Date: Thursday, 14 October 2010
Event: High-Level Discussion on Social Protection
Speaker: United Nations Resident Coordinator in Viet Nam, Mr. John Hendra
Your Excellency Minister Nguyen Thi Kim Ngan, Minister for MOLISA,
Your Excellency Madame Michelle Bachelet, Chair of the Social Protection Floor Advisory Group and Under-Secretary General and Head of UN Women,
Excellencies, Ambassadors and members of the international community
My Fellow Colleagues from the UN Country Team,
Ladies and gentlemen,
It is indeed a great privilege -- and a real pleasure -- to be here this afternoon, to help open, with Minister Ngan, this important dialogue on social protection. On behalf of the UN Country Team, I would like to take this opportunity to extend a very warm welcome to Madame Bachelet, on the occasion of her visit to Viet Nam as the Chairperson of the Advisory Group for the Social Protection Floor Initiative. Equally, I wish to express my sincere appreciation to the Government of Viet Nam for providing such a wonderful welcome for Madam Bachelet and extending such effective support in organising her visit.
It is very encouraging, and indeed very timely, to convene an event focused on how best to ensure an effective national social protection system for Viet Nam, especially as Viet Nam is finalizing its next ten year strategy – the SEDS – and its next five year Plan, the SEDP.
In short, the Social Protection Floor (SPF) is a global social policy approach promoting integrated strategies to guarantee a minimum level of social protection for all, including access to essential social services and income security. It promotes coherence between social, economic and labour market policies through a set of basic social security rights and transfers. And it promotes access to basic quality services in the areas of employment, health, water and sanitation, nutrition, education and family support, in order to protect and empower poor and vulnerable people.
Here I would like to in particular highlight the fortunate coincidence that not only is Madam Bachelet the Chairperson of the Advisory Group of the Social Protection Floor Initiative, she is also the newly appointed Under-Secretary General and Head of UN Women. In many countries around the world, we see a strong and clear intersection between issues of gender inequality and women’s empowerment and issues of effective social protection. Madame Bachelet, your presence here today reminds us - as does that of Minster Nhan – that when considering social protection we must also consider the specific vulnerabilities, needs and interests of women as well.
As the UN Country Team, we are convinced that promoting the social protection floor approach in Viet Nam can contribute to more effective implementation of the National Social Protection Strategy, as current poverty trends in Viet Nam do present difficulties when it comes to reaching the least fortunate, in particular the chronically poor, most of whom are located in remote areas and among ethnic minority communities. Chronic poverty among these groups is now becoming entrenched and resistant to existing poverty reduction efforts and more innovative approaches are clearly needed.
The Social Protection Floor Initiative is co-led by the International Labour Organization (ILO) and World Health Organization (WHO) and involves a group of 17 other collaborating UN agencies aiming to work coherently together to accelerate and sustain recovery from the global economic crisis.
This is especially relevant for Viet Nam as it moves into Middle Income Country Status. Viet Nam is a dynamic and rapidly changing country with an increasingly mobile population – mobile demographically, economically and geographically. As Viet Nam continues on its path of rapid, equitable and sustainable growth and continued poverty reduction, it will be critical both to ensure that no one is left behind, and to address rising disparities and inequalities of wealth and access to opportunities and services.
Viet Nam’s commitment to social protection is strongly stated in the draft SEDP and SEDS, with the draft SEDP recognizing the importance of ‘building a diverse social security system which is able to provide support for every member in society in overcoming risks, especially the vulnerable’. Viet Nam has made impressive strides towards achieving the MDGs, and has been very successful in reducing poverty. The country also has a lot to share in terms of its experience in successful poverty reduction initiatives, having long had in place policies designed to help the poor. Still, clear challenges remain to be addressed to make the Social Protection Floor Initiative a reality for all Vietnamese people.
The UN is very pleased to be a partner in this effort, and stands ready to support the government of Viet Nam in this endeavour. The UN has a key role to play in supporting government to “deliver as one” on issues such as social protection which require a cross-sectoral response, including through maximizing the UN’s convening power so as to bring different partners together in support of national priorities, and in advocacy for the most vulnerable – that is those who are most in need of the protection and support the social protection floor will provide.
Finally, as the UN in Viet Nam, we stand ready to draw on all the assets of the whole UN system to support the Government in this key initiative, and I would like to thank my ILO and WHO colleagues for their initiative in bringing this focus today to the discussion on social protection in Viet Nam.
I would like to wish everyone good health and happiness and I look forward to a thought provoking and rich forum.
Thank you very much for your kind attention.
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