The five-day visit to Vietnam May 16-20 was meant to give her a taste of Danida’s frontline work, and so it did. Since being named Denmark’s new Minister for Development Cooperation in the wake of the Danish elections in February, Ulla Tornaes has witnessed the effects of Danish aid work on two very different continents – her trip to Vietnam following a visit to Ghana earlier this spring.
Day one was spent in Ho Chi Minh City, where the Danish minister opened a new factory for Viedam, which is a joint venture between WBL A/S from Skive, Denmark and the Vietnamese Anlap Company. From there, a police escort sliced through the afternoon traffic to bring the delegation to the brand new fish factory of the Vietnamese company, Vinh Hoan.
The company started out with 150 workers, but today Vinh Hoan is a part of a Danish-funded project in collaboration with a partner from Slagelse, thus having grown to employ 1,500 workers and have reached an annual turn-around of 32 million dollars.
Rough Sailing in Danang
Day two brought the delegation, also counting Danida Executive Carsten Staur and the Danish Ambassador Peter Lysholt Hansen, to Danang in Central Vietnam. Climbing unto a local fishing trawler followed by a Vietnamese TV camera crew, the Danida group sailed out to observe Danish-funded fishing activities. A strong wind birthed rowdy waves, which tested most of the passengers before the arrival at the small island of Diep Son, where Ulla Tornaes inaugurated the island’s first pier, which Danida has funded.
On day three, the minister visited the city of Buon Ma Thuot and the rural area surrounding it, where Denmark has played a big part in providing the local inhabitants with pure drinking water and access to latrines (read “Danida Provides the Flush in Rural Vietnam” elsewhere on ScandAsia.dk).
“Danish Aid Works in Vietnam”
The visit was concluded with high level talks in Hanoi, where Ulla Tornaes met with Deputy Prime Minister Vu Khoan and the Minister for Planning and Investment, Vo Hung Phuc. During these meetings, the Danish minister confirmed the commitment for further support to Vietnam, but she also used the opportunity to point out some neglected duties of the Vietnamese government.
“In general our relationship with Vietnam has developed very positively. However, I pointed out that Vietnam could do more in a number of areas. More speed in the reform process is necessary, and when it comes to the basic human rights and corruption, I voiced the concern of the Danish government,” Ulla Tornaes said after the official talks.
She was very satisfied, however, when asked about the impressions she was left with after having seen Danida’s efforts in Vietnam.
“First and foremost, I am happy to see that Danish aid support works in Vietnam. I have seen many examples of how Denmark is making a big difference, both in the fishing industry and when it comes to improving the sanitation standards in villages and in the big cities’ slum areas. Even though Vietnam is a country going through a tremendous development, there are still many people with needs. In the future, we are planning to expand our support efforts within the agricultural sector, where there will be a big need for Danish expertise and know-how,” Ulla Tornaes told ScandMedia before her return to Copenhagen.
This year, Danida expects to spend approximately 350 million DKK in Vietnam.