Speech at the Consultation workshop on the National Report to Rio+20

21 Mar 2012

Speaker:  Setsuko Yamazaki, UNDP Country Director     
Date:        21 March 2012
Event:       Consultation workshop on the National Report to Rio+20

Your Excellency, Vice Minister Nguyen The Phuong;
Distinguished participants from central and local agencies;
Your Excellencies;
Colleagues from the international community;
Ladies and gentlemen;

Let me start by congratulating MPI and Vice Minister Phuong for your continued support and leadership for Viet Nam’s preparation for the Rio+20 conference on sustainable development this June. I would also like to thank you for inviting me to address this meeting.

There are now less than 100 days until world leaders gather in Rio de Janeiro, Brazil to negotiate a sustainable future for all of us. As noted by UN Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon, this is a “once-in-a-generation opportunity” to agree on sustainable solutions to build the future we want. Rio+20 is a chance to move away from business as usual and act to end poverty, address environmental destruction and build a bridge to the future.

Over the last 20 years, Viet Nam has experienced rapid economic growth and remarkable human development progress. Millions of people have been lifted out of poverty, life expectancy has increased and education outcomes have improved. Yet income growth continues to be the main driver of Viet Nam’s human development progress. And as UNDP’s 2011 Human Development Report warns, global development progress achieved so far risks being reversed mid-century unless we take bold actions to slow climate change and prevent further environmental damage – globally and nationally.

All this means that unless Viet Nam looks beyond pure economic growth and renews its sustainable development commitment, its ability to pursue and achieve its full human development potential will be threatened. The good news is that Viet Nam is already starting to shift its focus from economic growth to “quality of growth”. Sustainable development is a guiding principle in the ten-year Socio-Economic Development Strategy and the strategy also stresses the need to balance economic, social and environmental protection priorities. This is very encouraging.

It is also encouraging that Viet Nam is drafting a green growth strategy. Successful green growth strategies not only help to protect the natural environment and reduce green house gas emissions but can also help to foster inclusive growth and social equity, for example through green employment generation. The green growth strategy will help to turn sustainable development and climate change challenges into developmental opportunities, and it underlines Viet Nam’s strong commitment to pursuing sustainable development.

The sustainable development agenda is the growth agenda for the 21st century. The challenges we face around the world are enormous. They include widespread poverty and environmental destruction, billions of people without access to modern and clean energy, and without access to safe water and sanitation, loss of species due to habitat destruction as well as climate change. Globally, we will incur far greater costs in the future — including more poverty and instability, and a degraded planet — if we fail to adequately address these critical challenges now. These are issues to be discussed and addressed at Rio+20.  

I am very pleased to see that the Viet Nam’s draft report for the Rio conference, which is being presented today, incorporates many successful stories and lessons learnt on sustainable development over the past 20 years, and in particular over the past seven years following Viet Nam’s adoption of Agenda 21. The report will be an important opportunity to showcase some of Viet Nam’s sustainable development successes, in fields such as energy, agriculture, urban planning, production and consumption.

Ladies and Gentlemen,

Sustainable development will only be achieved with the full participation of all stakeholders, under the leadership of the State. Last week I was in India and had the pleasure to listen to Dr. Rajenda K Pachauri, Chairman of the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC). He recommends that it is time to create a ground swell of public opinion for the next generation and called for a “climate spring” to move from the bottom. The Government should continue to provide an enabling environment, creating more space for youths, local communities, and vulnerable groups who have not fully benefited from the fast development process so far. It is therefore very encouraging to see so many major groups here today – including women; children and youth; indigenous peoples; NGOs; local authorities; workers and trade unions; farmers; business;  and the scientific community – actively involved in this consultation to prepare for Rio+20. We believe that is a pre-requisite for future broad based sustainable development.

The UN in Viet Nam, through its new One Plan for 2012-2016, will focus on helping Viet Nam successfully respond to these major sustainable development challenges. We stand ready to assist Viet Nam in improving its quality of growth and achieve a gradual transformation of its economic structure, to protect its environment and to restore its natural capital.

Rio+20 provides an opportunity to think globally, so that we can all act locally to secure our common future. I wish you fruitful discussions that will contribute to this very important global discussion.

Thank you