National Mid-term Review on Implementation of 'a World Fit for Children'


Date: March 26, 2007
Event: National Mid-term Review of a World Fit for Children
Speaker: Mr. John Hendra, United Nations Resident Coordinator for Viet Nam

It is my great pleasure and privilege to be here on behalf of the UN Country Team in Viet Nam to review with you the important progress Viet Nam has made in the past five years to make this a country that is indeed fit for children.
Those of you who like me are parents, know how much children can enrich our lives -- at least when they are able to. As we also know, the world is not always a welcoming or safe place for children and young people; too many still live in fear, poverty and hunger.

This is why around the world we are re-examining and recommitting ourselves to the global children’s agenda, to listen to the voices of children, whether that be directly, or through statistics, presentations or reports we have on their lives before us. Here in Viet Nam, the United Nations Country Team stands firm with our Government counterparts behind the goals set out and we are strongly committed to put in all our efforts to keep children’s issues high on the country’s development agenda.

In short, this is because children’s issues are, as we all know, inseparable from the world’s development issues.

How can countries tackle poverty and hunger and not consider the child without enough to eat;

the fight against HIV and other diseases without thought to the many ways children are affected;

gender, when the wellbeing of girls is not made a priority;

the health and safety of mothers without the family who depends on her;

education without confronting the potential lost when a girl is unable to attend school;

the environment without considering those who will inherit our waste and mismanagement;

and the young people around us who are tomorrow’s leaders and decision-makers.

These deliberations then are all an integral part of the Millennium Development Goals, and they are firmly built into Viet Nam’s socio-economic development plan. When we gather here today to review the progress made in Viet Nam since the United Nations Special Session on Children five years ago, and preparing for a global review during the next UN General Assembly late this year, we are at the same time looking at the MDGs and Viet Nam’s progress to reach them.

As has already been highlighted, Viet Nam was the second country in the world to ratify the Convention on the Rights of the Child and can be proud of its concerted and wide-ranging strategies to eliminate poverty, disparity and to improve the lives of all Vietnamese, including all its children, since the launch of the doi moi reforms. Viet Nam has always recognized the value of its children -- and it’s a good thing too, for now they amount to over a third of the population.

So, let’s pause today to celebrate great progress in Viet Nam.

More Vietnamese children are entering and completing primary school than ever before. Fewer children die before they reach their fifth birthday. Clean and safe water is available to more children today and immunization rates are impressive. Viet Nam should be applauded for these achievements.

But if we travel up the green mountains of Ha Giang, or into the rolling Central Highlands, or along the Delta to Tra Vinh, we may not see these impressive results shared so widely. There we might find: families who must prioritize the family income and work over school; limited access to basic healthcare; ethnic minority children facing fewer opportunities to grow, develop and participate in their communities; and children who lack the protection they need. There is still much work to do to ensure that a child who wakes up in Kon Tum, sees equal opportunities before her, as the boy who greets the same day in Ha Noi.

The One UN Initiative in Viet Nam will help us better meet our obligations to the next generation of Vietnamese. By working more effectively together, we can do more to improve the lives of children.

It has been five years since the World Fit for Children declaration was adopted, when the world’s leaders recommitted to goals related to the health, safety, wellbeing and full participation of children in society. Are we there yet? The answer is that we are getting there, and with countries like Viet Nam strongly committed to the rights of children, we will not only create a better world for them, but in doing so, a better world for all through the achievement of the MDGs. July 2007 will mark the halfway point to reaching the MDG targets by 2015. By then, if we can work toward the betterment of all people, I have no doubt that we can stand on this very same stage and say that the rights of all girls and boys will have been fulfilled.

Thank you.

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