Fulbright University Vietnam has received a five-year programmatic grant of US$1 million from two companies, Galaxy Studio and Dragon Capital to launch “Natural Capital Management” Program. Led by two visionary executives, Ms. Dinh Thi Hoa and Mr. Dominic Scriven, OBE., who share a life-long commitment to environmental sustainability in Vietnam, the two companies are entrusting Fulbright to address this grand challenge. The grant will enable the university to advance research, hold dialogues on policy responses, offer executive education programs and classes on Natural Capital Management issues.

For the first annual topic of the 5-year plan, the gift will propel the Fulbright School of Public Policy and Management (FSPPM) to address critical issues and policy responses in the Mekong River Delta region. Specifically, FSPPM will advance their research on the following key priorities: agriculture transformation, energy, air pollution and public health, climate change, flooding, regional infrastructure, and transboundary cooperation.

The Mekong River Delta region, and Vietnam, today is facing the ever-changing conditions and impacts of multiple pressing issues. Rapid economic development at the expense of the environment has resulted in serious environmental pollution. Increasing reliance on fossil fuels for the power sector, universal use of private transport, and poor urban planning has caused a great pressure on air quality, water quality, and public health. In addition, urbanization has been taking place very rapidly, with a rising flow of people from rural areas to urban cities to find jobs, whereas urban planning and supporting infrastructure is lacking behind.

In 2020, the Fulbright School of Public Policy and Management coordinated with Vietnam Chamber of Commerce and Industry (VCCI) Can Tho to release the Annual Economic Report Mekong Delta 2020: Enhancing Competitiveness for Sustainable Development. This is the first research report on an economic region in the country, and the Mekong Delta was selected as a typical case of cohesion and consistency to develop an institution of economic region in the future.

These problems are especially severe in the Mekong River Delta, where the low terrain and susceptibility to climate change adds an extra dimension of challenge to its long-term development prospect. These developments are not helped by transboundary cooperation, particularly regarding the construction of a cascade of hydropower plants in the upstream Mekong River and agricultural expansion in the Lower Mekong Basin. It is of utmost importance to identify the most serious challenges facing the region, analyze, and communicate them to the public, policy makers, and other stakeholders to take proper actions.

While this first project will be concentrated in the Mekong River Delta, but its benefits will be realized for Vietnam as a whole: “The Mekong River Delta is essential to Vietnam’s economy even though its economic impact is currently lower than the national average. However, without a clear plan for sustainable development, the current expansion will add to the pressure on the region’s natural resources. We hope that this project will shed more light on different ways to address these issues through research, policy responses, and education activities. Such knowledge generation will flow across regional boundaries and play a unique catalytic role in strengthening national capacity to combat emerging and future challenges, in the region and in Vietnam,” said Dr. Vu Thanh Tu Anh, lead researcher of the project and Director of the Fulbright School of Public Policy and Management.

A working session between FSPPM and VCCI Can Tho in March 2021 to collect opinions from economics and policy experts and business representatives for the 2021 report.

“Through this project, we iterate our personal and business commitment to the value of natural capital to the development of Vietnam as a whole via advancing high-quality research and teaching efforts starting with one of the country most vulnerable assets, the Mekong Delta,” asserted Mr. Dominic Scriven, Chairman of Dragon Capital.

“We entrust Fulbright and especially FSPPM with this project for their robust experience and relentless focus on sustainability issue in Mekong Delta and broader Vietnam. The deep and extensive working partnerships with local and central government ministries, domestic and international organizations, universities and research institutions in Vietnam and around the world will also ensure that implications from this research project will be further explored and hopefully, implemented,” added Ms. Dinh Thi Hoa, Chairwoman of Galaxy Studio.

This research project will be administered by the Fulbright School of Public Policy and Management, with the support from Fulbright University Vietnam.

