The Political Economy of Avian Influenza Response and Control in Vietnam

The Political Economy of Avian Influenza Response and Control in Vietnam

As a country suffering from large-scale Avian Influenza (AI) outbreaks and receiving considerable international support, Vietnam provides a crucial case not to be missed in any analysis of the global AI crisis. Vietnam is also interesting because of two paradoxes in her response to AI. Despite being poor, Vietnam selected the most expensive approach (comprehensive vaccination) to disease control. Despite substantial foreign aid and praise lavished on Vietnam, and despite a tough strategy, Vietnam has not performed better than neighbouring countries in keeping the epidemic from coming back.

Based on interviews of various stakeholders and newspaper sources since 2003, this paper analyses the timeline of major events, key narratives driving the debate, and the main actor networks in the policy process. The author found Vietnam’s AI policy process was characterised by top down/technical perspectives supported by the central government and foreign donors. These narratives reinforced the political interests of a national/international elite. This powerful nexus pushed a particular approach that involved mass culling and comprehensive vaccination, and projected a narrative of success to the nation and the world.

The main lesson from Vietnam is the need to bring accountability back to aid collaboration. Vietnam’s case suggests that many mistakes such as excessive culling and wasteful vaccination could have been avoided had accountability been given a higher priority by donors.

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