households in the country.

This was the case despite a lot of policies on ethnic minority development issued by the Government over the last few decades, said Danh Ut, Vice Chairman of National Assembly's Ethnic Minority Council.

According to the Ministry of Labour, Invalid and Social Affairs, the country has about 1.8 million poor households at present.

Another goal of the new plan is to decrease the number of illiterate ethnic minority citizens by 1.5-2 percent every year, said Nguyen Cao Thinh, an official with the Government's Committee for Ethnic Minority Affairs.

Thinh said that an estimated 17.2 per cent of ethnic minority citizens above 10 years old are illiterate.

Vietnam has over 8 million ethnic minority citizens spread over mountainous areas stretching from the north to the south.

Ut said the situation can be blamed on "asynchronous policies" and other shortcomings in policymaking, including the failure to consult and gather opinions of ethnic minorities before issuing a policy.

Overlaps in managing and implementing the policies worsened the situation, he said.

The Government should gather ideas from ethnic minorities before coming with policies and programmes specifically targeting their socio-economic development, he added.

Nguyen The Hoang, another official with the Government's Committee for Ethnic Minority Affairs, suggested that a separate Law on Ethnicity be drafted and submitted to the National Assembly.

He also "strongly" recommended serious consideration be given to submitting to the parliament a proposal for establishing a Ministry for Ethnic Minority Affairs.

He said he hopes that such steps will prove effective in meeting the new five-year ethnic minority development targets.

United Nations Resident Coordinator Pratibha Mehta said Vietnam's internationally recognised success, which has transformed the lives of millions of Vietnamese over the last 30 years, has not yet been shared by everyone.

In spite of commendable efforts and allocation of considerable resources, achievements related to ethnic minority communities in poverty reduction and meeting other millennium development goals lagged far behind the rest of the nation, she said.

"This is most clear in relation to poverty, where more than half the remaining poor come from minorities groups," she said.

Viable strategies for poverty eradication and rapid catching up of development in minority areas must become a central theme of the 2016-20 national socio-economic development plan, she said.

The annual forum, which was established in 2008, was co-hosted by the Committee for Ethnic Minority Affairs and the United Nations Development Programme.

It seeks to provide opportunities for Government agencies and international and local non-governmental organisations to discuss all aspects of ethnic minority affairs.

The main themes of this year's forum was mainstreaming ethnic minority development in the new five-year national socio-economic development plan's policy framework.-VNA