Speech of Ms. Astrid Bant, UNFPA Representative in Viet Nam

9 July 2016

Ms. Truong Thi Mai, Politburo member/ Member of Party Central Committee Secretariat and Head of the Party Central Committee Commission for Mass Mobilization;
Ms. Nguyen Thi Kim Tien, Minister of Health;
Mr. Nguyen Viet Tien, Vice Minister of Health;
Mr. Nguyen Van Tan, Deputy General Director in-charge of GOPFP;
Mr. Nguyen Anh Tuan, Secretary of the Youth Union;
Representatives of the Ministry of Health, GOPFP, line ministries, government organizations, embassies, donor agencies, international and local NGOs, private sector, CSO, media and my fellow UN colleagues;

Ladies and gentlemen,

A good morning to you all and especially a good morning to all the youth representatives who are with us here today.

I am greatly honored to be addressing you, on behalf of the UNFPA in Viet Nam to commemorate the 2016 World Population Day. Let me from the outset thank the Ministry of Health, the General Office for Population and Family Planning (GOPFP),  the Ha Noi Peoples' Committee and the Central Youth Union, for hosting and  co-organizing this Celebration today.

World Population Day is celebrated across the world on 11 July to focus our global attention to some of the most pressing population concerns of our time. And today we celebrate the World Population Day 2016 with the theme on "Investing in Teenage Girls".

Distinguished guests,

Today, the world has the largest generation of young people ever. That means that 1.8 billion out of 7.3 billion people are between 10-24 years old. It also means 1.8 billion times unlimited potential  to create solutions to the world’s burning issues of today.

Most of us know, that Viet Nam is experiencing a "golden population" period, recording the highest proportion, 40%, of population between 10 to 24 years old, ever recorded in Viet Nam’s history. This so-called 'demographic window of opportunity' presents Viet Nam with a one-time and unique opportunity to plan for this population transformation and  make its new generation of young people  the driver for social and - economic progress, in line with the 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development and its Sustainable Development Goals to which Viet Nam, as a member state of the United Nations, has given its full support.

Ladies and gentlemen,

By prominently featuring girls’ rights in the 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development last year, the international community has responded enthusiastically to convincing evidence that investing in girls yields huge returns.
Ensuring that girls, on equal footing with boys,  are able to exercise their rights, such as, make their ideas and demands be heard and acted on, pursue their education, do no more than a fair share of work in the household, and have the skills and opportunity to join public service and the workforce is not only essential for their own well-being, but lays  a critical foundation for the health and prosperity of families, communities and nations.
When girls are supported to define their lives and enjoy their rights, they not only enjoy better health and healthier children; they are also better able to contribute to national development as an intellectual force, economic actors and entrepreneurs, helping their countries reap a demographic dividend and driving economic growth.

Globally, some of the most disturbing expressions  teenage girls still face in the world, like large cohorts of uneducated women or nearly complete exclusion from decision-making processes at national level, or, what are called “harmful practices”, like genital mutilation. Modern Viet Nam has recognized the rights of women since its beginnings and has invested in education and health for all. We see this commitment and investments reflected in many positive indicators.

With this background in mind, going forward, strengthening, targeting and localizing of these investments in teenage women should be a priority for public spending as way to reap the harvest of previous investments in building Viet Nam for all.
The well-known UNFPA adage “Leave no one behind” applies here:  We need to increase our efforts to end child marriage in some population  groups, and other harmful practices, like sex selection, prevalent  in other populations, but seriously affecting girls - and boys as well.
UNFPA, as part of the UN system, at a global level and in Vietnam, advocates for commitment and investment for  girls adequate access to comprehensive sexuality education, the provision of  comprehensive health services, including contraceptive services and protective cervical cancer vaccination for teenage girls, and most critically, to keep them in school — whether they live in rural or urban areas, whether they are pregnant or not, whether they are married or single.

Ladies and gentlemen,

I am very happy to see so many Vietnamese youth representatives among us here today. Young people have the right to have their voices being heard. It is important that they participate in the development of their country and in the implementation of policies and programmes that affect their lives. In order to make youth participation an integral part of the coordination mechanism of youth affairs in Viet Nam, we have to do more than just let young people get their foot in the door. We need to let the youth representatives in the room with us, and give them a seat at the table, when decisions are being made.

Full participation of young people requires solidarity and respect between generations, understanding social and economic issues as perceived from different moments in the life-cycle, and building capacities and developing  skills, and creating sustainable partnerships of which everyone   will benefit. Including the particular understanding of social and economic issues of young people and the proposals for solutions they make on the basis of their angle of perception as citizens in their teens or not only leads to more targeted  decisions and outcomes, but also promotes the well-being of young women and men and their commitment to being active developers of the future of Viet Nam.

I encourage you, young women and men here today, as representatives of the future of Viet Nam, to use your voice and articulate your needs and the realities of your lives in creative and productive ways. And for us elders, I encourage you to listen carefully what young people have to say. Intergenerational exchange and solidarity is the key to break stereotypes and ensure that young and older people are equal partners in positive change for the creation of fairer, more inclusive and sustainable societies.

Distinguished guests,

In conclusion, the success of the 2030 Agenda, which calls on us to leave no one behind, will be measured by how well we are collectively able to build:
•    A world in which girls have no limits on their aspirations for the future, no matter where they are born.
•    A world where adolescent girls have access to sexual and reproductive health information and services and possess the knowledge and confidence they need to make the right choices for a healthy life.
•    A world where every girl can enter freely into a productive adulthood because she is educated, and not exposed to violence, but treated with dignity and respect in equal measure with boys and where, regardless of their sex as well as other characteristics that may define a person’s identity, young people’s human rights are promoted and respected.

UNFPA, works with the Government, other development partners, private sector and other organizations to find innovative ways to assist Viet Nam in securing the health, development and human rights of young people, especially teenage girls. We are committed to delivering a world where every young person’s potential is fulfilled – where their human rights are respected and their diversity is celebrated.

Thank you very much for your attention and active participation in this important event. I wish you all a healthy, happy and successful World Population Day!

Xin cam on!