Chia Sẻ-Democratic Poverty Reduction

During 2003 – 2009, Sweden supported democratic development in Vietnam through a large cooperation involving six districts, 62 municipalities, 464 villages and about 40,000 households. In total, more than 200,000 individuals benefited in the three provinces of Quang Tri, Yen Bai and Ha Giang.

In Vietnamese, the word “Chia Sẻ” means “sharing”. Chia Se was widely seen as highly progressive in its orientation. The program aimed to alleviate poverty through a comprehensive effort to encourage sustained and in-depth participation of village level beneficiaries in planning. The degree to which the program worked at the ‘village level’ and increasing influence from the bottom up has been described as highly ‘unorthodox’ among rural development projects in Vietnam.

The basic concept of Chia Sẻ is simple: Villages in the programme’s area are assigned a development budget, which they control themselves. The budget amount is made known to all at the outset. After a self-assessment of poverty within the village, villagers make a common village development plan with prioritized community activities, which will best support local poverty reduction.

Decisions are made in open village meetings that take place in the village itself. Villagers are also given full transparency of budget allocations and they implement and monitor development efforts themselves. The process is administered by regular commune and district staff and as a result the capacity of the local authorities has improved in terms of the participatory, democratic and open process of poverty reduction.

In a nutshell, Chia Sẻ aims at giving poor people true power, instruments and resources to control development resources and decide how to increase their ability to participate in making decisions which influence their lives in their areas.