Statement

Speech of Ms. Naomi Kitahara, UNFPA Representative at the Workshop on Emerging Population Issues for Elected Officials in the South

21 September 2020

Excellency Mr. Nguyen Hoang Mai, Vice Chairperson of the PCSA;

Distinguished members of the PCSA;

Representatives from Ministries and provinces;

My UNFPA colleagues and media;

Ladies and gentlemen,

 

It is my great pleasure to open this workshop together with Excellency Mr. Nguyen Hoang Mai, Vice Chairperson of the PCSA. Let me at the outset sincerely thank PCSA for organizing this workshop to share and discuss with the elected officials of the National Assembly and People’s Councils on key issues related to population, demographic trends and its impacts on sustainable development.

 

I would also like to express my appreciation to all elected officials of the National Assembly and People’s Councils who are here today. Your contributions and roles in strengthening the development and implementation of national policies and programmes are essential during your five-year term through 2025, so as to protect the rights of all people in the country’s socio-economic development.

 

Distinguished guests,

Let me highlight a few critical issues of population dynamics, sexual and reproductive health and rights, gender quality, and youth development, which require close attention by the National Assembly in coming years.

Data from the 2019 Census on Population and Housing shows that Viet Nam is within the period of demographic transition, providing a “demographic window of opportunity” when the number of working-age population doubles the number of those of dependent ages. This presents a great opportunity of what we call a “demographic dividend,” which facilitates and accelerates socio-economic advancement. In order to tap into this unique opportunity of growth, appropriate policies must be put in place for human development, especially for young people in health, education, gender equality and employment. I would like to sincerely applaud the National Assembly for its commitment and efforts to approve the revised Youth Law. Viet Nam is spearheading its investment in youth development in the region and globally, and further support by the National Assembly in terms of budget allocation and programme oversight will drive the youth development agenda to achieve Sustainable Development Goals by 2030.

 

At the same time, we do need to look at the fact that Viet Nam’s population is aging, and it is ageing fast. Older persons account for 11.9% of the total population, and their poverty rate is 9% while the country’s average is 4.4%. Special needs of older persons, particularly in their health care, have to be catered for, and this is more critical in the Covid-19 context. Social protection mechanisms for the elderly is critical. However, we must not forget here that ageing society can also present a new business opportunity for the provision of care for older persons in the health sector and beyond. In the context of Viet Nam’s accelerating Industrial Revolution 4.0, we have ample opportunities for everybody, young and old to advance, making sure that “no one is left behind”.

Distinguished guests,

 

The Census results shows progress in maternal and child care services in Viet Nam, and the proportion of births attended by skilled health personnel is 95.4%. The maternal mortality ratio in 2019 is 46 per 100,000 live births, which is a decrease by one-third compared to 2009. There is a good chance that Viet Nam can achieve its maternal mortality target earlier than expected under the National Action Plan for Agenda 2030. However, as my colleague Dr. Dat will present to you today, Covid-19 is threatening the population’s maternal health status, and we are likely to have a significant increase in maternal deaths in 2020 as a negative consequence of Covid-19. We must pay close attention to this issue, and immediate interventions will have to be made to prevent Vietnamese mothers from dying for pregnancy-related causes.

Ladies and gentlemen,

We have a critical problem which has not been resolved in recent years and it is gender-biased sex selection. Every year, 40,800 girls are estimated to be missing as a result of son preference and gender-biased and prenatal sex selection. This is proven from the 2019 Census data on the sex ratio at birth, which is 111.5 boys per 100 girls as compared to the biologically and demographically normal range of 105. Viet Nam is one of the highest in the world, when it comes to unbalanced sex ratios at birth. Why should Vietnamese girls go missing every year just because they are girls? Why shouldn’t girls be born just because they are girls? Viet Nam has done an excellent job of putting in place the legal and policy frameworks to discourage and ban such a harmful practice, but more intensified and nation-wide efforts have to be called for, for the rigorous implementation of such legal and policy frameworks to stop gender-biased sex selection.

Ladies and gentlemen,

The UNFPA-supported second National Study on Violence Against Women in Viet Nam was conducted in 2019. As my colleague Ms Quynh Anh will present to you today, the study showed the pervasive complexity of violence against women and girls Viet Nam. After nine years following the initial and first study on violence against women, the prevalence of violence decreased only marginally in Viet Nam. Still nearly 2 out of 3 women in Viet Nam experience one or more forms of husband violence in their life time. And violence against women is very much hidden – women rarely talk about it or seek any help. Almost all women (90.4%) who experienced physical and/or sexual violence by husbands did not seek any help. And this is appalling.

 

The new National Programme on Prevention and Response to Gender-Based Violence is being developed as we speak, but we do have to ensure a rigorous implementation of the National Programme with sufficient budget allocations. According to the National Study, violence against women is costing Viet Nam an estimated 1.8% of GDP in 2018. And this is huge. The Mindset has to be changed to say it is not okay to hit women; it is not okay to have any forms of violence against wives; and it is not okay to abuse daughters and girls.

 

Distinguished guests,

 

We have only 10 years left to achieve Sustainable Development Goals. Without addressing the issues of population dynamics, sexual and reproductive health and rights, gender equality and youth development, there is no way that we can achieve SDGs targets by 2030. It is critical that we all work towards the creation of equitable society, and all Vietnamese couples and individuals must be able to decide freely and responsibly the number, spacing and timing of their children, as per Viet Nam’s commitment to the 1994 International Conference on Population and Development (ICPD).

 

UNFPA is working closely with Viet Nam to achieve:

  • Zero maternal death;
  • Zero unmet need for family planning; and
  • Zero gender-based violence and harmful practices against women and girls.

Now is the time to stand by our commitment to leave no one behind. As the National Assembly’s members and elected officials, you have special power to represent Vietnamese people and bring in their voices in the country’s policy and decision making. And therefore, you all have a vital role to play in accelerating progress for the furthest behind groups, which is not only the right thing to do, but is the smart thing to do.

 

Thank you and I look forward to a productive discussion today.