June 29, 1999
Volume 1/ Number
Dear Friend and Colleague:
Our Weekly News Briefing focuses on the United Nations Population Fund (UNFPA), which has just given its highest award to the government of Vietnam for its Draconian efforts to limit every couple to one or two children. The Vietnamese program is modeled closely upon that of China, and is rife with similar abuses. Vietnam, one of the few Communist governments left in the world, has long had a habit of following the lead of Big Brother China. Many of its official documents and contracts have been literally translated from the Chinese, and implemented as Vietnamese policy. Its population program is no exception.
Steven W. Mosher
UNFPA Awards Vietnam for Aping China’s One-Child Policy
The United Nations Population Fund (UNFPA) has a soft spot for totalitarian governments and Draconian population policies, to judge from this year’s population award recipient. The National Committee for Population and Family Planning of Vietnam (NCPFP), the official Vietnamese governmental organization implementing a population policy made in China, has just been awarded the UNFPA’s highest award.
Billed as a mandatory one- or two-child policy, the Vietnamese family planning program dictates maximum number of children; minimum age of child-bearing; minimum years between children; mandatory contraceptive usage (preferably IUDs or sterilization), and prescribes punitive measures for compliance failures on any of these points.
As the implementing body, the NCPFP operates a nationwide system of regional, provincial and local offices, trains thousands of professional and volunteer cadres to monitor and enforce policy compliance, and manages a detailed and centralized system of reporting and record-keeping. Among its responsibilities is the breakdown of national targets into local quotas. Balancing regionally “permitted” birth rates against the number of eligible couples in that region establishes the proportion of couples receiving child permits in a given year.
Policy implementation is various and creative. Newlyweds often receive two tickets at their wedding, one specifying the window in which their child-bearing may take place, the second outlining punitive measures leveled against transgressors. Incentive payments (bribes) encourage sterilization and vasectomy. The policy, however, generally focuses on disincentives: denial of housing and education benefits; fines of up to 800 kg of rice per unallowed child; dismissal from jobs, and forced IUD insertion.
UN Deputy Secretary-General Louise Frechette complimented the NCPFP program for being both effective and “voluntary,” holding it up as an “inspiration” to all involved in the upcoming Cairo+5 follow-up to the 1994 Cairo Conference on Population and Development. But the Vietnamese program is “voluntary” only in an Orwellian sense, and serves as an “inspiration” only to UNFPA bureaucrats for whom the only good fertility is dead fertility.
The award is solely for achievements in population, and does not mention economic development. In Vietnam’s case, this is a good thing. With current Total Fertility Rates only slightly above replacement, Vietnam’s economy remains moribund and its per capita income is one of the lowest in the world. So much for the theory that there is a direct correlation between low fertility and economic development.