Speech at Launch of Viet Nam’s national MDG report

Sep 17, 2010

Speaker: Mr. John Hendra, United Nations Resident Coordinator in Viet Nam
Date:        Friday, 17 September 2010
Event:       Launch of Viet Nam’s national MDG report

Your Excellency Vice Minister Sinh
Your Excellencies Ambassadors,
Donor Colleagues, my fellow UN Colleagues and Members of the Media
Ladies and Gentlemen,

Let me start by congratulating the Government of Viet Nam for this year’s Millennium Development Goals Report 2010 – which provides a very clear picture of how the MDGs have been implemented in Viet Nam, including the achievements made, lessons learnt and key challenges still ahead.

Over the years we have seen consistent improvement in the quality of the national MDG report, with increasingly more analytical and evidence-based material being included.  In addition, this year’s Report has followed a wide consultation process with various national agencies, UN Organizations and other international partners which has been very much appreciated by all, especially as there are so many partners working together with the Government and people of Viet Nam towards seeing that all MDGs are achieved in all parts of this country. 
As Vice-Minister Sinh has outlined, the 2010 Report looks at the progress made towards each of the MDG targets and provides examples of good practices that have helped Viet Nam to accelerate achievement.  It also analyzes the impact that external shocks, such as the global financial crisis and the continuing challenge of climate change, are having on the impressive progress made. 

To ensure continued progress forward, the Report also importantly focuses on factors that have impeded progress towards those MDGs that remain off-track, as well as the remaining disparities within the country that need to be addressed. 

The Report comes at a critical time. It is exactly ten years ago since Viet Nam, along with other UN member states, signed the Millennium Declaration and committed itself to the MDG targets. With only five years left to achieve all eight goals, it is very much our hope that this year’s Report will help stimulate a revitalized effort to meet  those goals still off target in Viet Nam and to also substantively contribute to the development of the SEDS, the SEDP and related socio-economic strategies and plans. Next week His Excellency President Triet will present the Report and Viet Nam’s very valuable experience to the international community at the high-level UN MDG Summit in New York, which will look at how MDG progress worldwide can be more effectively scaled up.

At this important juncture, let me briefly touch on some of the key themes of the Report.

First of all, it is absolutely clear that Viet Nam has made very impressive progress towards achieving the MDGs and has been successful in meeting some of them – such as MDG 1 on eradication of extreme hunger and poverty – way ahead of the 2015 deadline. Over all, Viet Nam has successfully reduced poverty (MDG1), achieved near universal primary education (MDG2), improved maternal health, (MDG5) reduced child mortality (MDG4), and has made important progress towards gender quality and women’s empowerment (MDG3).

This progress is in large part due to the strong commitment, leadership and action by the Government. Some of the critical success factors identified in the Report include the mainstreaming of the MDGs in the national socio-economic development plans at both central and local level, the development of pro-poor growth policies that have created jobs for many millions of Vietnamese, and well-targeted support such as the national targeted poverty reduction programmes, school fee exemption and free health insurance for the poor and children under six.

At the same time, if Viet Nam is to achieve all the MDGs with equity, it is important that progress is sustained, that rising disparities are better targeted, that risks are anticipated and that remaining gaps are addressed. In this respect, let me highlight several critical issues still ahead. 

First, while Viet Nam has either achieved -- or is on track to attain -- most of the MDGs on time, it will not meet MDG 6 targets on HIV by 2015 unless access to services is significantly scaled up, in particular for high risk populations. Government commitment to HIV spending at the national and sub-national level will also need to increase substantially and focus will need to be placed on the critical area of HIV prevention and ensuring the overall sustainability of the national response to HIV. 
What’s more, there are still other parts of an unfinished MDG agenda. Some key targets, including those on nutrition, maternal mortality and water and sanitation, have not yet been fully achieved while  MDG 7 on environmental sustainability is also a challenge, with Viet Nam facing significant natural resource degradation and deterioration which also require priority attention.  And emerging issues such as urban poverty and migration will also require greater attention by the Government.

Secondly, while many of the MDGs have been achieved at the national level, we need to make sure that the goals are achieved in every province and in every commune in the country. More than half of Viet Nam’s ethnic minority groups still live below the poverty line. Maternal mortality rates are nearly twice as high in rural areas as in urban areas, and education and literacy levels are still considerably lower among ethnic minority communities, in particular among women and girls.

Thirdly, efforts over the next five years must take into account potential risks to the full achievement of the MDGs.  External shocks, such as the global economic crisis and the food and energy crisis, pose challenges for developing countries, including Viet Nam. Decreasing ODA and FDI flows, lower demand for Vietnamese exports, large trade deficits as well as continued inflationary risks will all demand special attention from the Government. These shocks have a disproportionate impact on the poor, with the result that people who have just escaped poverty can quickly find themselves being pushed right back into it.

Finally, the MDG Report looks at the very serious challenge posed by climate change. As one of the countries in the world most affected by climate change, there is a risk that its effects and impacts will slow down MDG progress in Viet Nam. More frequent and more intensive floods, droughts and typhoons impact on the livelihoods of the poor, while rising sea levels will affect Viet Nam’s rice producing deltas, affecting not only food security but regional and even global as well.  Although necessary, adaptation and mitigation measures will be costly and resources required to address them should not come at the expense of resources required for continued MDG progress.

Ladies and Gentlemen

The MDGs have proved to be an unprecedented catalyst for global action and greater accountability and Viet Nam serves not only as an excellent example of major progress towards the MDGs – but also what can be achieved through strong, committed national leadership as represented here this morning by Vice Minister Sinh; through effective pro-poor growth policies; and through strong commitment to translating high levels of growth into progressive social outcomes and enhanced human and social development.

Despite these achievements, we cannot be complacent. Achieving the MDGs with equity throughout all of Viet Nam will still require increased, targeted efforts. Priority needs to be given to well coordinated and efficiently implemented National Target Programmes and policies to ensure better use of allocated resources and enhanced impact. With only five years left to the deadline, it is imperative that all stakeholders continue to work together and utilize all the tools, resources and strategies available to accelerate further progress.  

In this context, I would like to acknowledge again Vice Minister Sinh’s leadership, the great work by MPI and the Project Team, the way they have worked with the UN Country Team to incorporate data and comments and broader collaboration with other partners.
Finally, I can assure you that as the world reviews MDG progress next week in New York, the UN Country Team here in Viet Nam will re-dedicate ourselves to work even more closely with the Government and the people of Viet Nam – and all partners present this morning -- to accelerate progress here. And I am confident that with both good policies and continued strong political commitment by the Government, this remarkable Viet Nam story of MDG progress will continue to unfold until all MDGs are achieved in every village and in every household in Viet Nam.

Thank you very much for your kind attention.