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Speechby United Nations Resident Coordinator, Ms Pratibha Mehta at the Commemoration of 20 years implementation of Beijing Declaration and Platform for Action in Viet Nam

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Date: Wednesday, 24 June 2015
Sofitel Plaza Hotel, No.1 Thanh Nien Road, Tay Ho District, Ha Noi
Commemoration of 20 years implementation of Beijing Declaration and Platform for Action in Viet Nam

  • H.E. Nguyen Thi Doan, Vice President of the Socialist Republic of Viet Nam
  • H.E. Truong My Hoa, former Vice President of the Socialist Republic of Viet Nam
  • H.E. Pham Thi Hai Chuyen, Member of the Executive Committee of the Communist Party, Minister for Labour, Invalids and Social Affairs; Chair of the National Committee for the Advancement of Women
  • H.E. Truong Thi Mai, Chairperson of the Committee of Social Affairs of the National Assembly of Viet Nam.
  • Members of the National Committee for the Advancement of Women,
  • Excellencies, Ambassadors;
  • Distinguished participants from the Government, research institutes and civil society;
  • Colleagues from the UN;
  • Ladies and gentlemen;

Today, I would like to begin by congratulating the National Committee for the Advancement of Women for organizing this event to mark 20 years of implementation of the Beijing Declaration and Platform for Action in Viet Nam.

In March this year, United Nations Member States gathered in New York and undertook a review of progress made on implementation of the Beijing Platform for Action, twenty years after its adoption in 1995. Leading up to this global review,

Member States were encouraged to conduct their own national reviews, and 166 states submitted their reports. This was the largest ever number of reports received for a Beijing implementation review, and a demonstration of unprecedented commitment to advancing gender equality.

I am very pleased to know that Viet Nam was one of the 166 states, and that the Government made extra efforts to engage line ministries, agencies, civil society, and other actors at national, and sub-national levels in the review process. I congratulate the Government for ensuring an open and inclusive process as gender equality is indeed everyone's business.


Twenty years ago in Beijing, countries met for the 4th World Conference of Women with enthusiasm, optimism and a sense of urgency. The resulting Beijing Declaration and Platform for Action remains the most comprehensive global blueprint for gender equality and women's empowerment. It is firmly anchored in a human rights framework and includes clear statements about State responsibility in delivering on the commitments that were made.

However, after twenty years of its implementation, at the global level, the emerging picture is highly complex.

On the positive side, the undeniable legacy of the last 20 years is a changed normative landscape. Constitutions have been amended in compliance with the Convention on the Elimination of All Forms of Discrimination Against Women (CEDAW), and legislation has been passed in many countries to support the critical areas of the Beijing Platform for Action. As an example, today, two-thirds of all countries, including Viet Nam, have outlawed domestic violence.

There have been significant gains in girls' enrolment in primary and secondary education, and globally maternal mortality has decreased by 45% since 1990.

What has not been done, however, is to change the attitudes that perpetuate the culture of male superiority and the stereotypes that diminish women. This unfortunately has subverted the gains that the good laws can bring. We must transform discriminatory norms and gender stereotypes.

The reviews tell us unequivocally that we need urgent action and renewed, and much stronger political commitment. The chronic underinvestment in gender equality is a major barrier to progress in all.

We must look beyond the "averages" to monitor the impacts and results of laws and policies for women and girls, such as ethnic minorities, those living in rural and remote areas, the disabled, the migrants, who experience multiple and intersecting forms of discrimination.

Power relations between men and women must change profoundly for progress to be made. Discrimination in laws persists in many countries, particularly in the area of family law. If we look at Viet Nam, the different retirement age for women and men, and prohibition of certain occupations for women prescribed by law above and beyond the ILO standards continue to limit women's opportunities.

