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Opening remarks by Mr. Jesper Moller, Acting Representative, UNICEF Viet Nam

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  • jesper speechH.E. Madam Pham Thi Hai Chuyen, Minister of MOLISA Mr. Nguyen Trong Dam, Vice Minister of MOLISA
  • Ms. Victoria Kwakwa, Country Director of World Bank
  • Representatives from Government Agencies, Representatives from 4 provinces
  • Ladies and Gentlemen:

It is a great pleasure for me to deliver the opening remarks today. It is a long awaited and well deserved culmination of the excellent partnership between MOLISA, UNICEF, and the WB. I was happy to see this tri-partite partnership grow over the past 2 years in the process of preparation and adoption of the Social Assistance System Strengthening Project (SASSP). This strategic partnership is driven by the goals of Party Resolution 15 on "Major Social Policies for the period of 2012-2020" to ensure income security and basic social services to ALL citizen, including the most vulnerable.

The project we are about to launch today is a result of the bold and tireless efforts of all the national partners (MOLISA, MOET, MOF etc.), partners from the 4 provinces (Ha Giang, Quang Nam, Lam Dong and Tra Vinh) and development partners (World Bank, DFID) to design innovative system solutions addressing poverty. UNICEF highly appreciates the progress so far and deems their future expansion essential for addressing inequalities and realising children's rights.

Ladies and Gentlemen,

Strengthening income security is a key element of policies that aim at reducing and preventing child poverty. Income security for children is in fact one of the key social protection guarantees and aims to ensure "access to nutrition, education, care and any other goods and services". Evidence refers to family and child benefits as most effective for outcome transformation for children.

Despite the overall progress in poverty reduction, still one out of three children in Vietnam experiences impaired access to health care, education, shelter, water and sanitation, social inclusion and protection. Two third of children, living in the remote, mountainous and ethnic minority areas, are facing either income poverty or their basic needs are unmet. Nearly half of the children under 5 from ethnic minority groups are stunted. Clearly, these call for our urgent attention and actions.

UNICEF is pleased to note that Government of Viet Nam put a large number of social protection schemes in place, with a relatively high level spending of public expenditure, compared to other countries in the SEA region (4.7% of GDP).1 UNICEF hopes that the successful pilot and future expansion of the proposed consolidated scheme under the Social assistance system strengthening project will help government of Viet Nam further prioritise the share of family and child support programs in public expenditures for children in the long run.

Ladies and gentlemen:

As we celebrated our success today, we should not forget that this is only the beginning. I would like to draw your attention to key issues which UNICEF deems critical for the success of the SASSP program:

  • One of the biggest challenges of the GoV is how to consolidate the existing policies and schemes into a meaningful "family package" which will address all eligible households and children and ensure that the existing exclusion errors are minimised. It is therefore important to expand the current partnership for equity beyond the project realms and make sure that an effective and efficient system for poverty monitoring is in place and it is applied for the beneficiaries of this scheme too.
  • Secondly, global evidence shows that the desired transformation of behaviours and outcomes is highly dependent on the availability of quality essential social services for children such as education, including pre-school, health, child protection, as well as counselling on effective child rearing practices by trusted cadre of social workers, which is currently under formation in Viet Nam. Achieving these objectives would require strong level of coordination between MOLISA and other line ministries such as MOET, MOH and their respective structures on provincial level.
  • Finally, while the SASSP marks a milestone in the overall social protection reform path of the Government of Vietnam, it needs to be linked and assessed together with other policy schemes and reform processes so that a true and comprehensive life- cycle approach is in place in Viet Nam in the long run.

Ladies and Gentlemen,

I would like to once more congratulate MOLISA and the GOV for their important achievement. I am happy to see that the Government of Viet Nam has prioritised its youngest citizens under the proposed cash transfer, UNICEF views this as a sound economic

investment that will better equip the future generations to sustain the country's rapid development amid demographic change.

UNICEF, together with the World Bank and other development partners, looks forward to its implementation and broader discussions on the child-sensitive social protection reform in Vietnam.

I wish you all success with this important endeavour! Thank you for your attention

Xin Cam On

Note: 1 ILO Global SP report 2014).p.15.

Read the Press Release on: Support to Reform and Innovation in Vietnam's social assistance program