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Speech by Ms. Pratibha Mehta, UN Resident Coordinator and UNDP Resident Representative at launching Ceremony of MDGs Country Report

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Date: 21 September 2015
Event: Launching Ceremony of MDGs Country Report
Venue: Grand Conference Hall, Ministry of Planning and Investment, 6B Hoang Dieu Street, Ha Noi

Excellency Mr. Nguyen Chi Dung, Vice Minister of Planning and Investment;
Representatives from Government ministries and agencies;
Development partners;
Colleagues from UN agencies, distinguished guests…

It gives me enormous pleasure to welcome you all and to co-host with the Ministry of Planning and Investment the launch of Vietnam’s final MDG Report - and to look forward to the new Sustainable  Development Goals, which will be agreed at this week’s United Nations General Assembly in New York.  

The past 15 years has been an incredible journey - both globally and in here in Viet Nam - since the early 2000s when the MDGs were first agreed. The SDGs are a renewal of the bold commitments made in the Millennium Declaration, but represent a new level of ambition - and most importantly - an absolute commitment to leave no one behind.  

Yet I also see the MDGs and SDGs as a single development journey; 2015 is neither a beginning nor an end, but a milestone, on the path to prosperity and realization of the national aspirations of all nations and all peoples.

Nevertheless, this point still marks a significant milestone, and especially so for Viet Nam. So much has been achieved here over the past 15 years, and I want to begin my remarks by whole heartedly congratulating the Government and the Vietnamese people, for the transformational progress they have made in such a short time.  

One of the great strengths of the MDGs is their grounding in real life experiences, and it is beyond question that Vietnam’s achievements, in particular, have made a huge difference to lives of its people.  

To pick just a few of the striking statistics quoted in the 2015 MDG Report. Foremost, between 1993 and 2008 some 43 million people or over 45% of Viet Nam’s population have exited from poverty, a performance matched by very few other nations; primary school enrollment has reached 100% of eligible children; school attendance ratios for boys and girls have largely been equalized, signaling the progressive elimination of gender bias in the education system; and the maternal mortality ratio has been reduced by three quarters since 1990, and as a result, literally thousands of mothers are alive today and caring for their children. All of these outcomes are due to national actions informed by the MDGs.  

Today is the time for celebration, but also of reflection and preparing for the SDGs and applying them in Viet Nam with the same commitment as MDGs. And this is the main focus of my remarks today.  

You will shortly be presented the full report today, the MDG period offers many valuable lessons for the future. At the macro level, two themes were crucial in Viet Nam: first, the policy orientation and commitment to equitable development; and second the basic economic model, which emphasized participation in the economy and progressive global integration.

I am certain these attributes will be maintained, but firstly with regard to policy orientation, it is important to recognize, the SDGs’ much higher ambition and the indivisible commitment to sustainability and equity. This has an immediate resonance with Viet Nam’s unfinished MDG business – a first priority for SDG implementation where environmental degradation, and socioeconomic disparities notably for ethnic minority areas, are significant issues.

This will require renewed commitment to equity and a stronger emphasis on environmental sustainability, along with a search for innovative new solutions. I am encouraged that Government is already moving in these directions, with a higher profile given to environmental protection, alongside efforts to reform to the national target programs and the social protection system.

Second, in relation to the economic model, it is important to recognize that conditions in Viet Nam - are changing and will continue to change, as it progresses further as a middle income country. Specifically, pressures threatening social equity, and, the environment, and driving greater vulnerability are likely to intensify.

This implies a more active policy response is needed, but also one of a different kind - one which seeks to influence, incentivize and shape the conduct of citizens, groups and businesses.  

And this parallels another big idea embedded within the SDGs, that of partnership and joint responsibility. A key lesson from global experience that also resonates in today’s Viet Nam, is that the State alone cannot succeed in securing national development.

New partnerships need to be forged with business, with civil society, and with the international community. Not just in terms of consultation - which remains vital - but in implementing and crucially, in resourcing the SDGs. This is particularly important for Viet Nam as a low MIC. In coming years, ODA and concessional finance will inevitably decline while public expectations are growing. It will be for the Government to mobilize domestic resources through both public and private channels.

Finally, I turn to two immediate tasks which Viet Nam faces following global adoption of the goals next week.

The first is raising awareness of the SDGs and building a supportive coalition of interests. Just as strong communication and advocacy helped to popularize MDGs at all levels and were crucial in obtaining stakeholders’ support for their realization, the same is also important for the SDGs. The ground work for this has already been laid via the Government and UN’s joint consultations on SDG objectives, targets and delivery mechanisms. A new and more expansive conversation is now needed with all relevant stakeholders.

The second is the initiation of a process to adapt and apply the SDGs within Viet Nam. Just as was done in realizing MDGs, this will include many tasks - of assembling new statistical resources and M&E mechanisms, and adapting and linking national planning frameworks such as the SEDP. Yet, in addition, given the comprehensive nature of SDGs, new capacities will also need to be built. This must include issues of governance and oversight. Drawing on the Hanoi Declaration of the 132nd IPU Assembly, the National Assembly should look to play a much more proactive role in holding government to account, making sure that enabling laws are passed and budget allocations prioritised for SDG implementation.

In closing, let me once again congratulate Viet Nam for outstanding progress on the MDGs and in particular MPI, for coordinating the process for the past 15 years. I would like to underline that the UN stands ready along with other partners to assist the Government, civil society organizations and the private sector to help Viet Nam leverage the SDGs to secure still further transformational outcomes - to ensure that no one is left behind.