by Elspeth Muir

Vietnam delegation

Food security, high quality freshwater, and health standards were among the issues discussed at the Griffith hosted Australia Awards Fellowship climate change program for the Vietnamese Ministry of Natural Resources and Environment (MONRE).

The Australian Government funds Australia Awards Fellowships administered by the Department of Foreign Affairs and Trade. They aim to build capacity and strengthen partnerships between Australian organisations and partner organisations in eligible developing countries in support of key development and foreign affairs priorities. By providing short-term study, research and professional development opportunities in Australia, mid-career professionals and emerging leaders can tap into Australian expertise, gaining valuable skills and knowledge.

Twenty fellows, comprising senior officers and experts from MONRE, attended the three week program facilitated by Griffith School of Environment Associate Professor Albert Gabric in conjunction with Griffith’s International Business Development Unit.

Climate change is a pressing environmental concern in Vietnam with the Mekong Delta likely to be one of three river systems in the world most impacted by rising sea levels.Deforestation caused by dioxins sprayed during the Vietnam War has heightened its impact.

Attendee and vice head of MONRE’s Science-technology and International Cooperation division, Ms Pham Lan Anh, said: “Vietnam is one of the countries which is most affected by climate change. Those areas contaminated by dioxin are spectacularly affected due to the loss of rainforest.”

“Extreme weather conditions occurring in these areas include: hurricanes, thunderstorms, tornadoes, floods, and more. Moreover, dioxin from those contaminated lakes, rivers and land are gradually spreading out further.”

MONRE requested that Griffith University run the program because of the University’s reputation as a key training provider to professionals working in the area of environment and climate change. Griffith is home to one of the largest groups of environment academics, researchers and professionals in Australia.

MONRE Department of Organization and Personnel (DOP) Director General Mr Ta Dinh Thi said the program had taught the fellows how to: “mainstream climate change issues into the sectoral planning developed by ministries and line-ministry agencies.”He said it would also, “strengthen training, research and international cooperation for responding to climate change.”

Mr Thi hoped the fellowship would “further strengthen the cooperation between MONRE and Australian relevant partners, especially Griffith University.”

Since 2011, nine Vietnamese delegations have chosen to undertake a Griffith University hosted Australia Awards Fellowship or short course.