Speech at the empowerment for women in development and international integration

04 Dec 2010

Speaker: Ms. Setsuko Yamazaki, UNDP Country Director
Date:      4 December 2010
Event:     Empowerment for women in development and international integration

Your Excellencies;
Madame Nguyen Thi Kim Ngang, Minister of Labour, Invalids and Social Affairs and Chair of the National Committee for the Advancement of Women;
Mr Dao Viet Trung, Deputy Minister of Foreign Affairs;

We are here today at this conference because we believe in the importance of investing in women and want to find new ways to strengthen women’s participation in decision-making and leadership for development. As a woman leader, it is also a subject that is close to my heart personally.

Viet Nam is currently formulating its new ten-year socio-economic development strategy (SEDS) and its next five-year plan (SEDP) to chart your country’s future development path. This is an important transition point as you shift from a focus on economic growth to “quality of growth” as a middle-income country. The draft strategy and plan set out the country’s desired growth path, but also emphasize the need for social, human and sustainable development for all Vietnamese citizens. 

Empowering women and strengthening women’s participation in decision-making and leadership, at both the national and local level, is at the heart of sustainable socio-economic development. If Viet Nam is to continue its impressive development progress and ensure that the benefits are seen at both the national and local level, it is essential to mobilize the full potential of its workforce, both men and women. And women leaders have a vital role to play in developing innovative approaches and solutions to the new development challenges that Viet Nam will be facing. It is extremely timely to discuss these issues on the eve of the upcoming Party Congress and forthcoming elections to further strengthen women’s representation at all  levels.

At both the national and global level, UNDP is supporting work to promote gender equality and advance female leadership. As you know, this conference is being organized as part of a UNDP project with MOFA which supports women leaders in the public sector.

At the global level, there are also new UN initiatives which aim to strengthen women’s leadership. The first is a global review of existing legal and policy practices to promote gender equality in the public administration. This review will help us turn evidence into practice by highlighting what works and what does not work, as well as why. Through this initiative, and with your cooperation, Viet Nam could be an important case study and in this way share its successes and challenges with other countries.

The second initiative is a global report on women’s representation in local government in Asia and the Pacific – a partnership between UNDP, UN Women and other international organizations. This report aims to look deeper into women’s representation at the sub-national level – often one of the most important arenas for women’s political participation in Asia Pacific.

Both these initiatives highlight the UN’s commitment to supporting national governments to drive through gender equality at local and national levels. We very much look forward to working with you to launch the reports and share the findings in Viet Nam.

Now turning to actions, I would like to emphasize three action areas which we believe are essential, if women are to break through the glass ceiling and if we are to see real changes in this area.

First of all, we need strong political will. It is exactly such a political will which has enabled a developing country like Rwanda in Africa to recently overtake Sweden in terms of the number of women parliamentarians. Viet Nam has already clearly demonstrated the will to consolidate its record in gender equality and increase the number of women in decision-making – for instance through the strong support from senior leaders for the UNDP project and policy milestones such as the gender equality law and Resolution No.11. We are also delighted to see that the draft National Strategy for Gender Equality for 2011-2020 has clear and specific targets on women’s leadership.

This strong will is necessary to push through the second important factor – effective implementation. I am very pleased to see an emphasis today on how Viet Nam’s relatively robust high-level policy framework can be delivered on the ground at national, and especially local, level. The local level is often the biggest challenge, especially for a country as large as Viet Nam. Yet local governments often deal with matters which have a much more direct impact on livelihoods than national parliaments. And so increasing women’s participation in local, and national, decision-making is critical to ensuring that they are effectively represented in all decisions affecting them, from health and education to economic policies. Today, we are delighted to have an opportunity to learn from Finland as to how Finland has institutionalized its equality policies.

The third critical success factor is capacity. We know that building capacity is the foundation of sustainable change, and we are very pleased that the project is working with a number of partners in this area. The scholarships to Cambridge, the research grants, as well as the many women trained around Viet Nam on leadership – all these are examples of the kind of capacity-building this project is carrying out at an individual level. Just this week, we supported a training course by the National Committee for Advancement of Women (NCFAW) for potential women candidates in Ho Chi Minh City. Capacity-building is also important at an organizational level. This includes supporting individual agencies who want to increase the number of women leaders and expand the talent pool of qualified women for future leadership positions.

So, strong political will, effective implementation and institutionalization of the policy,  and building individual and organizational capacity are all essential factors if we want to further strengthen gender equality. I look forward to sharing experience and learning from you as to how we can continue to encourage this work, and would like you to take every opportunity today to talk to new people and share your own perspective.  

Let me end by thanking the Ministry of Foreign Affairs, the National Committee for the Advancement for Women, the Ministry of Labour, Invalids and Social Affairs, the Viet Nam Women’s Union, and the Central Party of Viet Nam for their excellent management of the programme – and for the very strong support from senior leaders.  I would like to express our sincere appreciation to the leaders of Khanh Hoa Province for hosting this high-level event.

I would also like to thank you all for coming. We very much look forward to hearing the conclusions and recommendations and to supporting your priorities for change in this area.  Working together, we can help ensure that incentives and support to women to take on leadership roles are scaled up and help create a future generation of strong women leaders.

I wish you all a fruitful and enjoyable day!