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Speech by Mr Youssouf Abdel-Jelil UNICEF Representative in Viet Nam at the launch of the State of the World’s Children Report 2016

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Event: Launch of the State of the World’s Children Report 2016

Venue: Green One UN House, 304 Kim Ma, Ba Dinh, Ha Noi

Mr Doan Mau Diep, Vice Minister of Labour, Invalids and Social Affairs

Ms Ngo Thi Minh, Vice Chair of the Committee on Culture, Education, Youth, and Children of the National Assembly

Distinguished guests

Ladies and gentlemen

We are launching today UNICEF's annual flagship report State of the World's Children dedicated to equity for children. This year's edition demonstrates that progress for the most disadvantaged children and families is the defining condition for delivering on the Sustainable Development Goals for generations to come.

The life prospects of disadvantaged children trapped in poverty might seem like a matter of chance but while children's origins are largely a matter of fate, the opportunities available to them are not. They are the result of choices – choices made in our communities, societies, international institutions and, by governments.

The economic progress of the recent years in Viet Nam was successful in reducing poverty rates from 58 per cent to 10 per cent between 1993 and 2014. The child mortality rate fell from 36 per 1,000 live births in 1990, down to 10 for 1,000 births in 2014. The report also points out to the sound investments made by Viet Nam to improve the education system. By 2012, Viet Nam was allocating 21 per cent of its national budget to education which has contributed to accelerate progress for children.

While impressive, this progress only tells part of the story and many children continue to be left out. About 5.5 million children are living in multidimensional poverty in Viet Nam. Due to poor nutrition, the stunting rate among children in rural areas in Viet Nam is twice as high as the stunting rate among their peers in urban areas, which can explain why the infant mortality rates have worsened among ethnic minority groups in contrast to the overall improvement.

Education plays a unique role in breaking the intergenerational cycle of vulnerability. While the overall situation has improved in Viet Nam the percentage of children who have never attended school remains relatively high especially among some ethnic minority groups. For example almost one quarter of school-aged Mong children have never attended school or received any formal education.

Investing in the most vulnerable children is not only right in principle, it can also yield immediate and long-term benefits for the country. For instance each additional year of schooling completed, on average, can generate a fall of 9 per cent of the country's poverty rates and each additional year of education a child receives increases his or her adult earnings by about 10 per cent. Solutions such as cash transfers can help children stay in school longer and advance to higher levels of education which will benefit the whole country.

When children are offered equal opportunities to reach their full potential, families are supportive and caring, communities are thriving, and countries are successful on the path of progress and growth.

State of the World's Children is a global report and it brings the perspective of several countries in the world. The experience shows that the right choices can change the lives of millions of children. Inequity is neither inevitable, nor insurmountable and the model of Viet Nam on education is a great example. Reaching the forgotten children must be at the center of our efforts to achieve the Sustainable Development Goals but we need a sharper focus on those left behind. UNICEF together with other UN agencies is committed to support Viet Nam to accelerate the pace of progress in reaching the most disadvantaged, vulnerable and excluded children in order to achieve the 2030 goals.

Our support will look at addressing barriers and bottlenecks that keep children away from the support and services they need. Laws like the recently adopted Child Law set the tone for a positive transformation but we will continue our support to translate this commitment into action through equity-focused programmes and public spending. We also need to shift public spending in order to better serve the most excluded.

I encourage everyone to read the report and to share our call to urgent action for a better world for children. Children born into poverty and deprivation today are not doomed to live lives of despair and we can reverse the situation by shifting policies, programming and public spending priorities. We still have an opportunity to affect the future of the most vulnerable children to give them a chance to catch up with the most advantaged ones.

Thank you. Xin cảm ơn!