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Opening Remarks by Mr. Kamal Malhotra United Nations Resident Coordinator Viet Nam at Conference on National Assembly and Sustainable Development Goals

In Email

Event: Conference on National Assembly and Sustainable Development Goals

Date: Monday 17 December 2018

Venue: Nalod Hotel, 192 Vo Nguyen Giap Street, Phuoc My Ward, Son Tra District, Da Nang, Viet Nam

  • H.E. Madame Nguyen Thi Kim Ngan, Chair of the National Assembly of Viet Nam,
  • H.E. Madame Tong Thi Phong, Vice Chair of the National Assembly,
  • H.E. Deputy Prime Minister Vu Duc Dam,
  • H.E. Mr. Martin Chungong, Secretary General of the IPU,
  • Distinguished Members of the National Assembly,

Ladies and Gentlemen,

It is my great honour to welcome all of you to this event jointly hosted by the National Assembly of Viet Nam, the Inter-Parliamentary Union, and the United Nations in Viet Nam to discuss and exchange views about the Sustainable Development Goals known as the SDGs and the potential role of members of the National Assembly to promote their implementation.

Before I go any further, let me congratulate all Vietnamese citizens for the great win in the South East Asian football championship on Saturday. I know the Chairwoman of the National Assembly, H.E. Madame Ngan is a great football fan and was there, and I am happy to say that I was also there with my son to see this historic win and join part of the celebrations afterwards. Now allow me to return to this important event.

Following a most extensive participatory consultation process, which included many parliamentarians, UN member states adopted the 2030 Agenda in September 2015. This Agenda sets clear, global priorities for sustainable development. The 2030 Agenda includes seventeen inter-linked Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) and 169 targets, or specific benchmarks, to be met by 2030 that will mobilize efforts to end all forms of poverty, fight inequalities and tackle issues such as climate change, while ensuring that no one is left behind.

The Goals are universal, applying to all countries and all people and based on human rights principles. They explicitly recognize that innovative approaches are required to effect change. International collective action, alongside "whole of government" and "whole of society" interventions are needed. In addition, we need to expand development financing and partnerships (beyond the traditional donor-recipient partnership).

The SDGs are much more ambitious, universal and have a wider scope than the Millennium Development Goals which they replace. While building on the basic needs and social orientation of the MDGs, the SDGs incorporate economic and environmental sustainability as well as peace, rule of law and institutional strengthening related goals, notably through Goal 16. The SDGs seek to eliminate (rather than reduce) poverty in all its forms, significantly reduce inequalities, eliminate violence against women and children and build peaceful, inclusive, and resilient societies.

I have been pleased to observe Viet Nam's strong commitment to translating the SDGs into actions. This has been a strong commitment of both Madame Chairperson, Madam Vice Chairperson and Deputy Prime Minister Vu Duc Dam, which I have witnessed firsthand in all my conversations with them. And it is a strong and clear testimony to their commitment that they are all here today. This is also evidenced in the government's SDG task force and action plans, as well as in the participation today of other high level leaders from the National Assembly and government ministries. Viet Nam's commitment to the SDGs was also seen through its Voluntary National Review which was presented in July 2018 to the UN's High-level Political Forum on Agenda 2030 in New York which was well received.

While the government is a driving force to move the SDGs forward, successful implementation of the SDGs in Viet Nam demands the active engagement of many stakeholders. This conference is the perfect occasion for me to emphasize the crucial role of the National Assembly of Viet Nam in SDG implementation. At the heart of this role is the fact that parliamentarians are representatives of the people, and the SDGs are about people. Recognizing this, UN Member States who adopted the 2030 Agenda explicitly acknowledged the essential role of parliaments "through their enactment of legislation and adoption of budgets and their role in ensuring accountability for the effective implementation of [the SDG] commitments". Furthermore, SDG 16's targets demonstrate that effective, accountable and inclusive institutions such as parliaments are crucial for the successful implementation of the 2030 Agenda.

