Conference on Draft Biodiversity Law: Speech of Mr. Christophe Bahuet, Deputy Country Director, UNDP Viet Nam

Nov 2, 2007

Speaker: Mr Christophe Bahuet, Deputy Country Director, UNDP Viet Nam
Date:       November 2, 2007
Event:     Conference on Draft Biodiversity Law
Greeting and Salutation to VIPs and Invited Guests
Ladies and Gentlemen,
All of us are aware that Viet Nam is one of the world’s most biologically diverse countries. Ten per cent of the world’s mammal, bird and fish species live in Viet Nam and more than 40 per cent of the local plant species are believed to exist nowhere else in the world. For that reason, protecting biodiversity in Viet Nam is a contribution to national development but also to the word environment. In seeking to enact a Biodiversity Law the Government of Viet Nam is to be congratulated for endeavoring to ensure that this priceless natural heritage is preserved.  
The Government’s initiative is welcome, because a strong Biodiversity Law is needed to counter the real and ever-present threat to the nation’s biodiversity. In Viet Nam, UNDP sees biodiversity being threatened by overexploitation of forests, shifting agricultural cultivation, the loss of arable land, water pollution, degradation of coastal areas, and demands made on farmers by the transition to a market economy. Rapid population growth and intense agricultural development are also putting biodiversity under pressure. Without proper planning and management, there is a risk that responses to the increasing demand for services, such as highways and hydropower, will further endanger Viet Nam’s rich bio-diversity. UNDP believes that one of the biggest challenges facing Viet Nam is to balance development with conservation.  
But balancing development with conservation is not just about resolving issues such as constructing a highway while conserving a habitat. It is also about protecting natural resources while, at the same time, upholding the rights of the poor whose livelihoods are critically dependent on these resources.  
This is why UNDP has been advocating for a pro-poor Biodiversity Law. Through the Poverty – Environment Project in MONRE, it has assisted IUCN to seek to mainstream pro-poor provisions into the draft, and to encourage high-level stakeholder participation in the drafting process.  At the very best, the UNDP would like to see a Biodiversity Law approved by the National Assembly that empowers the poor, and enables them to benefit from conservation through improved livelihoods. At the very least, as a result of the Law, the poor should not end up becoming poorer, or suffer the loss of livelihoods without adequate recompense.  
UNDP has been advocating this principle of pro-poor biodiversity protection in policy as well as in practice. Three examples are the Protected Areas for Resource Conservation project or PARC, which emerged from the Government’s comprehensive 1995 Biodiversity Action Plan; the Coastal and Marine biodiversity conservation and sustainable use project in the Con Dao islands region; and the Sustainable Management of Kon Ka Kinh National Park and Kon Chu Rang Nature Reserve.

The precious biodiversity must be recognized as an asset both by Governments and populations.  The Government of Viet Nam has been advocating the link between conservation and sustainable development. Seven years ago in New York, Viet Nam’s President Tran Duc Luong, solemnly committed to implement the "United Nations Millennium Declaration" and to achieving the Millennium Development Goals.  Ensuring environmental sustainability, MDG 7, first and foremost targets reversing the loss of environmental resources by integrating sustainable development principles into country policies and programmes. By issuing a Resolution to spend 1 per cent of the state budget on the environment, Vietnam has demonstrated to the world the strength of its commitment to achieving MDG 7.  Such a substantial guaranteed budgetary allocation should make us confident that the idea of reducing poverty through protecting biodiversity is now both real and practical, and that this reality is strongly reflected in the final draft of the Biodiversity Law. There is an opportunity with the Law and with its effective implementation, which will be an important challenge to meet, to make a difference for biodiversity in Viet Nam. This is why the work that is being done, this workshop and your participation in it is important.
I thank you for your attention and wish all of you here today every success in your deliberations.