Speech at Spanish business roundtable: energy, environment and infrastructure

Mar 23, 2010

Speaker:   Ms. Setsuko Yamazaki, UNDP Country Director
Date:         23 March 2010
Event:       Spanish business roundtable: energy, environment and infrastructure

Your Excellency Ambassador Fernando Curcio Ruigomez;
Hola, buenos dias y bienvenidos a Ha Noi;
Kinh thua cac qui vi ;

Over the next couple of days of your stay in Viet Nam I am sure you will witness for yourself the incredible growth and dynamism in this country. This is a place where the number of people living in poverty was reduced by more than 40 percent in just 14 years. That is a remarkable achievement. And economic growth is continuing. In 2009, despite the global financial crisis, Viet Nam recorded growth of 5.3 percent. Viet Nam is now fast on its way to becoming a middle-income country and is expected to play a larger role as a trade partner, business partner and investment partner.

The United Nations works with Viet Nam to help ensure that all Vietnamese benefit from this rapid growth. We help develop Viet Nam’s capacity to address issues that the market alone will not take care of – issues such as equity, justice and sustainability. We believe that development is about more than just economic growth. It is also about the quality and sustainability of growth.  Another important task for the United Nations is to assist Viet Nam in building its resilience to external shocks, whether these shocks are low points in the economic cycle or natural disasters.

Let me highlight three key challenges which will be important for Viet Nam to address over the next couple of years if it is to continue developing in a sustainable way. These three challenges are related to infrastructure, energy demand and climate change.
Over the past twelve years, total infrastructure investment in Viet Nam has, on average, accounted for more than ten percent of GDP. This puts Viet Nam ahead of most East Asian economies – countries which are renowned for their high level of infrastructure investment.
Despite this, more still needs to be done to solve Viet Nam’s infrastructure constraints – particularly in areas such as transport and energy. This is critical if Viet Nam wants to continue developing at the current rate of growth. The companies which you represent can be part of the solution to this challenge as you can help bring the needed technology, expertise and investment to Viet Nam.

Secondly, Viet Nam is energy hungry. High economic growth is accompanied by high growth in energy demand and there is little energy efficiency in sectors such as transport, buildings and industrial production. Viet Nam’s rapid economic development is also putting an increasing strain on the natural environment. The United Nations believes that energy generation in Viet Nam must be put on a low-carbon path. For this to happen, investment in renewable energy is needed. I know Spain is a global leader in renewable energy and I hope this is another area where you can contribute with capital investment, technology and expertise.

The final challenge I want to highlight today is Viet Nam’s vulnerability to climate change. Viet Nam is already experiencing the negative impacts of a changing climate. It is one of the most natural disaster prone countries in the world and Vietnamese people frequently face typhoons, floods, droughts and landslides from heavy rain. 

One of the many things Viet Nam will need to focus on in its response to climate change is climate proofing its infrastructure. This means making sure that roads, railways and port facilities can withstand more extreme weather and rising sea levels. Viet Nam will need international cooperation in technology and research, as well as investments, to address this. The Spanish Government is already supporting Viet Nam in dealing with climate change. I also see a strong role for the Spanish private sector to play.

In all these areas, foreign investors in Viet Nam have a duty to act as responsible partners. This is not only about observing local laws and customs, but also about promoting universal principles and values and behaving in a socially responsible way in day-to-day operations. We all have an interest in working together to build markets, combat corruption and protect the environment. This can best be done in partnership among businesses, governments, civil society and international organizations like the United Nations.
In Viet Nam, there are a number of partnerships which aim to promote a socially responsible corporate sector. One of these is the Global Compact Network Viet Nam – a collaboration between the UN and the Viet Nam Chamber of Commerce and Industry. The network guides its members on responsible business practices and aims to become the centre of excellence on corporate social responsibility in Viet Nam.

The network is the local chapter of Global Compact – a global UN initiative. Businesses who sign up to the Global Compact commit themselves to aligning their operations with ten core values, such as human rights, environmental sustainability, protection for working people and a society free of corruption.

I strongly encourage all the participants at today’s event – both Spanish and Vietnamese companies – to actively involve themselves with the Global Compact and similar initiatives. Integrating corporate social responsibility principles into business practices is good for business and is good for Viet Nam.

Together, we can work to ensure that investment partnerships in the environment, energy and transport sectors can contribute to Viet Nam’s development and ensure a better life for all Vietnamese – both now and in the years to come.

Thank you.