Vietnam – UN: A mature and equal partnership

Update: 16:33 | 18/09/2017
In the decades after Doi Moi, the United Nations (UN) made significant contributions to Vietnam. However, in recent years the relationship between Vietnam and the UN has developed into a much more mature and equal partnership.
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Mr. Kamal Malhotra, UN Resident Coordinator in Vietnam, had shared his opinions in an interview with The World & Vietnam Report.

What is your assessment of Vietnam’s role in, as well as its contributions to, the UN over the past 40 years?

Vietnam has a very special history. The country joined the UN on September 20, 1977, after enduring a long war. The UN considers Vietnam an important country to support, and I’m happy to say the UN has made many contributions to the country over the years.

Vietnam has been a strong friend of multilateralism from the very beginning. Throughout its relationship with the organisation, Vietnam has exceeded a number of UN conventions, including in the field of human rights.

I think Vietnam is now in a position to give back to the UN. In the first decades after Doi Moi, it was more a case of the UN contributing to Vietnam, but I think the relationship has now grown into a much more mature, equal partnership. Vietnam has the ability to support the UN in a variety of ways.

One example is this building in which we are sitting right now – the Green One UN House. We are here thanks to the generosity of the Vietnamese government, who have provided the property rent-free. It is also a symbol of the One UN initiative, where all UN agencies can gather in one place, making the process of reform much easier.

Vietnam is at the forefront of the UN reform agenda at the country level, and thanks to Vietnam’s leadership, the UN in Vietnam has been kept at the forefront of global UN reform efforts.

Going forward, I think two areas are critical in terms of Vietnam contributing to the UN and the world. Namely, these are peace keeping and South-South cooperation, where Vietnam’s experience over the last 25 years of Doi Moi can be useful for other countries, particularly in Africa and lower income countries in the Southeast Asian region.

Vietnam’s efforts in reducing poverty, enhancing education particularly at primary and lower secondary levels and increasing access to primary healthcare are areas where the country can contribute through the UN by sharing its valuable experience with others.

What are the obstacles that Vietnam faces in achieving its sustainable development goals, and the areas which will be promoted by the UN in Vietnam in the future?

One of the biggest challenges for Vietnam and many other countries is finding ways to change its path of growth, from fast economic development to sustainable growth. It means that Vietnam has to pay much greater attention to the environment, climate change, and disaster risk reduction. These are the priorities that the UN wants to support in Vietnam through our new strategic plan 2017-2020.

Another issue is how Vietnam can reform its education system at a higher level and through vocational education to increase its productivity and competitiveness. Without improvements in these two areas, it will be hard for Vietnam to compete effectively in the emerging regional and global economies of the 21st century.

vietnam un a mature and equal partnership
Mr. Kamal Malhotra speaks at an event.  

Additionally, Vietnam needs to realise government reform so that more of its citizens can actively participate in the development process. Without this, it’s hard to see how Vietnam can move forward to the next stage of development.

Lastly, no one should be left behind. Whether it’s ethnic minority groups, people with disabilities or excluded people in terms of education or health care, no one should be left behind.

There are many things that Vietnam still needs to do and I hope that with our support over the next 5 years or even longer, Vietnam will make great progress in achieving its sustainable development goals.

It can be said that the UN will enhance cooperation with Vietnam in the spirit of the “4 P’s”, how is this spirit being implemented?

The first P is People. As I mentioned, no one should be left behind, so whether it is ethnic minority groups or people with disabilities, this should be a top priority focus.

The second P is Planet. Vietnam has to forge a much more sustainable growth path ­– a green growth path that prioritises climate change, disaster risks, and ensures that the country grows in a sustainable and more balanced fashion.

The third P is Prosperity. This is linked to the same economic growth model, which needs to be much more sustainable and puts a greater emphasis on education, human resources development and increasing productivity, competitiveness and innovation.

And the fourth P is Peace. You cannot have peace unless more of Vietnam’s citizens actively participate in the development process and they feel included. They need to be able to benefit, but more than benefiting, they need to be able to participate in the defining of policy and in the implementation of development programmes. Therefore, we need to implement all 4 P’s.

What do you think about Vietnam’s goal of being nominated as a candidate for non-permanent member on the United Nations Security Council, as well as Vietnam’s participation in other UN’s agencies?

The UN and I, as a UN Residence coordinator, will support Vietnam’s participation and its plan for non-permanent member status on the UN Security Council. However, I do think that for Vietnam to be successful, it needs to show that it is a good global citizen and contributes to strengthening multilateralism. I think Vietnam can do that by both sharing its experience through South-South cooperation and participating more actively in peacekeeping.

Vietnam can prove in different ways that it is a good international citizen by implementing many of the UN conventions that Vietnam has signed on to and ratified. It will also need to implement the recommendations of the Universal Periodic Review on human rights that Vietnam has agreed to. Vietnam will need to demonstrate these commitments in the next year, as it starts its campaign for a non-permanent seat on the UN Security Council.

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