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About Fulbright University Vietnam:

Fulbright University Vietnam is Vietnam’s first independent, not-for-profit, liberal arts university. We are an expanding international team of educational innovators, with deep roots in Vietnam, strong political and financial backing, and connections to educational institutions around the world. Globally integrated but deeply embedded in Vietnamese society, Fulbright is dedicated to providing a world-class education, utilizing the latest advancements in institutional design, teaching, learning, technology and other fields to create an institution that is both innovative and globally relevant. Importantly, Fulbright is committed to serving Vietnamese society through rigorous research and responsible civic engagement.

The Fulbright School of Public Policy and Management is the first academic unit of the Fulbright University Vietnam. FSPPM’s mission is to advance transformative, innovative and inclusive public policy and management in Vietnam and the region – through its commitment toward excellence in teaching, research and civic engagement. In July 2019, FSPPM becomes the first Southeast Asian institution to be accredited by NASPAA (Network of Schools of Public Policy, Affairs and Administrations).

 About Dragon Capital and Galaxy Studio:

Dragon Capital

Founded in 1994, Dragon Capital Vietfund Management (DCVFM) is a Vietnam-focused financial institution with long-standing investment experience in the country and the surrounding Indochina region. DCVFM manages over US$4bn in assets across public equities, private capital and fixed income, clean development and real estate. In addition to tailor made solutions for institutions and family offices, there are seven public funds available to investors. The company has a head count of over 150 in teams focusing on origination, portfolio management and research, fund accounting and operations, legal, and client services.  DCG has been instrumental in introducing international standards of corporate governance and professionalism as part of its long-term focus and commitment to the sustainable development of Vietnam’s financial infrastructure.

Galaxy Studio

Galaxy Studio was originally founded by Ms. Dinh Thi Hoa in 1994 as the first public relations agency in Vietnam. Galaxy Studio was the first private Vietnamese company to invest in the film industry when Vietnam first opened its doors to this industry in 2003. As the leader in the entertainment industry, Galaxy operates in film production (Galaxy Production), cinema chain and movie distribution (Galaxy Studio), VOD streaming (Galaxy Play), integrated communication (Galaxy Communications), and media and publication (Galaxy Media). Prior to the COVID-19 pandemic, Galaxy earned up to 43 million dollars in annual revenue. On top of film distribution and movie theatres, the company has expanded into VOD streaming and online education in recent years.

Ho Chi Minh City, Vietnam, March 24, 2021 – This year, on the occasion of the Nordic Day – March 23, the Nordic Embassies in Vietnam (Denmark, Finland, Norway and Sweden), in coordination with the Fulbright School of Public Policy and Management in Ho Chi Minh City, jointly organised a seminar on Nordic Green Capitals – Leadership, Governance, Sustainability and Innovation. The main purpose of the seminar was to facilitate and promote exchange of knowledge, experience and good practice between the Nordic countries and Vietnam on how to ensure that their capital cities grow in a green, innovative and sustainable manner.

For the past twenty years, Vietnam’s stable and impressive economic growth and growing urbanization rate have led to serious challenges that its cities have to cope with in regards to issues such as air pollution, congestion, water and waste management and climate resilient issues.

We, the Nordic countries, are very pleased to be Vietnam’s long term friends and strong supporters of the country’s poverty reduction and impressive social and economic growth. Now focus is on the transition to a greener and sustainable development. Economic security must go hand in hand with social and environmental security. All the Nordic capitals: Copenhagen, Helsinki, Oslo and Stockholm have, during the last decade, made bold political and administrative decisions to address urbanization, climate change and environmental challenges. We are very happy to share our Nordic gained knowledge and experience and hope that our Vietnamese counterparts and friends will find them inspirational and helpful for their ongoing efforts to lead the country and its cities in their transition towards green and sustainable development”, said the Nordic Ambassadors in Vietnam.

