Opening Remarks By Mr. Jesper Moller, UNICEF Deputy Representative at the Launch of UNICEF’s Children Rights and Business Principles

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Date: 09 December 2014

Event: Launch of UNICEF's Children Rights and Business Principles

jesper speechThank you for joining us today at this event which brings together some of the top leaders shaping the future of Vietnam.

It is said that a nation's greatness can be judged by the way it treats its children.

I'd like to thank Vice Minister Nguyễn Trọng Đàm and his colleagues in Government, the Chambers of Commerce, Forbes Magazine and the Sheraton Saigon Hotel and Towers for their support in today's event.

While Viet Nam has made impressive economic progress in recent years, we must ensure that progress is translated into gains for all children, in terms of their survival, development, protection and participation as a substantial millennium development and equity agenda remains unfulfilled.

Furthermore, many children in Viet Nam are now faced with challenges that come with growing economies such as urban migration, increased inequities, family breakdown, and reduced societal cohesion.

These challenges impose new responsibilities for the society as a whole to support children's rights more effectively.

This means we need to continue to foster stronger partnership between government, civil society, faith-based organizations to achieve our goals for children. It also means that we must build new and strong partnerships with the business community because investment in children is the best investment societies and businesses can make to guarantee their own future success.

Today we are launching our call to the business community in Ho Chi Minh City to commit in a multi-stakeholder process, to vital actions necessary for the protection and development of Viet Nam's children, and in particular, to launch the Child Rights and Business Principles, developed by the UN Global Compact, Save the Children and UNICEF. Late last month, we introduced these same Principles to the business community in Ha Noi in the presence of the Deputy Prime Minister Mr Vu Duc Dam.

I would like to stress that the Principles have over the last two years been incorporated into many global standards on corporate responsibility, related both to Government actions plans and industry standards, and for example in ASEAN Community, Indonesia and Malaysia have held their national launches. We now join 30 other countries who have formally recognized the same framework.

These Principles recognize that children are stakeholders of business, as future employers, consumers and leaders of Viet Nam.

The Principles support the notion that an investment in children has exponential returns on the economy as a whole.

This event is the second of many series of talks and seminars we are calling 'ZEROtalks'. Why 'ZEROtalks'? Because we believe in driving toward bringing to ZERO the number of children excluded from the benefits of growth and development.

And yet today, 100 children in Viet Nam die every day of preventable causes, 2,000,000 children suffer permanent physical and brain damage caused by malnutrition, 3,000,000- children still do not have access to clean water, 1,750,000 children are child laborers and close 70 per cent of Vietnamese children have experienced some form of violent discipline, with its physical and psychological impact on the child. UNICEF believes collective efforts by all can bring these numbers to ZERO.

And UNICEF believes this is a truly achievable goal.

We believe this is achievable because we have, with other valuable partners, chief amongst them is the Government, supported Viet Nam for 40 years with presence since 1975, contributing to a two-thirds reduction of child mortality rates in Viet Nam since the 1960s. We have helped, in partnership with government, faith-based and civil society organizations, eradicate polio, eliminate Vitamin A deficiency, and vaccinate 95% of children in Viet Nam, saving the lives of millions of Vietnamese children.

None of this could have been achieved without long-term, committed partnerships, and bold goals of the ZEROtalk type.

We now are living in a country which has achieved middle income status in remarkable time, where the private sector has been one of the driving forces of this impressive economic growth.

While commendable progress in Vietnam has been made for children, we still have more work to do to reach ZERO, ensuring that no child is left behind.

With the business community as a new partner for the long term, we all work together and reinforce the idea that Children are Everyone's Business.

As the World celebrates the 25th Anniversary of the adoption of the Convention on the Rights of the Child, and as UNICEF in Viet Nam prepares to celebrate 40 years of continued cooperation since the reunification of the country, it is timely to take a bold commitment to implement the Children's rights business principles with the vital support of the business community.

Thank you!

Xin Cám ơn!