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UN Statement by United Nations Resident Coordinator, Ms. Pratibha Mehta at the 2015 Viet Nam Development Partners Forum

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Date: Saturday, 5 December 2015

Venue: Lotte Hotel, Lieu Giai Street, Hanoi

  • Excellency Mr. Nguyễn Tấn Dũng, Prime Minister of the Socialist Republic of Viet Nam;


  • Co-chairs Excellency Mr. Bùi Quang Vinh, Minister, Ministry of Planning and Investment and Ms. Victoria Kwakwa, World Bank Country Director for Vietnam;
  • Representatives of Government;
  • Excellency Ambassadors and Development partners;
  • Representatives of civil society;
  • Ladies and gentlemen;


On behalf of the UN System in Viet Nam, thank you for the opportunity to make some remarks in 2015 VDPF.

In September, 193 UN Members including Viet Nam unanimously adopted a new set of global Sustainable Development Goals. In adopting the SDGs, UN Member States have committed to achieving a future which is prosperous and sustainable, but crucially also where no one is left behind. Framed under five key themes: people, planet, prosperity, peace and partnership and rooted in universal Human Rights, the SDGs sets out a bold and transformative agenda which will frame development of all nations for the next 15 years.

Inception of the SDGs also marks the final year of the MDGs, and it is important to recognize Viet Nam's exceptional performance, which saw the achievement of most of the MDGs, and some, such as on poverty, well-ahead of time. This also reflects the strength of wider development progress in Viet Nam in the post-Doi Moi period which was largely based on pro-poor growth model and equitable public service provision.

While there is continuity between the MDGs and the SDGs, the SDGs are distinctly different in two important respects. First, they are far more comprehensive in scope. The 17 goals and 169 targets aim to provide both a policy steer as well as guidance on implementation of new agenda. The second difference is the sheer scale of ambition: the SDGs target the elimination, rather than proportionate reductions of social and environmental ills.

As a middle income country Viet Nam now finds itself at an important juncture in its development journey. Like other newly emergent MICs, it faces a difficult transition with many contrasting priorities; its once stellar human development progress has leveled off in the recent years. Once ranked well above others on the Human Development Index in the East Asia and Pacific region, Viet Nam now lags behind. Policy choices at this stage would define if Viet Nam gets stuck, or surges forward in inclusive, equitable and sustainable manner. In many respects, a second Doi Moi is needed to meet the emerging challenges.

The SDGs framework can serve as the basis for rethinking and charting a transformative agenda which is explicitly people centric; promotes shared prosperity; peaceful and just society and sustainability of planet in an integrated manner. We would like to offer some recommendations under these five SDG themes.

People are at the centre of the SDGs. The comprehensive aim is not only to end poverty in all its forms but also to reduce inequalities, including gender inequality, to unlock the potential for full transformative contribution which women can make. The first order of the SDGs business has to be to achieve the unfinished MDGs agenda, both at the national level (notably stunting, HIV prevalence, and environmental sustainability), as well as at the sub-national level, particularly within ethnic minority areas. The full achievement of the MDG agenda is vital if Viet Nam is to avoid more deeply entrenched inequities going forward. The recently adopted Ethnic Minority Acceleration Plan as well as the Health Action Plan is excellent opportunities to fast-track results-based implementation.

Additionally, Viet Nam is now facing multidimensional poverty and new forms of vulnerabilities in urban areas, especially among migrants and informal sector workers as well as elderly and mothers left behind in rural areas. Nearly 26% of the population in 2012 was near-poor earning between $2-4 a day and 48% were low middle income earning between $4-10 a day. Any setback, be it natural disaster or economic shock, could very easily push them back into poverty. This poses a serious challenge for reforms of the social protection system which targets formal workers and provides assistance to the poorest, but neglects the near-poor and low income population with insecure incomes and vulnerabilities to external shocks. This population faces multiple deprivations and also need protection to be able to invest in their future.

Third, inequities in Viet Nam are entrenched in the conditions that are often defined at birth and can cause a vicious cycle of deprivation, especially among the ethnic minorities, people with disabilities, those living in remote areas, near-poor and low income families with insecure incomes, etc. While universal basic education and health coverage need to be maintained, access to quality education at higher levels and enrolment in vocational and technical training needs to be expanded to open opportunities in the growing labor market. Social health insurance needs to go that extra mile in ensuring meaningful full coverage. Expansion of social protection based on the human life cycle is critical for a revamped inclusive and equitable development model.

