Keynote Address by Achim Steiner, UNDP Administrator (delivered by Luis Felipe López Calva, UN ASG, UNDP Regional Director for Latin America and the Caribbean, on behalf of Achim Steiner)
International Conference on a Green and Inclusive Economic Rebound in Viet Nam
February 25, 2022
Deputy Prime Minister Pham Binh Minh,
Ladies and Gentlemen,
I would like to thank the Government of Viet Nam for inviting me to participate in this timely Conference.
In the space of just thirty years, the share of Viet Nam’s population below the World Bank’s $1.90 per day extreme poverty line plummeted from approximately half of the population to less than 2%.
Viet Nam also recorded rapid improvements in health and education indicators. As a result of such progress, the country is now ranked in the high human development category.
Viet Nam has been heavily impacted by the pandemic, especially last year.
However, the country has also demonstrated great resilience.
Viet Nam’s vaccination programme has been impressive, achieving, in a matter of a short few months, universal adult vaccination -- a critical step to protect health, jobs, and livelihoods.
Today’s conference has been called to harness this spirit of resilience and innovation to achieve a green and inclusive economic rebound -- and to meet Viet Nam’s long-term goals of achieving high-income country status by the time of the nation’s centennial in 2045 and net-zero carbon emissions by 2050.
Excellencies, the pandemic is a clear warning: recovery from crisis cannot be driven by a zero-sum game of economy versus the environment, or health versus economy.
The model of development that we have pursued since the industrial revolution -- a model that views the natural environment as an infinite, and free resource -- has run its course. Climate change, the spread of infectious diseases, deforestation, desertification, and pollution have common roots in an unsustainable model of economic growth and development that does not take heed of planetary limits on human activity.
Indeed, we need to recognize the fact that many societies are under immense stress -- despite benefiting from some of the highest levels of health, wealth, and education.
A new UNDP report on human security focuses on the new, emerging threats in our time that are hindering freedom from want, freedom from fear, as well as freedom from indignity. It finds that, in many ways, the world is moving in the wrong direction. Remarkably, 6 in 7 people worldwide felt insecure even before the pandemic hit.
Indeed, the report shows that unless we take decisive climate action, some 40 million people might die because of changes in temperatures before the end of the century.
In short, we need to redefine what progress actually means.
We need a fit-for-purpose development model that moves away from ‘single point’ solutions towards systemic approaches for the protection and restoration of our planet with new sustainable opportunities for all.
A green and inclusive rebound is very much possible if we transcend the logic of trade-offs and focus instead on realising the tremendous synergies from economic development that prioritizes sustainability and inclusivity.
The energy transition is a good example.
Energy production accounts for two-thirds of greenhouse gas emissions. The economic cost of indiscriminate use of fossil fuels falls heaviest on the world’s poor and vulnerable people who depend on fragile ecosystems for their survival.
Renewable energy technologies available today, at costs often lower than non-renewable sources, can provide electricity in remote locations, eliminate the use of harmful fuels, expand access to education and communications, and save lives. An equitable transition to net-zero that leaves no one behind will transform lives and drive forward human development.
A Time for Bold Action/ 6 Lessons
Ladies and Gentlemen, as exemplified by Viet Nam’s bold commitment to reach net-zero by 2050; stop deforestation by 2030; and phase out coal-fired power generation by the 2040s -- all countries must now take the bold decisions today that will decide the future of generations to come.
In this respect, I would like to highlight 6 lessons from UNDP’s global efforts to support countries to drive forward a green circular recovery that may be pertinent to Viet Nam:
1. Innovative long-term financing
-First, A major constraint on Viet Nam’s decarbonization programme is access to long-term financing. Market incentives skew the activities of financial institutions in favour of short-term ventures, and it is up to policymakers to extend the ‘investment time horizon’ and direct investments into green production and consumption. International experience provides many examples of institutional and policy innovations to achieve this aim -- including national development banks, various incubator programmes, sovereign wealth funds and green- and bonds that can help to ‘crowd’ in private financing and mobilize international climate finance.
