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Speech by Mr. Arthur Erken, UNFPA Representative in Viet Nam on the Meeting to Celebrate the World Population Day 2014

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Date:       Thursday, 10 July 2014
Event:     Meeting to Celebrate the World Population Day 2014
Venue:    Nha Trang city, Khanh Hoa province

Your Excellency Deputy Prime Minister Vu Duc Dam;
Your Excellency Minister of Health Nguyen Thi Kim Tien;
Your Excellency Chairman of the Khanh Hoa Provincial Peoples' Committee;  
Mr. Duong Quoc Trong, Director of the General Office for Population and Family Planning;
Representatives of the Ministry of Health, GOPFP and government organizations, NGOs, international organizations, donor agencies, representatives of the private sector, media and my fellow UN colleagues;

Ladies and gentlemen,

A good morning to you all and especially a good morning to all the youth representatives who are with us here today.

I am greatly honoured to be addressing you, on behalf of the UNFPA in Viet Nam, at the most beautiful beach of Viet Nam to commemorate the 2014 World Population Day. Let me from the outset thank the General Office for Population and Family Planning (GOPFP), particularly the Khanh Hoa Provincial Department for Population and Family Planning, for hosting and  co-organizing this Celebration today.

World Population Day is celebrated the world over to focus our global attention to some of the most pressing population concerns of our time. This year, the theme chosen by the United Nations is "Investing in Young People"! And we couldn't discuss this topic at a more opportune time in the history of our common humanity. As you know, there are 1.8 billion people between the ages of 10-24 in the world, making up one quarter of the world’s total population. In Asia, the proportion that is between the ages 10 and 24 accounts for 28 per cent in 2010, slightly higher than the world's average.

Today's young people grow up in a world that is changing with unprecedented speed! Because of their dynamism and imagination, young people can respond to these challenges in innovative ways. With the right investments, today’s young people can reach their full potential as individuals, leaders and agents of progress. And the world clearly needs their energy, their participation and their skills. And since we need the involvement of young people in addressing the common challenges of our time, the UNFPA calls on all governments to ensure that we include a new goal for young people in the post-2015 development agenda

Distinguished guests,

Data from the 2009 Population Census shows that Viet Nam has entered a "golden population" period, recording the highest proportion of young people in Viet Nam’s history. Young people between the ages of 10 to 24 years old now represent nearly 40 per cent of the total population. This so-called 'demographic window of opportunity', which remains open until 2040, presents Viet Nam with a one-time and unique opportunity in its history to plan for this population transformation, to make this golden period the driver for socio-economic prosperity the way other countries in Asia have so successfully done, by ensuring that everyone counts and that every young person is educated and supported to achieve their full potential. We can't afford to let this period be wasted. Now is the time to invest in our young people!

Today brings together about 1,000 young people, with representatives from the Government, National Assembly, Ministry of Health, other line-ministries, private sectors and hundreds of people living and working in Nha Trang city. This is a great opportunity to reinforce our commitment to ensure that young people can progressively develop the knowledge, skills and resilience needed for a healthy, productive and fulfilling life.

Ladies and gentlemen,

Adolescents and youth are central to the future development agenda. Safeguarding their rights and investing in their future by providing quality education, decent employment, effective livelihood skills, and access to sexual and reproductive health and comprehensive sexuality education that emphasizes gender equality, is essential to their development and that of their families, communities and the country as a whole. Investing in our youth is an investment in our future.

Let's be mindful of the fact that the largest generation of adolescents is entering their sexual and reproductive life. Yet, there has been too little progress in preventing adolescent pregnancies, unsafe abortions, STIs and HIV and there are significant gaps in availability, quality and access to comprehensive sexuality education and services for young people.

Distinguished guests,

I am very happy to see so many Vietnamese youth representatives among us here today. Young people have the right to have their voices being heard. It is important that they participate in the development of their country and in the implementation of policies and programmes that affect their lives. In order to make youth participation an integral part of the coordination mechanism of youth affairs in Viet Nam, we have to do more than just let young people get their foot in the door. We need to let the youth representatives in the room with us, and give them a seat at the table, when decisions are being made. Full participation of young people requires building capacities and developing the skills, and creating sustainable partnerships of which we all will benefit. Youth participation not only leads to better decisions and outcomes, but also promotes the well-being of young people and their commitment to being active developers of the future of Viet Nam.

I encourage you, young people here today, as representatives of the future of Viet Nam, to use your voice and help us understand your needs and the realities of your lives. And for us elders, I encourage you to listen carefully what young people have to say.

Ladies and gentlemen,

UNFPA, works with the Government and other development partners to find innovative ways to assist Viet Nam in securing the health, development and human rights of young people. We are committed to delivering a world where every young person’s potential is fulfilled – where their human rights are respected and their diversity is celebrated.

My fellow young delegates -  we encourage you to continue to establish and strengthen partnerships with the government, social organizations and other related agencies who address and advance the cause of young people. We at UNFPA are eager to partner with you to facilitate and advance these partnerships.

Today, UNFPA in Viet Nam is launching a "Selfie Campaign", which is part of the global campaign launched this month and which will run to September 2015 to harness and demonstrate to world leaders the worldwide support that exists for young people to feature at the heart of the development agenda post-2015. We hope all of you participate in this exciting activity by sending your selfies to UNFPA in Viet Nam or post your own selfies via social media such as Facebook, Twitter and Instagram with the hashtag: #WPD2014. We are counting on your support and participation to help the campaign become a national and global success.

Thank you very much for your attention and active participation in this important event. I wish you all a healthy, happy and successful World Population Day!

Xin cam on!