SDGs strive for shared prosperity while preserving the planet. This includes reversing existing patters of environmental degradation, including taking urgent action on climate change which cuts across every sector of the economy and wellbeing of people in Vietnam. Viet Nam needs to be far more ambitious in both its adaptation and mitigation actions. There is scope for speeding up high impact climate action in key sectors such as transportation, agriculture, construction, energy, etc. while, at the same time, take advantage of new global markets in clean technology, renewable energy, etc. which globally represents $16.4 trillion investment opportunity and is an attractive option for SMEs and has huge potential for creating green jobs. Vietnam's economy remains energy inefficient, partly because of generous provision of fossil fuel subsidy. Our research shows that phasing out indirect subsidies on fossil fuels would not only help cut down emissions, but will also amount to substantial savings that could help fund the social protection needs.

Shared prosperity goal is to achieve quality of growth which translates into inclusive development. This requires formalizing the informal sector and ensuring all people - including women, youth, people with disabilities, minorities - have access to decent work. Viet Nam need to equip its people with key human capabilities, especially skills, training and confidence so they can seize the opportunities offered by global and regional integration and are not left behind.

Global experience of MDG implementation clearly indicates that sustained development cannot be achieved without peaceful, socially cohesive and just societies. The new SDGs framework breaks new ground in committing Member States to promoting inclusive governance, providing access to justice to all, cutting corruption and building accountable institutions at all levels. As countries develop, aspirations of people, especially youth, change too. They want to have a say in shaping their own and country's development. Lack of voice and meaningful participation, coupled with exclusion and inadequate access to fair justice, can be a toxic combination. Free, vibrant and safe civic spaces which enable civil society to freely associate and participate is important not just for the successful implementation of SDGs but for fulfilling constitutional imperative of promoting citizen participation in management of the State and of society.

Member States have also committed to revitalize global partnerships for shared challenges. South-South and North – South cooperation for knowledge sharing and promotion of innovations could serve as a strategy to build partnerships. Implementation of SDGs would require substantial resources from both international and domestic financing including public and private funding sources and not just reliant on ODA. This is particularly relevant for Viet Nam given the decline in ODA and pressures on the public budget. New efforts are needed to boost the domestic tax base and secure efficiencies in the allocation and management of public finances. Equally, there are a number of modalities for leveraging resources through partnerships – including PPP, working with community based and civil society organizations and by building and enabling community responses to local challenges and needs. Government has an important role in creating an enabling environment for CSOs and private sector involvement as development partners.

The interconnected nature of the 17 SDGs would require a new form of policy leadership which breaks down sectoral barriers and entrenched interests. There could be a need to re-examine government structure to remove institutional bottlenecks in service delivery and cross-sectoral coordination. Like for the MDGs, the new Socio-Economic Development Plan and budget provide an excellent opportunity for nationalizing SDG commitment along with a well-defined M&E indicators for regular SDG results reporting. In addition, as set out in the Ha Noi declaration of the 132nd IPU Summit, role of the National Assembly is extremely important in localization of SDGs. Suitable mechanisms can be established to oversee timely adoption of enabling policies, review of budgets and results reporting on SDGs.

It would be vital to strengthen data management systems at all levels and introduce innovative ways to collect disaggregated data for evidence based decision making, results based reporting and accountability. It is encouraging that Government is already engaged in this process and GSO is undertaking a stocktaking exercise to support the SDG baseline.

2030 SDG agenda is people's agenda. Public awareness at all levels was vital in securing strong MDG performance and will be even more important for the SDGs. Communication campaigns targeting all stakeholders, including private sector, can also help build broad coalition of support.

SDGs agenda is indeed bold but it is especially relevant for ambitious middle income countries like Viet Nam, where it offers a huge opportunity for transformative change using innovation, new technologies and partnership.

The UN is very optimistic about Viet Nam's future as it is blessed with its most precious resource – its people of spirit, ambition and ingenuity. The SDGs offer a guiding framework to both securing the human rights and realizing the full potential of the Vietnamese people. Viet Nam is globally recognized as a high MDG achiever and has the potential to now also set an example for SDGs achievement.

The UN, along with other partners, stands ready to support Viet Nam on this new journey to achieve greater prosperity by respecting the environment and leaving no person behind.

Thank You!