Speech at World Environment Day 2013

Jun 5, 2013

Speaker: UN Resident Coordinator, Ms. Pratibha Mehta
Date:      5 June 2013, 07:00 – 08:30
Event:     World Environment Day 2013
Venue:    Nghinh Lương Đình – Hue City

Your Excellency, Nguyen Thien Nhan, Deputy Prime Minister;
Your Excellency, Mr. Nguyen Minh Quang, Minister of Natural Resources and Environment of Viet Nam;
Your Excellency, Mr. Huynh Dam, President of the Central Committee of the Viet Nam Father Land Front;
Your Excellency, Mr. Nguyen Ngoc Thien, Secretary of the Thua Thien Hue Provincial Party Committee;
Your Excellency, Mr. Nguyen Van Cao, Chairman of Thua Thien Hue People’s Committee;
Distinguished representatives of the Ministries and the Thua Thien Hue province;
Colleagues of donors, development partners and the media;
Ladies and Gentlemen,

I am delighted to be with you today in this historic Pavillion of Lương Đình. Built for the Emperor to relax whilst fishing, even today, as the Perfume River winds its way through the ancient capital of Hue, the great natural beauty helps us reflect on the significance of this year’s World Environment Day.

We live in a world of plenty. But even though global food production outstrips demand, some 870 million people still go hungry, with childhood stunting a silent epidemic. Here in Viet Nam, one in three children under 5 fail to reach their full height potential due to a lack of adequate nutrition. The damage this causes to a child’s development is permanent.

We must correct this inequity. Children growing up in the mountainous, hard to reach areas of Viet Nam are twice as likely to be stunted as those that grow up in the plains. We must ensure adequate access to nutrition for all, and take practical steps to increase the productivity of support for agricultural diversification, as well as improvements to food transportation and distribution.

One way to address the needs of the most vulnerable is to reduce the massive waste inherent in today’s food systems. As the Secretary pointed out in his statement today, globally a third of all food fails to make it from farm to table. This has a massive environmental cost in terms of lost productivity in land, energy and water.

In Viet Nam reducing waste is nothing more than ancient wisdom. Since time began, mothers and grandmothers have valued rice as if it were a precious gem, still teaching their children and grand children not to throw any away.

We can all help to reduce food loss and waste, at the same time protecting our environment. This week the UN and partners launch the ‘Think. Eat. Save: Reduce your footprint’ campaign to help raise global awareness develop locally appropriate solutions.

I would like to make 3 suggestions of what I believe will work here in Viet Nam:

Firstly we need to adopt more environmentally friendly life styles. This means taking efforts to reduce, re-use and recycle - all steps that help reduce our impact on the environment.

Secondly we can come together as a broad alliance of government, civil society and the private sector, to work for a more environmentally friendly and sustainable future for Viet Nam. We need to increase public awareness in the media, as well as in schools, homes and workplaces.

Thirdly we need to formulate, and enforce more environmentally friendly policies, laws and regulations. The revision of the Law on Environmental Protection presents a good opportunity to have a comprehensive legal framework, with clear roles and responsibilities of stakeholders, for proper enforcement and transparency.

Ladies and Gentlemen,

If we ‘think, eat and save’ we can help ensure there is food available for all, as well as protecting our environment. After all, visitors here look forward to sampling Com Hen. Hue people, after deciding that no food should be wasted, developed this special dish of mussles to use cold leftover rice.

The UN stands ready to help reduce waste, save resources and minimize environmental impacts.   Working together, we can ensure a more sustainable and equitable future for everyone in Viet Nam.

I wish you all a very happy World Environment Day!
Thank you very much!