Speech of Ms. Astrid Bant, UNFPA Representative in Viet Nam, on the 40th Anniversary of Collaboration between UNFPA and Viet Nam

11 July 2017

Your Excellency Ms. Dang Thi Ngoc Thinh, Vice President of Viet Nam;
Your Excellency Mr. Nguyen Viet Tien, Vice Minister of Health;
Your Excellency Mr. Ha Kim Ngoc, Vice Minister of Foreign Affairs;
Mr. Nguyen Van Tan, Deputy General Director in-charge of GOPFP;
Your Excellency Ms. Jehanne Roccas, Ambassador of Belgium;
Your Excellency Ms. Maria Jesus Figa Lopez-Palop, Ambassador of Spain;
Your Excellency Ms. S. Hasanthi Urugodawatte Dissanayake, Ambassador of Sri Lanka;
Your Excellency Ms. Beatrice Maser Mallor, Ambassador of Switzerland;
Your Excellency Mr. Doron Lebovich, Deputy Chief of Mission, Embassy of Israel;
Mr. Kamal Malhotra, UN Resident Coordinator in Viet Nam;

Representatives of the line-ministries, government organizations, embassies, donor agencies, international and local NGOs, private sector, CSO, media and my fellow UN colleagues;

Ladies and gentlemen,

It is my honour and pleasure to welcome you to the celebration of the 40th Anniversary of the collaboration between UNFPA and the Government of Viet Nam. It is impossible to thank all institutions and persons who have contributed to UNFPA’s mandate in Viet ¬¬¬Nam over the past forty years, but I would like to mention our longstanding partners, the Parliamentary Committee for Social Affairs, the Ministry of Health, the General Office for Population and Family Planning, the Ministry of Planning and Investment, the General Office for Statistics, the Ministry of Labour, Invalids and Social Affairs, the Ministry of Culture, Sports and Tourism, the Ministry of Home Affairs, the Central Committee on Popularization and Education, the Vietnam Fatherland Front, Provincial Peoples’ Committees, and other social organizations, especially in the area of Women’s Rights, our sister organizations at the UN, and the bilateral partners that have supported and continue to support our work.

Naturally, over the past 40 years, UNFPA's collaborations have changed and matured over time, according to the stages of development Viet Nam has undergone, and, simultaneous with the evolution of United Nations agreements and mechanisms relevant for UNFPA’s dual mandate in population and development, and sexual and reproductive health and rights, and gender equality. Allow me to very briefly mention some important milestones and results.

In 1977, the Government of Viet Nam and UNFPA established the first Joint Cooperative Programme. Since then, our collaboration has gone through nine 5-year country cooperation programmes, with nearly one hundred projects implemented at all levels, from the central to commune levels (in 12 provinces). UNFPA has provided more than 190 million USD of financial support to Viet Nam, together with a large amount of technical support to the Government and key national stakeholders, to improve people’s access to quality sexual and reproductive health services, collect high-quality population data, address gender equality, and build national capacity in development, implementation and monitoring of evidence-based policies related to sexual and reproductive health, population and development, and gender equality.

With zero tolerance for women dying in childbirth and every pregnancy is wanted, UNFPA is particularly proud to have been associated with Viet Nam’s spectacular achievements in addressing the unmet needs of both women and men for contraceptives, and improving maternal health, resulting in the tremendously gratifying accomplishment of Millenium Development Goal 5.

In recognition of these achievements, Viet Nam was awarded the 1999 United Nations Population Award, an endorsement of the success of the cooperative relationship between Viet Nam and UNFPA.

In a related field of action, and in line with Viet Nam’s longstanding commitment to gender equality, UNFPA has been supportive in advancing the agenda of gender equality and women’s empowerment. UNFPA has successfully supported the Government in addressing the root causes of gender inequality, combating gender-based violence and the imbalance of the sex ratio at birth. In addition, UNFPA has helped to strengthen the capacity of key implementation partners in this field by establishing a national coordination mechanism for domestic violence prevention, and to raise the awareness of the general public as well as to promote civil society participation.

UNFPA’s mandate also includes Population and Development. Population data and evidence is critical for development. Without accurate data, policymakers would not know the most urgent areas in which to invest in schools, hospitals and roads, and those most in need might remain invisible. From the 1980s, UNFPA assisted the General Statistical Office of Viet Nam to conduct all population censuses and other large-scale population-based surveys (e.g. two national surveys on internal migration in 2004 and 2015, and the Inter-censual Population and Housing Survey 2014), which provided quality data that were crucial for developing policies and programmes to foster the country’s economic growth, social justice and a measure of access to human rights. From in-depth studies of these surveys, better knowledge about special groups in the population have emerged. Through the analysis of population data, the needs and potential of women, youth and adolescents, migrants, older persons as well as an understanding of SRB, demographic dividend and population ageing, have become available to act upon with targeted human rights-based policies.

Through the close collaboration between UNFPA and the Government, national capacity in policy development, implementation and monitoring have been enhanced, and reflected in the development of national strategies on health, population and family planning, the law on domestic violence, the National Strategy and Programme of Action on Gender Equality, and the Statistical Strategy.

Over the last decade, there have been dramatic changes in Viet Nam’s population dynamics, particularly the change in population structure. Right now, Viet Nam is experiencing a demographic bonus that offers an unprecedented socio-economic development opportunity. But, at the same time, the population is ageing rapidly, posing serious challenges to the country’s social protection system, and the economy in general. People live longer, which is an achievement in itself, but in combination with a low fertility rate, well under replacement levels in some regions, doesn’t bode well for development in the longer term. In response, at present, UNFPA is working with the Government, the National Assembly, and the Party, as well as other stakeholders, to develop a draft of a Population Law that is rights-based, recognizing all reproductive rights, and that applies a life cycle approach towards these emerging demographic and development challenges.

As we move towards a future in which the One UN structure enables UN funds and agencies to expand their scope and work closer together for the achievement of Agenda 2030, and Viet Nam shapes its path as a middle income country, the longstanding collaboration between UNFPA and Viet Nam will remain dynamic and responsive to the technical needs of the Government, private sector, social organizations and other development partners.   

As we celebrate the 40th anniversary of our collaboration and partnership, I am confident that the alliance between UNFPA and Viet Nam will continue to thrive. I’m delighted to be here to reaffirm our continuing commitment to “delivering a world where every pregnancy is wanted, every childbirth is safe and every young person's potential is fulfilled”.  

Today, I am very happy to see so many people who have collaborated with UNFPA  over the past 40 years. Among all of us here, some of you may have already retired, but many of you are still very young. One the youngest persons who joined us today is Miss Tuong Anh, a ten year old girl who was interviewed in 2016 for UNFPA's Global Publication focusing on investing in adolescents girls. Today’s 10-year-old girl will be 24 when the United Nations’ new development agenda, the Agenda 2030 and the Sustainable Development Goals, come to fruition in 2030. That development agenda aims for the world where every single person has opportunities to fulfill her or his potential – in a world that leaves no one behind.
On behalf of UNFPA, all the present Staff and those who came before us, I would like to thank you sincerely for your dedication and hard work in making the first 40 Years of Collaboration an extraordinary success. Thank you, and wishing you all health, happiness and continued success!

Xin cam on!