Speech on the International Day for Eradication of Poverty and the National Day for the Poor

Oct 17, 2012

Speaker: Ms. Pratibha Mehta, United Nations Resident Coordinator
Date:       Wednesday 17 October 2012
Time:       9:30 – 10:00 am
Venue:     Melia Hotel
Event:      MOLISA Press Conference

H.E. Mr Nguyen Trong Dam, Vice Minister of Labour, Invalids and Social Affairs;
H.E. Mr Son Phuoc Hoan, Vice Minister of the Committee for Ethnic Minority Affairs;
Media representatives;

Overcoming extreme poverty is the focus of this year’s International Day for Eradication of Poverty. The International Day, commemorated on the 17th of October each year, has been recognized by the United Nations for nearly twenty years.

This day is an opportunity to bring together all those who are dedicated to overcoming poverty all year round and those who live with it on a daily basis. 
This day, also recognized in Viet Nam as the National Day for the Poor, allows us to share experiences and give recognition to actions, both individual and collective, in the fight against poverty.

Viet Nam is one of a handful of countries to have made significant progress towards achieving the Millennium Development Goals (MDGs). This progress was recognized by the international community at the 2010 Global Summit on the MDGs, where Viet Nam ranked sixth in terms of both absolute and relative progress.

In particular, Viet Nam has made significant achievements in the area of poverty reduction. From a poverty rate of 58.1 percent in 1993, Viet Nam very successfully reduced poverty to an estimated rate of 14.5 percent in 2008. Progress in reducing malnutrition has also been significant, falling from 41 percent to 11.7 percent in 2011.

One of the keys to Viet Nam’s success was land reform introduced with the Doi Moi reforms. This provided greater freedom for farmers to make choices about how they use this vital asset, and Viet Nam’s experience in this area is well recognized by other developing countries.  
However, the pace of poverty reduction is not equal among regions and population groups. In some places the poverty rate is still high and chronic poverty persists, particularly among ethnic minorities and in the poorest communities in mountainous and coastal areas. The progress toward achieving many of the other MDG targets among ethnic minority groups also lags behind the national averages, and the disparities between rich and poor households and communities are widening.

A substantial part of the population still lives very close to the poverty line. Any shock, be it a natural disaster, or an economic or health related event, could push them back into poverty. Children, women and non-registered migrants and the near-poor in disadvantaged areas are at a much higher risk of sliding back or deeper into poverty.  
As Viet Nam reaches lower Middle Income country status, the task of eradicating poverty is getting more complex. Today’s development situation, which is characterized by rapid industrialization and urbanization, global and domestic economic instabilities and multiple negative effects of climate change, requires different policies.

Tackling challenges in poverty reduction in the coming years will require tailored and multi-sectoral approaches, where poverty is viewed as a multi-dimensional phenomenon, not just in monetary terms.

The Government’s Resolution 80 and the National Target Programme for Sustainable Poverty Reduction, which aim to reduce poverty by four percent in the poorest mountainous and ethnic minority communes and districts, are steps in the right direction in addressing chronic poverty.

More sustainable and inclusive growth, which will create more jobs for under-employed youth and farmers, provide social protection for vulnerable groups and better quality social services, is key to sustained progress in poverty reduction in Viet Nam, as well as in many other developing countries.    
On this International Day for the Eradication of Poverty, as we look ahead towards the MDG deadline of 2015, we must act in a concerted manner to address the triple challenge: that is remaining pockets of chronic poverty, regional disparities and inequalities, and the new emerging forms of poverty, such as urban poverty. In so doing, we must keep in mind the daily challenges of the near-poor, who are at daily risk of falling back into poverty, and create opportunities for unemployed and under-employed youth who will define the future of this country.

Although there are still three years to go, discussions have already started on what the global development agenda beyond 2015 should look like and the peoples of the world are looking to the UN for action. 

To help define the new development agenda, the UN has launched open and inclusive consultations to hear the voices of people of different income, gender and age groups. Viet Nam has been selected as one of 50 countries around the world for such broad-based national consultations. This will provide an excellent opportunity for Viet Nam to reflect on its progress on the MDGs and, looking forward, what should be done domestically and globally to ensure all people can enjoy a life of prosperity, equity, freedom and dignity. 

We look forward to Viet Nam’s active cooperation to make sure these national consultations capture the voices of many different groups of people from across Viet Nam. Joining together with people from all over the world, we can define the concrete actions needed to address the new development challenges ahead and achieve the “Future We Want”.

As the UN Secretary-General said in his message on the International Day for Eradication of Poverty and I quote:
“We mark this year’s International Day for the Eradication of Poverty at a time of economic austerity in many countries.  As governments struggle to balance budgets, funding for anti-poverty measures is under threat.  But this is precisely the time to provide the poor with access to social services, income security, decent work and social protection.  Only then can we build stronger and more prosperous societies – not by balancing budgets at the expense of the poor.”

“On this International Day, let us make an investment in our common future by helping to lift people out of poverty so that they, in turn, can help to transform our world.”

Xin cam on!