The Countdown Begins! Only 500 days left to reach the MDGs

18 Aug 2014

imagePhoto: @ Shutterstock/ UNDP Viet Nam

UN Statement by Ms. Pratibha Mehta, United Nations Resident Coordinator in Viet Nam

Today marks the 500-day mark to the conclusion of the Millennium Development Goals.

As the Secretary General, Ban Ki Moon has said “There are many fires raging around the world today -- political turmoil, bloodshed, public health emergencies and appalling human rights abuses.  But there also burns a flame of hope – encouraging progress in the global drive to improve the lives of the world’s poorest through the Millennium Development Goals.”

In the year 2000, Viet Nam, like countries worldwide, adopted eight MDGs as an ambitious 15-year roadmap to fight poverty, hunger and disease, protect the environment and expand education, basic health and women’s empowerment.   

This week marks a milestone on the journey:  we are now 500 days from the conclusion of the MDGs.

By any standards Viet Nam’s progress at national level has been impressive. Over the past two decades, some 30 million people have been lifted out of poverty. As many girls are now in school as boys. More mothers are surviving childbirth and children are leading healthier lives. Women account for nearly half of the national labour force, and progress is being made on the environment and trade.

But in spite of remarkable progress there is still much work to be done.

For example there are still many challenges confronting the country’s progress on
MDG 6 in controlling HIV/AIDS, especially in remote and economically disadvantaged
areas. According to the latest National MDG Report, the rate of sexually transmitted HIV has been rising and reached 45.3 percent in the first six months of 2013. Access to interventions for HIV patients remains limited with the number of HIV treatment centres qualified under the Ministry of Health’s standards below 50 percent.

 Viet Nam also needs to accelerate Progress to meet MDG 7 targets on environmental sustainability, including improving access to safe water and sanitation in rural areas.  Economic development and climate change are giving rise to environmental challenges such as the increase in the number of environmental violations, exploitation of forest areas and the depletion of natural resources. On the other hand, environmental legal system has not fully met the requirements of the fast changing socio-economic situation in the country.

To take full advantage of global partnerships for development (MDG8), Viet Nam also needs to manage public debt more strictly and manage foreign investment more effectively with more rigorous institutional reforms.  

Actions are also required to ensure equitable progress across provinces and communities. While overall there is dramatic progress on MDG achievement at national level, chronic poverty and inequalities in opportunities persists particularly among ethnic minorities and new forms of poverty and vulnerabilities are emerging such as elderly people, malnourished children, female headed households and non-registered migrants.  

The risk of falling back into poverty is high, The multi-dimensional nature of poverty is becoming an increasingly complex challenge for policy-makers to address across society.

As I’ve travelled around Viet Nam I have had the chance to meet some of those left behind, including young migrants in urban areas, older women in rural areas, widows and female-headed households. I’ve been struck by their resourcefulness and courage, but too many still struggle against extreme poverty and inequality.

Now is the time to accelerate MDG Momentum.  
In Viet Nam, as elsewhere, action in four areas will help fuel progress:  

First: continue to make strategic investments in health, education, water and sanitation, with a special focus on empowering women and girls, which boosts results across the board.

Second: focus on the poorest and most vulnerable communities and social groups that have the toughest road to progress despite their best efforts.

Third: keep our financial promises.  These are difficult budgetary times.  But budgets should never be balanced on the backs of society’s weakest individuals.  

Fourth: deepen cooperation with governments, civil society, the private sector and other networks around the world that have helped make the MDGs the most successful global anti-poverty push in history.  

As the UN Secretary General Mr. Ban Ki Moon says:

“The challenges are daunting.  Yet we have many more tools at our disposal than at the turn of the millennium -- from the expanding reach of technology to the growing understanding of what works and what does not.  Action now will save lives, build a solid foundation for sustainable development far beyond 2015 and help lay the groundwork for lasting peace and human dignity.”

We have 500 days to accelerate MDG action.  Let’s make every day count!