2. A Just Climate Transition
- Second, as Prime Minister Pham Minh Chinh noted in his remarks at COP26, it is imperative that we ensure equity and justice in our response to climate change. Climate justice demands that priority support be given first to the most disadvantaged groups. In Viet Nam, international assistance is required to meet the significant and growing needs of people to adapt to new climate realities, especially to build resilient housing in vulnerable coastal areas, the Central Highlands, and the Northern Mountainous regions. For example, a recent study by UNDP and the Ministry of Construction found that 110,000 households across 28 coastal provinces need resilient housing to cope with extreme weather events exacerbated by climate change.
3. Bridging the digital divide
- Third, The COVID-19 pandemic has also highlighted how digital connectivity is fast becoming the global metric of inclusion, with 2.9 billion people still unconnected. Closing the digital divide will require close collaboration between government and the private sector to remove regulatory, marketplace and technological hurdles to achieving universal affordable internet access. Viet Nam’s Public Administration and Local Governance Performance Index has shown that women and ethnic minorities lag behind in access to digital technology, reducing the scope for e-government services and limiting educational and employment opportunities. Developing human-centered digital transformation is key to expanding access to affordable broadband and enhancing the digital capacity of vulnerable groups including women, ethnic minorities and people with disabilities. At UNDP, we are aiming to give countries the support they now need. Through our new Digital Strategy, we are helping to build ethical digital societies.
4. Gender Equality
- Fourth, we know that women are more vulnerable than men to the impacts of poverty and climate change, because they represent the majority of the world's poor and are more dependent on threatened natural resources. Indeed, women’s leadership and equal participation in decision-making at all levels remains a challenge to overcome to ensure that everyone can have their say in building a fair future for both women and men.
5. Triple-A Governance (Anticipatory, Agile and Adaptive).
Preparedness for the future requires unleashing our creativity, questioning our long-held assumptions, changing our behaviours, and exercising anticipatory, agile, and adaptive governance to utilize scarce resources better. ‘Triple A Governance’ helps countries identify opportunities and challenges more quickly before they become deeper and more costly. The approach is centered on systematically testing innovations and solutions, scaling-up successful programmes and policies in a synchronized manner. UNDP’s experience across the globe shows that policymaking constantly informed by feedback loops, self-learning, humility and transparency generates greater public trust in scientific expertise, data and information.
6. Shock-Resilient Social Protection
The experience of the pandemic has shown that a standing architecture of social safety nets provides a more secure buffer for vulnerable people than ad-hoc measures. Systematic and well-resourced social safety nets function as ‘automatic stabilizers’, supporting domestic demand when economic activity slumps. Countries with mechanisms in place to deliver cash assistance quickly to poor and vulnerable households -- especially those who were unexpectedly without an income because of job loss or business closures -- recorded lower rates of transient poverty. Implementing digital registration and delivery of benefits will be crucial to ensure that countries are prepared for the next crisis.
Deputy Prime Minister, Excellences, Ladies and Gentlemen,
Governments that show the courage to innovate, learn, and constantly improve -- maximizing the application of knowledge, policy experiments, data, and ‘feedback loops’ – will be able to make major ‘leapfrogs’ towards the Global Goals.
In this respect, Viet Nam continues to be a pioneer in designing and implementing solutions to pressing development challenges such as stubborn pockets of poverty, economic and social inequalities, and limited digital and energy access.
As ever, UNDP and the UN family will be on hand, working together with you, to ‘co-create’, test and scale the solutions needed at this pivotal moment.
That will help to deliver a green, inclusive economic rebound for people and planet.
Thank you for the opportunity to join you today and I wish you a most productive conference.
 The estimated cost of $380 million is beyond the capacity of the combined resources of regional and central governments.