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“The future we want” in focus at the UN General Assembly

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Pratibha MehtaAs published in dtinews on Friday, 27/09/2013 12:00 (GMT+7)

I always look forward to this time of the year when world leaders come together on an equal footing at the UN General Assembly in New York.

For several days, in a series of high level meetings, they deliberate on how to make this world a better place free of want, free of fear and free of prejudice. For that reason September is a month that brings hope.

This 68th UN General Assembly session comes at a time of profound global changes. Even though the world that has made such great progress, it has also created huge inequalities, persistent conflicts, a restless young generation uncertain of their future and a looming crisis of natural resources.

As the Prime Minister of Vietnam makes a speech at the UN General Assembly, I hope that he will inspire others by sharing how Vietnam reduced the number of people living in poverty by a third in less than ten years. The country also made remarkable progress to reach UN Millennium Development Goals by 2015. Reductions in child and infant mortality, improvements in health and increased access to education, have brought hope to millions of Vietnamese citizens and their families. These are remarkable achievements of which Vietnam should be rightly proud, and for other nations it’s a story of hope and possibility.

But in order to reach all eight MDGs there are still three goals where Vietnam  lags behind: fighting HIV, ensuring environmental sustainability and in developing partnerships.

On the other goals, although the targets set at the national level have already, or are likely be reached by 2015, not everyone in Viet Nam is yet sharing in that success. Across provinces, districts and villages there are still too many disparities and differences. Viet Nam must ensure that the most vulnerable, including ethnic minorities, those with disabilities, unregistered migrants, women and children are not left behind.

With 2015 fast approaching the task ahead is still daunting, with no time to rest on our laurels. To sustain momentum beyond 2015, it is also time to set out a visionary new development agenda.

As the Secretary General, Ban Ki Moon said, as he opened this year’s General Assembly, “The MDGs have captured the imagination, generated remarkable gains and beaten back doubts about development itself.”

A new post 2015 development agenda must capture the imagination in the same way, sustain the momentum and go even further. For example the empowerment and rights of women must be at the heart of everything we do.

We mustn’t waver on our commitment to end poverty, but ensure that social justice and care for the environment are not sacrificed in the pursuit of economic growth.

Over the past twelve months to help build “The World We Want” the UN collected the views and voices of more than a million people worldwide. Vietnam played a strong role in this process, and now has very credible voice in shaping the post 2015 development agenda.

From the voices of over a thousand people consulted here in Vietnam, I was continually struck by how simple and universal their hopes and desires are. They called for a more just and equal society, for decent work, good education and training. They expressed a desire for good, affordable health care, and a social safety net for those in need. They want public services that meet their needs, an end to corruption, and for institutions that treat everyone with respect. Most of all they want to be listened to and aspire to be included in decision-making processes.

These sentiments were reflected by 19 year old Cham, who said, “The future I want for Vietnam is one where there are no barriers among people from different religions, cultures or gender and where young people will have the opportunity to be more involved in policy making and what we can make of our own future”.

We hope the world leaders at this year’s GA will continue to fight tirelessly for an end to poverty, for sustainable development and lasting peace. But we also all have a role to play in turning hope into action, through hard work, commitment, skill and integrity. Together let us build the future we want – and that our world needs.

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