Speech at 2009 Viet Nam executive leadership programme pre-departure meeting

Oct 16, 2009

Speaker:  Setsuko Yamazaki, UNDP Country Director
Date:       16 October 2009
Event:      2009 Viet Nam executive leadership programme pre-departure meeting

Your Excellency Deputy Prime Minister Nguyen Thien Nhan,
Participants from the Government, Party and state-owned enterprises,
Representatives from Harvard University,
Dear friends and colleagues,
In sending off the delegation last year, I remarked that Vietnams stands at a crossroads after the remarkable transitions that the country undertook during the last three decades. In a rapidly changing international financial and economic situation over the past year, I am even more convinced that Viet Nam stands at a crossroads and needs to determine its path. 

It is therefore a great pleasure for me to have the opportunity to meet with so many distinguished Vietnamese Government and business leaders as you prepare for the upcoming Viet Nam Executive Leadership Programme at Harvard University. Bringing together high-level Vietnamese policy makers with renowned international scholars and senior business executives the leadership programme provides an opportunity to discuss and examine issues relating to Vietnam’s future and its development path.

As Viet Nam reaches a middle income status, the country faces not only the long standing challenges of sustaining the economic growth, creating jobs for its young population and strengthening institutional capacities, but also faces a new set of development challenges – such as widening disparity, quality of education, social cohesion, social safety net for the vulnerable population, and climate change.  As the society matures, the people aspire “quality of growth” which is commensurate to the middle-income country status.  These new challenges are much more complex and require access to high-quality knowledge and expertise. The Viet Nam Executive Leadership Programme provides a unique opportunity to access this knowledge and to discuss issues among senior leaders of the country.

At UNDP, we are proud to be supporting the Viet Nam Executive Leadership Programme. It is a crucial part of our efforts to provide neutral policy advice in areas of strategic importance to Viet Nam. By facilitating access to high-quality knowledge, skills and international best practices we hope senior Vietnamese policy makers are enabled to make the best decisions possible and meet the rapidly changing needs of the country.

I would like to highlight three key issues which you will be focusing on while at Harvard and which I believe are of crucial importance to Viet Nam’s and its quality of growth.

Firstly, the issue of Viet Nam’s future development path in the context of the global financial crisis and recovery. In a rapidly changing world and in the aftermath of the dramatic events that have taken place in international financial markets since September 2008, the timing of this leadership programme could not be more appropriate. It will provide you with important perspectives as you chart out the development path you think is right for Viet Nam.  Key to this will be to ensure address immediate challenges keeping a long-term development goals of the country in perspective. Investing in the “quality of growth” for the people – human resources, social safety net, climate change and disaster prevention will ensure that Viet Nam continues to develop in a sustainable and socially equitable manner. 

Secondly, you will be discussing the role of education, and in particular higher-education, in driving economic development. High-quality, research universities can play a transformative role for social and economic progress as they help build a skilled workforce and knowledge economy. Such research universities often play a critical role in “translating” advancements in global knowledge into innovations that benefit the societies in which they are based.

Developing high-quality research universities is already a cornerstone of Viet Nam’s education policy. The challenge is how to best translate this objective into actionable policy reforms. While both funding and infrastructure are important factors in developing a world class research university, issues such as good governance are also crucial and need to be considered. 

Being at a world class university like Harvard it is my hope that you will have inspiring discussions on this topic which can help to address the issue in Viet Nam.

Finally, you will have an opportunity to address another critical issue: Climate Change. As one of the countries in the world most affected by the adverse effects of climate change Viet Nam needs major finance to adapt to the effects of climate change.  Viet Nam also needs to find a way to ensure future energy needs which require large investment and modern and efficient technology. It will be eligible for a significant share of new and additional assistance over the next couple of years if the climate change negotiations in Copenhagen in December are successful. This public finance could rise from tens of millions to possibly hundreds of millions per year and the climate change may become a core theme of future assistance to the country. In order to capture all the financial opportunities that are becoming available, and to manage them, the Government will need to create capacities to access those new funds and play a strong role to aid coordination and financial management of climate change related activities – from the negotiation and development of new funding schemes to the monitoring of climate change related spending. Specialist knowledge is needed to develop such a governance structure.

In closing I would like to renew UNDP’s commitment to Viet Nam, to the Vietnamese Government and to the Vietnamese people, to continue to support your ambitions of becoming a modern, industrialized country by 2020 and your efforts to do so in an inclusive, environmentally sustainable and socially equitable way.

We wish you all great success, and look forward to hearing your feedback after your return.