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Speech of Ms. Lotta Sylwander, UNICEF Representative in Viet Nam at the Presentation of Key Findings of the Situation Analysis of Children in Viet Nam

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Date: Tuesday, August 31, 2010
Event: Presentation of key findings of the Situation Analysis on Children
Venue: Melia Hotel, Ha Noi
Speaker: Ms. Lotta Sylwander, UNICEF Representative in Viet Nam

Ms. Nguyen Thuy Hien, Vice Minister, Ministry of Justice
Mr. Ho Quang Minh, Director General, Foreign and Economic
Relations Department, Ministry of Planning and Investment,
Mr. Dang Nam, VIce Director, Bureau for the Care and Protection of Children, MInistry of Labour, Invalids and Social Affairs,
Senior government officials,
Excellencies ambassadors and members of the donor community,
Representatives of the media,
Colleagues from partner organizations,
My fellow UN colleagues,
Ladies and gentlemen,

It is a privilege and a pleasure to be here today at my first event as the new UNICEF Representative to present the key findings of the first-ever human rights-based analysis of the situation of children in Viet Nam.  

Work on this milestone document began back in 2008 during the mid-term review of the Programme of Cooperation between the Government of Viet Nam and UNICEF.  Following an intensive process of research, consulting, and drafting, UNICEF has produced a comprehensive analysis of the situation of children in this country - an analysis that brings together for the first time key sources of information and data on children from the Government, UN agencies, non-government organizations, and other local and international institutions.

We are extremely glad to have this opportunity to share with all of you the key findings and recommendations of this report. Today, we are releasing the Executive Summary and main findings of the analysis, and the full document – comprising over 300 pages of detailed analysis – will be sent to you all in the next few weeks.

Many have contributed to this important initiative and I would in particular like to thank the Government of Viet Nam, which, through its various agencies has made an important contribution to the Situation Analysis. I would like to particularly acknowledge the valuable inputs from the Ministry of Labour, Invalids and Social Affairs.

Similar to situation analyses conducted in other countries, this document employs a human rights-based approach, looking at the situation of Vietnamese children from the perspective of key human rights principles such as equality, non-discrimination and accountability. This is a comprehensive methodology that recognizes the significant achievements in the national response, but also identifies the particular rights of children that are not yet fully realized in the country.  It includes an analysis of the roles and capacities of duty-bearers who have a responsibility to ensure the rights of children are understood, implemented and protected throughout all sections of Vietnamese society, and also explores why particular rights are not being realized.

Overall, the analysis paints a very positive picture for children in Viet Nam. The country’s strong economic growth and socio-economic policies have led to major improvements in all areas of children's lives. In particular, there have been significant reductions in child poverty and considerable gains in education and health. Clearly, Viet Nam's integration into the world and its current demographic structure and social and economic transformations have created opportunities as well as challenges for children. Remarkable progress has been made, yet there remains an unfinished agenda for children, in particular in terms of hygiene, sanitation, child poverty, disparity, nutrition, and education quality and management. Segments of the child and adolescent population in Viet Nam continue to live in conditions of deprivation and exclusion, and ethnic minorities are among the poorest in the country, benefitting the least from the country’s economic growth.

The analysis also highlights a new emerging agenda that must be addressed that includes issues related to child protection and changing family structures, injury prevention and HIV and AIDS.

We also believe it is critical that we begin to think about child poverty from a new perspective. Child poverty should no longer be seen as children living in monetary-poor households, but as a deprivation in several areas such as health, education, recreation, water and shelter.

The single most important message of the Situation Analysis relates to the need to reduce disparities in outcomes for children. In particular, ethnic minority children, children with disabilities, children affected by HIV and AIDS, and girls all continue to suffer from unequal access to the most basic social services, seriously threatening their ability to grow into healthy and productive members of Vietnamese society.

We have an obligation to guarantee to each and every child the ‘highest obtainable’ standards of health, education, protection and participation. Social protection strategies and universal approaches to the provision of quality, accessible basic social services are needed in order to reduce current inequalities, and to prevent them from becoming more severe as the country continues to experience rapid, yet unevenly distributed economic growth. A child in Ha Giang must have the same opportunities and access to quality education, health, and water and nutrition as a child in HCM City.

We are not there yet, but we are certainly heading in the right direction.

Ladies and gentlemen,

I would like to conclude by drawing your attention to the title of the analysis – ‘Children today, the world tomorrow’ – which unequivocally reminds us all that the future of Viet Nam depends on how we invest in the country’s children today.

Let us celebrate the positive achievements identified in this report and embrace the challenges ahead.

UNICEF, together with the entire One UN family, stands ready to support this important effort and continue to act as a committed and reliable partner for the benefit of all Vietnamese children towards a stronger, brighter and healthier Viet Nam.  

Thank you.