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Speech UN Resident Coordinator, Pratibha Mehta on the occasion of International Day for the Eradication of Poverty

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Date:     16 October 2013
Event:    Poverty Reduction Approaches and Way Forward: Commemorating the Viet Nam Day for the Poor and the International Day for the Eradication of Poverty
Venue:   Hanoi Melia Hotel


Excellency, Mme. Pham Thi Hai Chuyen, Minister of MOLISA
Mr. Son Phuoc Hoan, Vice Chairman of CEMA (to be confirmed)
Excellency Mr. Damien Cole, Ambassador of Ireland
Representatives of the Ministries, Development Partner agencies and the Media

I am very pleased to join this important commemoration of the Viet Nam Day for the Poor and the International Day for the Eradication of Poverty, and thank MOLISA for convening this meeting.

The International Day for Eradication of Poverty (IDEP) has been observed by the United Nations and its member states for nearly twenty years to promote and demonstrate mutual understanding, solidarity and shared responsibility to support people living in poverty. This day, also recognized in Viet Nam as the National Day for the Poor, allows us to share experiences and give recognition to actions, both individual and collective, in the fight against poverty.

The theme of the 2013 International Day is “Working together towards a world with¬out dis¬crim¬i¬na¬tion: Building on the expe¬ri¬ence and knowl¬edge of peo¬ple in extreme poverty”. This year’s observance comes as the international community is pursuing the twin objectives of intensifying efforts to reach the Millennium Development Goals, and formulating the next set of goals to guide our efforts after the MDG target date of 2015.
Today, we gather to remind ourselves of the daily struggle of those who live in extreme poverty, those who are deprived of the opportunities for advancement, and those on the sidelines of the political, economic and social life of their societies.

Viet Nam has done remarkably well in lifting tens of millions of people out of poverty and improving their living standards in the last two decades. It is now a lower Middle Income Country whose aggregate poverty reduction performance is extremely impressive. However, pockets of poverty and sub-national disparities still persist. Furthermore, economic hardship has contributed to the emergence of the new poor and the near-poor, who are just one external shock away from sliding deeper into the trap of poverty.

The recently released 2013 MDG performance data for Viet Nam shows country’s steadfast progress towards achieving the targets, but also indicates that more remains to be done to achieve some of the goals that are lagging behind, and to sustain progress in others. This is especially evident in relation to some geographic areas and population groups.
Firstly: poverty, including extreme poverty, remains prevalent among ethnic minority groups and in ethnic minority-populated areas. Accounting for 15% of the total population, ethnic minority people comprise up to 47% of the total poor in Viet Nam. The income poverty rate is high among some of these groups, but so is the performance across other dimensions such as education, health, water, sanitation and housing. In all of these, ethnic minority groups consistently lag far behind the national averages. There is a risk that MDGs would not be achieved among ethnic minority people without accelerated efforts that would empower them and embrace their knowledge, culture and traditions.
Secondly: The disparities between rich and poor households and communities are widening. The new forms of urban poverty have emerged among migrants and informal sector workers as the results of slowing economic growth and structural reforms. Recent studies show that about a million workers shifted from formal to informal sectors in 2012 alone, away from industries and services to unskilled occupations elsewhere in the country. These groups do not have sufficient access to social protection and social services as these are often provided based on resident registrations.

Thirdly: we face an increasing realization that poverty can only truly be eradicated when we examine the underlying limiting factors, attitudes and constraints. Public perceptions of the vulnerable groups like ethnic minorities, the disabled, LGBT, people living with HIV, etc. can be prejudicial and contribute to inequity of opportunity. Prejudices, stigmas or other kinds of discrimination create bottlenecks for self-advancement and realization, and weigh the poor and the disadvantaged even further down. Some of these deprivations also exacerbate one another – for example, HIV intensifies poverty and is on the rise in provinces with high poverty rate such as North Western provinces.

The United Nations in Viet Nam has been a long-time partner of the Government and is working collectively to support the recent active efforts of the Government to tackle these challenges.

Specifically, Viet Nam is one of the twenty countries in the world to pioneer the research and application of multi-dimensional poverty measures to better understand the root causes of poverty and to design better targeted policies and programs. The UN is happy to support this effort.
Resolution 80 sets the new direction for pooling resources to accelerate poverty reduction in the most disadvantaged districts, communes and villages. To close the development gaps and ensure that MDGs are achieved for these groups by 2015, the formulation of a coherent plan for accelerating MDG progress in the areas that are lagging behind would indeed be the logical next step. In this regard, we support a participatory and evidence-based approach to removing policy barriers, enhancing coherence and efficiency of existing poverty reduction policies, and adopting MDG acceleration measures that are rights-based and sensitive to the ethnic minority people’s knowledge, traditions and cultures.

The recent open debates on the revision of the Land Law have provided a good platform for deepening the reform agenda with the interests of poor farmers in mind. Land remains a vital productive asset that has been key to poverty reduction efforts in the past. We therefore support further in-depth research on land issues and examining the choices of poor farmers, as well as options for economic diversification, particularly in ethnic minority areas, building on the communities’ knowledge in traditional land use and management.

Finally, international experiences have shown time and time again that many answers to poverty challenges can be found within the affected communities. Giving them voice, empowering them to find solutions, and involving them in participatory planning and monitoring are cornerstones for sustainable poverty reduction policies and programmes. As the recent post-2015 consultations in Viet Nam showed, the poor, ethnic minorities, the migrants, the disabled and people living with HIV, have an intrinsic aspiration to be equal and productive members of the society and to contribute to the country’s development. We therefore support the national efforts to enhance the role of citizens, civil society and community-based organizations to overcome the social and economic barriers faced by the poor and the disadvantaged.

 On this year’s International Day for Eradication of Poverty,  I would like to conclude by quoting the UN Secretary-General:

“If we are to realize the future we want for all, we must hear and heed the calls of the marginalized.  For the last year, the UN has been doing just that by spearheading an unprecedented global conversation on the world people want.  That dialogue must continue - and lead to the active and meaningful inclusion of people living in poverty - as we chart a course to ending poverty everywhere.  […]  Together, we can build a sustainable world of prosperity and peace, justice and equity – a life of dignity for all”.

I once again thank MOLISA for organizing this important event, and wish all participants good health and happiness.