Parliamentary engagement in the 2030 Agenda can result in a major boost to achieving the SDGs, including through the creation of an open and transparent mechanism for countries to track their SDG progress, as well as through an increased profile for the SDGs at national, regional and global levels. Parliamentary engagement in the 2030 Agenda should also allow for national policy discussions in a formal political setting that includes multi-stakeholders such as the private sector, civil society organizations and other stakeholders.

Mobilizing financial resources will be critical for the successful implementation of the SDGs, and parliaments can play a key role in ensuring that sustainable development priorities are reflected in national, sub-national and local budgets. Ensuring adequate funding for SDG achievement is an important and complex challenge which will require heightened attention moving forward.

Finally, the SDGs will not succeed without strong political will. Members of Parliaments who are in national leadership positions are mandated to not only carry out their duties in parliament, but also to influence other key decision makers and partners to actively champion the SDGs. Your voice and authority can help to ensure that the SDG promise of leaving no one behind becomes a reality in Viet Nam.

Distinguished members of the National Assembly, there are three main entry points for a parliament's engagement:

First, the parliament has a specific role in adopting a national legal framework that reflects and localizes the international commitments from the 2030 Agenda, including the establishment of new legislation that responds to critical development challenges. This key role enables the parliament to hold the government accountable for effective policy implementation and national progress on the SDGs, as well as for upholding their international commitments.

For example, every time a law is reviewed, Members of Parliament can call attention to whether it is consistent with the SDGs and propose amendments if it is not the case.

Second, the parliament's oversight and accountability functions constitute the second entry point, as Members of Parliament have a key role in monitoring and overseeing the implementation of the 2030 Agenda at the national level. As you monitor the implementation of laws, policies and budgets, I urge you to focus on ensuring that children, women, people with disability, ethnic minorities and other vulnerable segments of society are benefiting equally from Viet Nam's progress, and have equitable opportunities to thrive and prosper.

Third, the entry point for parliamentary engagement relates to its prerogative to analyze and scrutinize the budget, especially to ensure that the state budget is sufficiently allocated and effectively utilized to address disparities in access to quality social services. This is central to leaving no one behind.

Moving forward, there are many monitoring tools that can be used, such as public consultations with key stakeholders, field visits and the establishment of a parliamentary SDG secretariat and working groups to track progress on the roadmap and progress towards the achievement of specific SDGs, in addition to parliamentary debates at national and international levels.

On this occasion, I'm very pleased to see the conference has a session on the "Introduction of the IPU-UNDP self-assessment toolkit for SDG oversight and international experiences." The toolkit will provide excellent support to parliamentarians to play a critical role in advancing the SDGs. The contents of the toolkit are particularly useful and practical as they guide parliamentarians to perform stronger roles in areas such as: making laws in support of SDGs; financing SDGs; monitoring and providing oversight over SDG implementation, as well as ensuring that the SDGs serve the most vulnerable population.

The design of the toolkit aims to enable parliamentarians to enhance their ability to engage with the public on SDGs. The key message and purpose of SDGs, 'leave no one behind', is at the core of parliamentarians' roles, and those roles cannot be achieved without engaging with and reaching out to the wider public.

I would like to congratulate Viet Nam's National Assembly on their positive intention and plan to use the toolkit and self-assessment. Self-assessment is not meant to be just a checklist to be ticked. And therefore, I hope that the process will be both substantive and inclusive, and help the National Assembly reflect on how its members can be effective and accountable SDG actors in the future.

The UN works with many parliaments worldwide, often in cooperation with IPU and other partners. We will be pleased to share experiences from other countries with Viet Nam and to provide customized parliamentary SDG support to help the National Assembly become fit for purpose to implement and monitor the SDGs.

Finally, I wish the very best to distinguished members of the National Assembly in your crucial oversight role of SDG implementation. I trust that you will make important contributions to the effective, efficient and long-term successful implementation of the SDGs in Viet Nam, helping Viet Nam to achieve many of them before the 2030 deadline just like it did with most of their predecessor Millennium Development Goals (the MDGs).

I thank you, ladies and gentlemen, and hope you will have meaningful and action-oriented discussions over the next two days. Xin Cam on.