We must eliminate the "global epidemic" of violence against women and girls. Violence against women and girls persists in all countries and in many forms. In Viet Nam, almost 6 out of 10 ever-married women experienced some form of violence by their partner, and the cost of domestic violence and lost productivity represented 3.1% of Viet Nam's GDP in 2010. Violation of women's sexual and reproductive health and rights also remain widespread.

We must make the economy work for women so that they can enjoy greater economic opportunities and their contribution to the economy would be recognized. Women continue to be clustered in vulnerable and informal types of work, and the gender pay gap is a universal phenomenon. The global review also pointed out clearly the challenge presented by unpaid care work that is heavily put on the shoulders of women. There is a need to redistribute and reduce its burden so as to increase women's access to paid work and educational and other opportunities.

Unequal representation of women in politics, economy and other areas is one of the leading problems of gender inequality identified by all countries. If you look at this issue globally, at current pace, it is estimated that it would take about 50 years for gender parity in representation in parliaments. Here in Viet Nam, the decline of women's representation in National Assembly must be stopped. The 2016 elections cannot become a lost opportunity. Efforts to nominate more women candidates than before and prepare them for the elections and their role in decision-making must continue.

Twenty years on from the commitments made in Beijing, no country has achieved gender equality and strong action continues to be required.


2015 is a significant year to further advance gender equality not only at the global level but also here in Viet Nam. The Government will be meeting the CEDAW committee in two weeks to present its progress on CEDAW implementation. The outcome will be a new set of recommendations from the CEDAW Committee which the Government will be required to act upon. Since March 2015, the Government, particularly the Ministry of Labour, Invalids and Social Affairs has been reviewing implementation of the current National Programme on Gender Equality with

stakeholders, and formulation of the next National Programme on Gender Equality for 2016-2020 is in progress. The first ever National Thematic Project on Gender Based Violence Prevention and Response for period 2016-2020 is also under way. Taken together, the convergence of these global and national processes presents us with a unique opportunity to re-establish our priorities and political commitments, including resources commitments, to create a new momentum for gender equality in Viet Nam.

From the United Nations here in Viet Nam, I would like to emphasize five key areas of urgent actions that have emerged from the global review:

  • Firstly, transforming discriminatory social norms and gender stereotypes. This requires an investment in long-term interventions and campaigns to change attitudes and behaviors, including on male responsibility for unpaid care work and for challenging discrimination and violence.
  • Secondly, we need to transform the economy to achieve gender equality and sustainable development. Macroeconomic policy should be reoriented to increase State investments in infrastructure, social services and social protection measures to ensure that women and girls can live a life with dignity. Macroeconomic policies should also support the generation of decent work for women and men and ensure women enjoy the full range of rights at work.
  • Thirdly, ensure the full and equal participation of women in decision making at all levels. Women's participation in political institutions, in the economy, in climate change negotiations, in community planning, in family decision, in collective action to advance women's human rights all need to be expanded.
  • Fourthly, significantly increase investment in gender equality. This is not only about ODA but also mobilization of domestic resources through reorienting macroeconomic policies.
  • Finally, strengthen the accountability for gender equality and the realization of the human rights of women and girls. We need increased investment in gender statistics, stronger national gender machineries and gender responsive institutions, and greater efforts to make gender mainstreaming the norm in government policy. Government must ensure that private sectors are held accountable for the impact of their actions on women's enjoyment of human's rights. Civil society groups working for gender equality and women's empowerment must be strengthened and supported to advance claims for women's human rights.


We are at a historic moment with world leaders set to decide the post 2015 development agenda. Creating a world with greater equality for generations to come is the defining and most urgent challenge of this century.

Equality for women and girls is not just a dream. It is a duty of governments, the United Nations and everyone around us. All of us benefit when women and girls – our mothers, sisters, friends and colleagues -- can reach their full potential.

As the UN in Viet Nam we remain fully committed to supporting the Government of Viet Nam and its civil society partners in advancing the status of women and promoting gender equality.

As we strive to realize human rights, eliminate poverty and promote sustainable development, equality for women means progress for all!

Xin Cam On!