Speech of Ms. Lotta Sylwander, UNICEF Representative in Viet Nam, at the National Conference on the Development of the Social Work Profession


Date: Thursday, 9 September, 2010
Event: National Conference on the Development of the Social Work Profession
Venue: Ha Long City
Speaker: Ms. Lotta Sylwander, UNICEF Representative in Viet Nam

Excellency, Madame. Le Thi Kim Ngan, Minister of MOLISA,
Excellency, Mme. Maeve Collin, Ambassador of Ireland;
Dear participants from Government ministries, provinces, mass organizations, civil society, universities and schools;
Colleagues from Atlantic Philanthropies and Save the Children Alliance, from the United Nations, donors, international organisations and NGOs,
Ladies and gentlemen,

It is a privilege and a pleasure to speak today at the National Conference on the Development of Social Work. First of all, I would like to congratulate the Government for its recent and important decision to approve the National Programme on the Development of Social Work as a Profession for the period 2010-2020.

This landmark decision is very timely as Viet Nam is going through significant economic and social changes. The impact of the country’s rapid economic growth, coupled with the growing demand for modernisation has translated into increasing social disparities and rapidly changing patterns of life. These changes create pressure for families and communities, especially for children and young people. We already see an escalation in youth-perpetrated crimes, drug abuse, prostitution, commercial sexual exploitation of children, trafficking of women and children, child abuse, children abandonment, and children affected by HIV/AIDS. In addition, there is a growing need to provide care for people with disabilities, the elderly as well as rising numbers of people with mental health needs and other vulnerable people who need social assistance.

The decision to invest in the professionalisation of social work will contribute to the long-term economic and social wellbeing of the Vietnamese people. Important areas of focus for social workers in Viet Nam include the protection of children with special needs, care for the elderly, for people with disabilities, and other vulnerable adults.  Social work is also important in the rehabilitation and psycho-social care of drug users, commercial sex workers, people living with HIV, the homeless, women and children subject to trafficking, violence and abuse, and people convicted of crimes. In addition, social workers assist people in crisis situations in hospitals, schools, universities, and institutions. They are involved in community development activities along with social policy development and advocacy to promote social welfare in the society.

It is essential to ensure that social workers have the necessary values, knowledge and skills to effectively respond to the needs of vulnerable people, children and families. It is remarkable that the Government is embarking on a ten-year programme to train 35,000 social workers and provide short-term training for 25,000 existing staff and collaborators. To meet this goal, it is important to develop an adequate system of Social Work education and training at graduate and post-graduate levels as well as vocational and short-term training programmes for para-professionals such as workers from mass organizations and health care personnel.

Distinguished leaders, dear participants,
Social Work is crucial to many areas that lie close to UNICEF’s heart:
The Government decision to approve the development of the Social Work profession sets a solid framework for social work development in Viet Nam. With the determination and leadership of the Vietnamese Government agencies, provinces, universities, mass organisations and civil society; and with effective cooperation and support from the international community, I am confident that thousands of Social Work positions will be created soon in a number of government agencies and organisations to provide timely support and services for those who need it most.
UNICEF has been a very active partner in the development of Social Work in Viet Nam for the past decade. And we will continue to work hard in collaboration with other partners to enable Viet Nam to effectively address emerging complex social problems, and promote greater social justice and equality.

I wish you a fruitful Conference and thank you for your attention!