Tet 2009 Message from UN Resident Coordinator John Hendra


United Nations Resident Coordinator, Mr. John Hendra
United Nations Resident Coordinator, Mr. John Hendra
United Nations Country Team Viet Nam

Ladies and Gentlemen -- Friends throughout Viet Nam,

Tet provides a good opportunity to reflect on the past year and to focus on the challenges that lie ahead. Looking back, Viet Nam experienced a challenging Year of the Rat. At the beginning of the year, Viet Nam faced an economy that was overheating and was marked by spiralling inflation and the risk of a banking, currency and balance of payments crisis. By the latter part of the year, we witnessed an economy rapidly slowing down as a result of the global financial and economic crisis, and with it growing concerns around increasing unemployment.

Upcoming Challenges

The Year of the Buffalo begins with a deepening global recession – in Viet Nam exports of goods and services as well as tourism are slowing considerably as is the flow of foreign direct investment. This is compounded further by volatile commodity prices, a very large current account deficit, as well as weaknesses in the banking sector.  

As events continue to unfold globally, it is becoming clear that an immediate impact of the current crisis on Viet Nam will be a rise in unemployment, as sectors which are likely to be worst hit – such as manufacturing, construction, real estate and financial services – are also those which have been driving employment generation over the last decade. It is at this level that the crisis will most probably be felt hardest as it directly affects people’s lives and living standards.

Overcoming the Downturn Together

The UN Country Team commends the strong determination that the Government has shown in addressing the many serious economic challenges that face Viet Nam. We commend the Prime Minister for the policy dialogues he conducted with international partners this past year and for the important set of short-term policy interventions put in place earlier to stabilize the macroeconomic environment. That being said, the severe financial crisis currently affecting all corners of the world throws up a number of immediate economic challenges for Viet Nam.  

As the UN Country Team, we share the Government’s concerns about the economic and social impact of the global crisis. While it is important to safeguard Viet Nam’s economic progress, from a UN perspective it is also vital that priority continues to be given to address the negative impact the current situation is having on the poor. This will be critical to ensuring that those Vietnamese families that have left poverty do not fall back into it. In trying to mitigate the negative impact it is essential to extend existing safety nets to ensure sufficient coverage for those Vietnamese men and women hit by the crisis. This might include increasing the level of funding to existing schemes, updating poverty profiles and lifting some of the requirements to access social security schemes. Already we see that a new group in need of social assistance has emerged – unskilled workers who have lost their jobs and struggle to find a new one.

The Government could also consider implementing practical employment-generating interventions, such as small-scale infrastructure development and rehabilitation of existing roads and irrigation systems. These types of interventions can be implemented relatively quickly and often employ low-skilled workers who are likely to be worst hit. Putting cash in the pockets of those most in need also provides a knock-on effect through consumption of locally-produced items.
Achieving the MDGs

In addition to the immediate concerns surrounding the global financial crisis, over the next year the UN Country Team will continue to focus on other pressing development challenges facing the country.

This past year marked the half-way point to the 15-year MDG target date of 2015. While Viet Nam’s overall progress towards the MDGs remains impressive, increased action is needed to ensure achievements are sustained. Greater efforts will be needed to decrease maternal mortality; keep girls from dropping out of school; address gender inequalities in economic opportunities; and better address child malnutrition.

The two goals where Viet Nam lags behind – MDG 6 regarding HIV and MDG 7 regarding rural sanitation – require special attention. While the Government has shown strong leadership on HIV and the new Viet Nam Network of People living with HIV was importantly established this past year, crucial challenges remain. Viet Nam’s goal to halt and reverse the spread of HIV by 2015 will not be met unless a coordinated and stronger multi-sectoral response at national and provincial levels is scaled up. This response will need to address the various socio-economic factors and significant barriers that prevent key populations at high risk, as well as people living with HIV, from accessing HIV services.

Similarly, more work remains to be done on MDG 7 on the environment, where a number of targets with regard to rural sanitation will otherwise not be met. Concerted efforts are needed to ensure that neither the current economic crisis – nor the consequences of climate change on the most vulnerable – derail Viet Nam’s MDG progress.

Addressing Climate Change

Following on from the recent UN Climate Change Conference in Poland, international negotiations will be intensifying throughout the next year to reach a global agreement on addressing climate change at the Copenhagen Conference at the end of 2009. As one of the countries in the world most affected by extreme weather events and the impact of climate change, Viet Nam has a very important role to play in these negotiations and the UN Country Team will continue to support Viet Nam’s active participation.

Deepening Our Collaboration

In today’s challenging world, international and multilateral cooperation is needed now more than ever. We are happy that the strong partnership between the UN and Viet Nam has deepened even further with Viet Nam’s important contributions this past year as a Non-Permanent Member of the UN Security Council and with the many advances we have made together in implementing the “One UN Initiative” here in Viet Nam.

Working together as “One UN” means that we are much better placed to more effectively respond to these development challenges, in close collaboration with the Government and the donor community. In the New Year, we also look forward to building further partnerships with civil society organizations and the wider development community and together with all our partners work more effectively together to address these pressing issues.

As we enter the Year of the Buffalo, we as the United Nations stand ready to do our utmost to maximize the policy, normative and advocacy support we as “One UN” can provide to help address some of these challenges, so that all Vietnamese citizens can actively participate in, and benefit fully from, the development process.

On behalf of the entire UN Country Team, I would like to wish everyone in Viet Nam a happy, healthy and prosperous New Year!

Chúc Mừng Năm Mới!

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The Mission of the United Nations in Viet Nam

The United Nations, in partnership with the government and people of Viet Nam, works to ensure that all Vietnamese people enjoy an increasingly healthy and prosperous life with greater human dignity and expanded choices. Collectively and through its individual agencies, the United Nations cares and creates opportunities for the poor and most vulnerable, and for youth, to whom the future belongs.

In accordance with the United Nations Charter and Millennium Declaration, the United Nations advances the principles of equality and social justice, while providing impartial advice, technical expertise, access to global knowledge and local experience to meet Viet Nam's development challenges.