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Speech by Ms. Pratibha Mehta, UN Resident Coordinator and UNDP Resident Representative at International Day of Eradication of Poverty 2015

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Viet Nam’s Development Journey: From MDGs to SDGs - Leave No One Behind
Date: 15 October 2015 (from 9am to 11am)
Event: IDEP/Day for the Poor  
Venue: Hilton Hotel, 1 Le Thanh Tong, Ha Noi, Viet Nam

Excellency, Mme. Pham Thi Hai Chuyen, Minister of MOLISA
Mr. Son Phuoc Hoan, Vice Chairman of CEMA  
Excellency Ms. Cait Moran, Ambassador of Ireland
Representatives of the Ministries, Development Partner agencies and the Media

I would like to thank MOLISA for organizing this event on the occasion of the International Day for the Eradication of Poverty and Viet Nam’s Day for the Poor. This offers a good chance for us to express our recognition of Viet Nam’s remarkable achievements in poverty reduction, and to share our views on the challenges ahead.

This year theme of the IDEP “Building a sustainable future: Coming together to end poverty and discrimination” resonates very well with the adoption of the Sustainable Development Goals. Under the SDGs key themes of equality, sustainability and “leaving no one behind”, the member states made the bold commitment (in the SDG 1) to “end poverty in all its forms everywhere” in the next 15 years.

It has been an incredible journey - both globally and in here in Viet Nam - since the early 2000s when the MDGs were first agreed. So much has been achieved here over the past 15 years. I want to take this opportunity to once again whole heartedly congratulate the Government and the Vietnamese people, for the transformational progress they have made in so short a time.  

Over the past 15 years, poverty rate felt from more than 50% to less than 10% today; primary school enrollment has reached almost 100% for both boys and girls; the maternal mortality ratio has been reduced by three quarters since 1990, and as a result, literally thousands of mothers are alive today and caring for their children – the remarkable performance matched by very few other nations.  

While we are celebrating today the achievements, we should not forget about the challenges ahead of us in realizing the more ambitious SDGs in Viet Nam.

We must recognize the unfinished MDGs agenda in Vietnam stay with the lag-behind areas and population groups notably for ethnic minorities and mountainous areas. Income poverty levels for the ethnic minorities are more than three and half times the national average. The lag of progress toward achieving other MDGs among EM groups indicate that there remain many things to do to eliminate poverty in its other forms, other dimension than income. Addressing this challenge shodul be the first priority in SDG implementation, especially the SGD 1: end poverty in its all forms and everywhere.

Like other countries reaching middle income status, Viet nam is also facing a series of major structural changes including urbanization, industrialization, internal migration and social change. New forms of multidimensional poverty have emerged in urban areas, among migrants and informal sector workers. Ho Chi Minh City in their recent survey in 2012 indicates that MDP poverty rate among migrants is four times higher than that of HCMC residents.
As also observed in many MICs, there are also changes in vulnerability In Viet Nam. Substantial part of the population still lives very close to the poverty line and any shock, be it a natural disaster, an economic or health related event could push them back into poverty. This poses a serious challenge for reform of the current social protection system, which focuses on the contributory pension targeting the formal workers and the assistance to the poorest and thus does not sufficiently provide necessary protection to the ‘middle’. This “missing middle” consists of those who are in the middle of the income distribution, but have insecure and inadequate incomes to be resilient to shocks. For example, the current disability benefit scheme reaches only around 600,000 persons with severe disability and 191,000 persons diagnosed with “having a serious mental illness”. Clearly, coverage is very limited, given the estimated more than 1 million people aged between 20 and 65 years with a severe disability, not to mention the estimation of 7.2million Vietnamese who are disable in total. In addition, the level of regular social assistance benefits is too low to make a difference in beneficiaries’ life. The vulnerable middle families need sufficient social protection to not only become more resilient to shocks but also to be able to invest in their children and in seizing the new and better job opportunities that will be created as the country will be more deeply integrated into the global and regional economies.

It is encouraging that the Government of Vietnam has recognized these challenges. It has been making EM poverty reduction and unfinished MDGs among EM, as well as the multidimensional poverty phenomenon the top priority. The evidences for these include the resolution 80, the focus of the National Targeted Programme on Sustainable Poverty Reduction on the poorest EM areas and notably the recent approval of the MDG Action Plan for ethnic minority and the Master Plan on Multidimensional Poverty that colleagues from CEMA and MOLISA will present shortly.

We are of the view that the next steps will need to focus on the implementation. Namely, SDGs will need to be localized. It is important that the localized SGDs and the concrete targets of the approved MAP-EM and MDP Master Plan will be integrated into the SEDP and sectoral and local Socio-Economic Development Plans. Equally, a clear framework for monitoring and holding accountability for achieving the targets needs to be developed and implemented.  

The implementation of the Multidimensional Master Plan should ensure its rationale, as set out in the NA resolution, of “for the GOVN to provide more comprehensive support to more poor people”. At the same time, attention should be paid to ensure the harmonization in the design of NTPSPR and NTP New Rural Development and that the two programs should promote community empowerment and self-help spirit to build the social infrastructure for community development and sustainable poverty reduction.

Last but not least, ongoing process to concretize the Social Assistance reform needs to be pursued as an integral part of the efforts for sustainable poverty reduction and inclusive growth in Viet Nam.

I would like to take the opportunity to thank MOLISA and CEMA leaders for their leadership and close cooperation; I would like to thank to CEMA and MOLISA colleagues for their hard work and commitments.

I would also want to convey thanks to Ireland for the close partnership and valuable support to us and send my warmest welcome to the Ambassador of Ireland to Viet Nam. Thanks to UN colleagues and the EM Poverty working group members. We can be proud of our joint contributions to the formulation of the MAP-EM and MDP Master Plan which in turn will facilitate the vibrant policy changes for poverty reduction and ethnic minority development.

To close, I would like to reaffirm that the UN and DPs in the EMPWG stand, as strong partners with the GOV, ready to support your efforts in localizing SDGs and furthering the achievements on poverty reduction. I am confident that Government of Vietnam with its commitments and rich experiences in poverty reduction and MDGs implementation, SDGs will be successfully implemented, poverty will be “ended in all its forms and everywhere in Viet Nam” and “no one will be “left behind”.

Xin cam on va Chuc suc khoe.