Opening Remarks Commemorating International Human Rights Day 2021
14 December 2021
Delivered at the Consultation Workshop on the Second Draft of Viet Nam’s Voluntary Mid-Term Report on the Implementation of 3rd Cycle Universal Periodic Revie
Opening Remarks by Ms Rana Flowers - United Nations Resident Coordinator a.i. in Viet Nam
Mr. Dang Hoang Giang, Vice Minister, Ministry of Foreign Affairs;
Colleagues from ministries, national partner and non-governmental organizations, and agencies of the UN;
On behalf of the United Nations in Viet Nam, I welcome all of you to today’s consultation workshop, during which we also celebrate the 73rd International Human Rights Day.
- HR is core to the mandates of UN agencies, core to ensuring achievement of SDGs.
Since 2015, the Ministry of Foreign Affairs (MOFA) and UNDP in Viet Nam, in the spirit of One UN, have established a tradition of collaborating to commemorate International Human Rights Day. After this challenging year, during which Viet Nam has shown great resilience, I welcome this opportunity to reflect on human rights and this year’s global theme: equality.
- Equality is an issue that the COVID-19 pandemic has brought sharply into focus around the globe.
- The pandemic has highlighted and exposed underlying structural inequalities and fundamental problems in various areas of social, economic, civil and political life which exist in many parts of the world.
- Although this is not a challenge that has suddenly appeared in Viet Nam, the virus has exacerbated existing inequalities and created new ones. The 2020 assessments of UN agencies in Viet Nam already showed that the effects of the outbreaks hit some communities harder than others.
- Despite ongoing Government efforts to control the virus, mitigate its impacts and roll-out vaccines, rapid assessments conducted this year indicate that the context worsened as the pandemic became more severe.
- UNDP and its partners found that since July 2021, 88% of vulnerable households suffered laid-off wage workers, temporary breaks from work, or reduced working hours. In October 2020, this ratio was 63%. Income drops have also been considerably higher, with incomes in July being on average only 44% of December 2019 levels.
- The impacts are not equal across society, and some groups are disproportionately affected by the pandemic. For example, households in tourism and related services suffered the greatest impacts, with informal workers and those in rural areas most affected.
- These impacts are compounded for those in LGBTQI+ groups, people with disabilities, and ethnic communities.
- Research by UNDP and UN Women shows that, in 2020, the pandemic affected the employment of 68.6% of ethnic minority households, compared with 58.4% of Kinh households. Unfortunately, many of these groups also represent those who have had greater difficulty in benefiting from the social protection package rolled out by the Government in rapid response to the fourth wave of COVID-19.
- These challenges have required vulnerable households to take immediate action, like putting less food on the table, reducing electricity usage, and taking out loans. In such circumstances, it is understandable that two-thirds of respondents indicated having mental health problems, particularly female household heads and migrants.
- The social and economic fallout could have a long-term impact on gender equality, threatening the progress made, potentially pushing millions of women and girls below the poverty line worldwide, and putting them at risk of gender-based violence.
- The recent National Study on Violence against Women, supported by UNFPA, showed that nearly 2 in 3 women in Viet Nam experience one or more forms of violence in their lifetime.
- Viet Nam 2021’s Survey on the SDG indicators on children and women, implemented during the COVID-19 pandemic, shows that 70.8% of children aged 1-14 years were subjected to at least one form of psychological or physical punishment by household members.
- The high prevalence rate of violence against women and children has increased in the world of COVID-19, and Viet Nam is no exception.
- UNFPA launched the first-ever one-stop service centre for survivors of violence amid COVID-19, and the number of calls for help increased 2-3 times with the outbreak of the pandemic, receiving more than 1,000 calls every month.
- Along with the Peace House Shelters and the Center for Women and Development, UNWOMEN responded to increased demand for support, training an additional 292 social workers in emergency support services for women and child survivors of violence, as well as providing a modified hotline and updated facilities for three shelters to meet heightened need.
- In addition, in the UNFPA’s modelling analysis, the maternal mortality ratio is likely to increase by 44-65% due to the negative consequence of COVID-19, indicating a reversal of developmental gains made by Viet Nam in the past decades.
- Assessments confirm that Many children are at the risk of falling into multidimensional deprivation, including income poverty and lack of access to essential support and services such as quality education and learning opportunities, nutrition, healthcare, water and sanitation, hygiene, social assistance and child protection.
- Boys and girls aged 16-17 years are even more vulnerable as they are not considered children under the Law on Children, thus excluded from essential protection that is critical to develop their potential, in safety, before reaching full adulthood.
- Viet Nam 2021’s Survey on the SDG indicators on children and women also indicated that almost half of children living in the poorest households did not receive any social transfers or benefits, leaving them vulnerable to economic hardship and social exclusion.
- These statistics raise concerns. It suggests the need for us to challenge our assumptions, change approaches and simply work together to address these disparities.
- These challenges hinder enjoyment of the rights to access employment, education, food, information, social assistance, basic services, as well as the rights to choose freely and responsibly the number, spacing and timing of children.
- Other issues brought to the fore are freedom of expression, in particular online, and freedom of movement.
- Restrictions to these rights and fundamental freedoms, enshrined in international human rights treaties that Viet Nam has ratified, should only be imposed where they meet the principles of legality, necessity, proportionality, serve a legitimate public health objective and represent the least intrusive approach required to achieve that result.
Distinguished guests, Ladies and Gentlemen,
- Since the outbreak of the pandemic, the UN at all levels has emphasised that response and recovery efforts must have the principles of Leaving No One Behind and human rights at their core.
- Viet Nam is presented with many opportunities to ensure that this message becomes a reality. For example, a focus on equitable digitalisation, inclusive employment and strengthening the social protection system, will further human rights and help insulate the country from future disasters.
- The UN in Viet Nam will continue to work hand in hand with the Government to counter the negative effects of COVID-19 and to reinforce the foundations of a more equal future.
- Just as Viet Nam has previously made great strides to reduce multi-dimensional poverty, we are convinced that it will do so again.
- By keeping human rights at the centre of its efforts, Viet Nam will be able to recover lost ground and continue to work towards achieving equality and the 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development.
- I would like to turn briefly to the other purpose of today’s event and commend Viet Nam once more on its decision to prepare its first voluntary UPR Mid-Term Report.
- On Human Rights Day 2020, the then Resident Coordinator highlighted this reporting mechanism as an opportunity for Viet Nam to put even greater energy into enhancing the full protection and enjoyment of human rights, as well as strengthening its compliance with international obligations and commitments.
- Ms. Caitlin Wiesen, Resident Representative of UNDP Viet Nam and current Chair of the UN Results Group on Governance and Justice, will present suggestions on how to further strengthen this revised draft, but I take this opportunity to congratulate you on the efforts taken in this process.
- I hope they will help accelerate the implementation of the 3rd cycle recommendations.
- Finally, I will close by noting with great appreciation that today we will hear from a member of Viet Nam’s vibrant and engaged youth. I look forward to learning your aspirations for your country.
- The UN in Viet Nam has observed time and again the commitment of young people to building a more equal and inclusive society. When the future of Viet Nam rests in such motivated hands, we can only be filled with hope.