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At a glance: Viet Nam

CRC in Viet Nam 20 years on: Children better off but new challenges emerging

© UNICEF/2010/Truong Viet Hung
Children from the Ho Chi Minh Pioneer Brigades welcome participants to the Hanoi conference: 'Convention on the Rights of the Child – From Vision to Action'.

HANOI, Viet Nam, 3 March 2010 – Viet Nam was the first country in Asia – and just the second in the world – to ratify the Convention on the Rights of the Child, or CRC. The 20th anniversary of CRC ratification was celebrated recently at a high-profile event in Hanoi, organized by the Vietnamese Government with support from UNICEF.

Government leaders, including Deputy Prime Minister and Politburo member Nguyen Sinh Hung, noted that over the past two decades Viet Nam has made great efforts to implement the CRC – including awareness-raising activities on child rights, harmonization of the CRC with national laws, enhancement of state management of children’s issues, and provision of increased resources for child development.

Experts in attendance included Nguyen Thanh Hoa, Viet Nam’s Deputy Minister of Labour, Invalids and Social Affairs; Jesper Mørch, UNICEF Representative in Viet Nam; and Diane Swales, UNICEF Regional Advisor on Child Protection. They discussed the interdependence between child rights, the country’s economic growth and increased opportunities for all Vietnamese children.

Progress and disparities

Since Viet Nam's ratification of the CRC, child mortality has declined substantially. Between 1990 and 2008, the under-five mortality rate fell by more than two thirds, from 56 to 14 deaths per 1,000 live births. The country’s consistently high immunization coverage resulted in the eradication of polio in 2000, and the elimination of maternal and neonatal tetanus in 2005.

Children in Viet Nam are also better educated now, with around 95 per cent of eligible children enrolled in primary education.

At the same time, Viet Nam faces many challenges in ensuring the rights of every girl and boy. Significant disparities among regions and ethnic groups prevail. In 2008, the poverty rate for ethnic minorities was over 50 per cent, compared to less than 10 per cent for the majority Khin and Hoa ethnic groups. Maternal mortality rates are up to four times higher than the national average in remote ethnic minority areas.

Guided by the CRC, UNICEF has been actively advocating with the government to ensure that children’s rights are at the centre of its development agenda.

Too many still on the margins

“Viet Nam is now on its way to becoming a middle-income country,” Mr. Mørch reminded the audience. “It is a fact that while most children in Viet Nam are much better off today than children 20 years ago, there are still far too many children who are not. Their lives have not improved in noticeable and sustainable ways, and they are essentially on the margins of Viet Nam’s impressive socio-economic development.

“I would like us to remember these children,” he continued. “They are not here [with us today]. They are in the remote rural and mountainous areas of the country, they are in the over-crowded urban sprawl of Viet Nam’s major cities, they are working in fields and factories, they are forgotten in social protection centres.”

© UNICEF/2010/Truong Viet Hung
UNICEF Representative in Viet Nam Jesper Mørch addresses child rights experts and media at the CRC anniversary conference.

Several speakers remarked that Viet Nam has paid greater attention to the participation of children and adolescents in issues that affect their daily lives. They also noted that in 2009, despite challenges posed by the global financial crisis, spending on social welfare received the necessary attention here – including spending on child protection, care and education.

Former Deputy Prime Minister Nguyen Khanh, who was instrumental in Viet Nam’s CRC ratification process 20 years ago, said progress had been made but that “care and protection, intrinsic to Vietnamese culture, are not enough. Universal child rights need to prevail.”

Investing in girls and boys

“As a country now considered middle-income and striving for 'industrialized country' status in 10 years, Viet Nam must invest in all its women, men, girls and boys, in order to realize their full potential as active and engaged citizens, both today and tomorrow”, said UNICEF's Mr. Mørch. “It can no longer be enough that most children are in school, that most children have clean water and a toilet, and that most children are not working in harmful conditions.”

Deputy Prime Minister Nguyen Sinh Hung also highlighted the importance of investing in children: “Viet Nam has recognized that investment for the implementation of children’s rights to survival, protection, development and participation is investment in the future.”



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