From development perspective, Dr. Vu Thanh Tu Anh, Dean of Fulbright School of Public Policy and Management, member of Economic Advisor Group for Prime Minister, noted that, “Vietnam has an impressive economic growth record, but traditional growth drivers such as high investment and cheap labor are running out of steam. In the next decade, urban development will certainly be a major engine of growth for Vietnam. The challenge of urbanization in Viet Nam is how to strengthen urban competitiveness while controlling negative externalities such as environmental pollution and traffic congestion, and responding effectively to natural disasters and climate change so that cities truly become livable and safe. I believe “green recovery” must become a guiding principle for Vietnam’s strategies and policies with respect to urban development in particular and the economy in general for the post Covid-19 pandemic. The rich experience of Nordic countries in urbanization, environmental protection and climate change adaptation will be an invaluable source of reference for Vietnam in the process of implementing this strategy.”

Remarkable achievements in green development at Nordic capitals can be found below:

Copenhagen aims to become the world’s first carbon-neutral capital city by 2025. The city’s population is expected to grow by 20% in the next decade. This opens an opportunity to show that it is feasible to combine growth, development, innovation, job creation and enhanced quality of life with lower CO2-emissions. Copenhagen launched its first Climate Plan in 2009 and has already achieved major CO2-reductions. The city also has Environmental Policies in place as clean air, less noise, clean drinking water from the tap and many green spaces increase people’s health and well-being significantly.

Helsinki was the first city in Europe to prepare a Voluntary Local Review (VLR) to understand how the city’s strategy matches against the UN’s Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs). The VLR found that the city’s strategic plans are well aligned with the SDGs. For example, the Helsinki City Plan, approved in 2016, sets a sustainable direction for the city’s growth over the next 30 or so years. Its aims include ensuring that every part of the city can be easily reached by public transport. Walking and cycling will be given top priority, and the urban structure of the city must be such that everyday services can be obtained nearby. A dense urban structure and sustainable transport play a key role in Helsinki’s climate ambitions. Helsinki’s goal is to be a carbon neutral city by 2035.

Oslo has ambitious climate goals on both mitigation and adaptation. In 2020, Oslo adopted a new ambitious climate strategy, of which the main aim for Oslo is to reduce climate gas emissions from the city with 50% in relation to 1990-level within 2020 and with 95% within 2030, not by buying quotas but by implementing actual emissions cuts. A first climate budget was put into operation in 2017 as a groundbreaking governance tool. The budget is a means to show municipal agencies where emission must be cut and who is responsible, e.g. in the public transport sector and the construction sector.

In 2010, Stockholm was appointed the first European Green Capital, thanks to its cut carbon emissions and ambitious climate goals. In 2016, Stockholm adopted the goal to be fossil free in 2040. Since 1990 up until today, the city has cut its carbon emissions by 50% per citizen. In the beginning of October 2019, Stockholm launched an initiative called the C40:s Global Green New Deal. This initiative aims to gather those willing to deliver reductions in carbon emissions in line with the 1.5 degree goal set out in the Paris Agreement.

The transition to green and sustainable capitals in the Nordic countries’ capitals to secure and improve the quality of life for their residents and create opportunities for innovation, jobs and green growth requires long term planning and a multi-stakeholder approach. Thus, involving local political decision makers, municipality agencies, the private sector, environmental and climate organizations as well as mobilizing ordinary citizens has been key in setting targets and implementing policies.

The seminar ‘Nordic Green Capitals – Leadership, Governance, Sustainability and Innovation’ was co-hosted by the Nordic Embassies and the Fulbright School of Public Policy and Management in Ho Chi Minh City on 24 March 2021. The seminar took place both off-line and online through video links between Hanoi, Ho Chi Minh City and the four Nordic capitals and had broad participation of high-ranking representatives and policy-makers from the Vietnamese government agencies, local experts, academia researchers, etc.

The seminar is part of the Nordic countries’ support to Vietnam’s achievement of the UN’s Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs), in particular SDG 11 on the importance of making cities inclusive, safe, resilient and sustainable.