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Opening remarks by Mr Kamal Malhotra United Nations Resident Coordinator at the UN Joint Event with the Business Sector on Forests and SDGs – “Why Business Should Love the Forest?”

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Date: 29 March 2017

Event: UN Joint Event with the Business Sector on Forests and SDGs – “Why Business Should Love the Forest?”

Venue: Hanoi Club, Yen Phu St., Hanoi, Viet Nam

HE Ms. Siren Gjerme Eriksen, Ambassador of Norway,


Dr. Nguyen Van Ha, Deputy Director General of the Forestry Administration, Ministry of Agriculture and Rural Development

Ladies and gentlemen,

I am very pleased to be here today for this dialogue of the business sector on forests and forestry issues, which I believe to be the first of its kind in Viet Nam.

The United Nations is proud to be a close partner of the Government of Viet Nam on sustainable development and its multiple dimensions, notably the green economy, the adaptation and mitigation of climate change, and the promotion of the sustainable management of forests and the REDD+ mechanism. I'm particularly pleased today to see this collaboration reach out to the business sector whose role is increasingly critical in Viet Nam.

As you all know, Viet Nam has made remarkable socio-economic progress over the past decades, moving from a poor to an emerging middle income country while achieving most Millennium Development Goals. Today, Viet Nam needs to prioritize sustainable economic growth and the business sector will need to play an increasing role in contributing to this. However, especially in our climate vulnerable world, the economy cannot be considered in a vacuum, as a single pillar conditioning the prosperity of the country. The economy must also be more inclusive to ensure equitable sharing of the gains across society. The economy must be greener to ensure that growing environmental risks but also untapped environmental opportunities are properly factored into business models. In the past decades, the environment in Viet Nam has significantly degraded and can threaten successful implementation of SDGs as well as the sustainability of Viet Nam's economic growth itself. Reconciling the environment, growth and development agendas in Viet Nam will, therefore, be key to both its future success and its achievement of Agenda 2030 (the SDGs).

At the global level, the United Nations has actively engaged with the biggest international corporations to spearhead the fight against climate change and move them to contribute to the sustainability of societies in a more systemic and significant manner. Many leaders of international corporations are making commitments and taking concrete actions to integrate the environment and forests into sustainable extraction, production, transport or consumption models. The time has now come for the Vietnamese business sector, from large corporations to small and medium sized companies, to also engage proactively in this dynamic, or run the risk of being locked into unproductive and unsustainable models.

Last year, the Government of Viet Nam concluded negotiations with the European Union on a Voluntary Partnership Agreement for Forest Law Enforcement, Governance and Trade. This is an excellent illustration. This is an important move forward for the Government of Viet Nam, creating opportunities for its USD 7 billion timber industry to sustainably access and better penetrate big export markets in the European Union. But it also comes with challenges for the business sector to ensure traceability and sustainability throughout its supply chain, to improve production models, to invest in more effective technologies, to turn to new plantation models, and to strengthen its trading relations regionally and worldwide

Ladies and gentlemen,

This event aims at promoting engagement of the business sector with forestry issues. But forests are not just timber but also encompass agriculture, water, energy, roads and other infrastructure, health, building and construction industries. All these sectors are supported directly and indirectly by goods and services extracted from forests. The very paper that I used to write this speech comes from fibers from the forests. Forests are everywhere. But forests are under increasing pressure. Even in Viet Nam. The country has been extremely successful in increasing its national forest cover from 27% in 1993 to 41% in 2015, but at the same time the country has continued to degrade and deplete its natural forests at an alarming rate, and by doing so, it has also undermined many opportunities for its future sustainable development.

There is good news, however. On January 12th this year, the Communist Party released Directive 13 calling for massive and multi-stakeholder mobilization to sustainably manage forests. The directive underscores "the wrong mindset of compromising sustainable development for immediate economic benefits", and regrets that "the privatization of forest management, protection and development reveal shortcomings". It also "encourages socialization and incentivizing mechanisms, together with creating favorable conditions to facilitate the participation of individuals and enterprises in forest management, protection and development". The way people in Viet Nam are looking at forests is changing, in the administration, in companies, in the street.

The United Nations has partnered with the Government of Viet Nam to assist with this transformation. I would like to highlight the full commitment of the United Nations to work as a strategic partner with Viet Nam on climate change and environmental issues. As part of the UN-REDD Programme and with support from Norway, we have been successfully assisting the Government to turn the call for coordination and mobilization into actions and results. As the Prime Minister is in the process of considering the new National REDD+ Action Programme, new programmatic directions and new institutional arrangements are being secured to turn these directions into practice. The Ministry of Investment and Planning, Ministry of Finance, Ministry of Industry and Trade, Ministry of Natural Resources and Environment, State Bank of Viet Nam and MARD and now reaching out to all relevant Ministries to improve the business environment for the sustainable management of forests. Be there and seize the chance to make your business, the forest, and Viet Nam better!

For the business sector in Viet Nam, this means both more opportunities and responsibilities. In our fast changing world, success comes with innovation and leadership. I hope that today's space for dialogue triggers the change in mindsets and positive action in your business. Today, we are coming together, as a One coherent United Nations, with the Government and the business sector, with international partners like Norway, to open a very promising era of closer collaboration with the business sector on forest issues in Viet Nam. This is a major milestone, demonstrating increased awareness and momentum. I agreed to be present at this event in order to encourage the Government of Viet Nam and the business sector to deepen this fruitful dialogue and collaboration and turn it into practical action, including through innovations for new financial and fiscal mechanisms, and for improved norms and standards to enhance business sustainability and to incentivize early movers. Whatever your industry, I am convinced you will find many ways to better consider forest issues for growing your business more sustainably and impactfully.

Ladies and gentlemen,

The United Nations looks forward to continued close cooperation with the Government of Viet Nam and the business sector in order to realize this vision and the opportunities which come with it.

Thank you for your attention.