Ha Noi, 23 September 2013 - Mr. Arthur Erken, UNFPA Representative in Viet Nam shared his opinions with the Family and Society newspaper's reporter on the new population law: "I am confident that the new Population Law of Viet Nam will be a well-informed law that will respond to the opportunities and challenges of population dynamics, as well as the aspirations and desires of the Vietnamese people as it moves towards a bright and prosperous future!"
How do you assess the Viet Nam's population and family planning work after the 10 year implementation of the Population Ordinance?
Data from the 2009 census and other population-based surveys show that Viet Nam has made impressive progress towards achieving the MDGs. Fertility rates have declined steadily and is now below replacement level fertility, namely at 1.99 children per woman.
Reductions in maternal and child mortality have been also impressive. However, progress made at the national level also at times masks disparities at the sub-national level. Inequalities and disparities have been increasing and are accompanied by new forms of poverty and vulnerability that will require greater attention in the coming years.
What are key population issues that Viet Nam needs to pay attention in the coming years?
Viet Nam is undergoing a unique demographic period. On the one hand, we have the largest cohort of people below the age of 24 in the history of Viet Nam, while at the same time ageing is on the rise, and there is an imbalanced sex ratio at birth in some regions of the country. Internal migration has increased at an unprecedented rate over the last two decades, with substantive impacts on the country’s economic development.
Viet Nam has made substantial progress, integrating family planning into the general health service system, while further strengthening safe motherhood and newborn health services. However, certain population groups, such as adolescents, young and unmarried people, migrants and ethnic minority people, have limited access to sexual and reproductive health. Furthermore, migration and urbanization are fast emerging trends. Indeed, all these demographic trends already have and will continue to have well into the future huge development implications.
Do you have any recommendations for Viet Nam, particularly from other countries' experiences?
Viet Nam is developing a new Population Law taking into account national lessons and experiences from the Population Ordinance implementation as well as lessons learned from other countries dealing with the consequences of a rapid population dynamic transition, low fertility and policies response. Although not many countries have developed population laws, let me take this opportunity to highlight four key issues that are important for UNFPA and the international community as we go forward:
Firstly, we need the law to address the population issues of Viet Nam for the next 20 and 30 years - a critical period of demographic transition. Therefore, the Population Law should be forward-looking and focus on responding to these changes and their development implications.
Secondly, the new Population Law should be based on the Principles as adopted and outlined in the Programme of Action of the 1994 ICPD, to which Viet Nam is a signatory. The ICPD reaffirmed that "all couples and individuals have the right to decide freely and responsibly the number, timing and spacing of their children, and to have the information and means to do so". This phrase should form the basis of all population-related development programmes. So, we call upon all concerned to ensure that the Population Law focuses on improving the health and well-being of all women and men, girls and boys, ensures the rights and choices of different groups of population, aims at improving the quality of life of the entire of population, and makes investments in the young population a top priority, while not neglecting the needs of the elderly.
Thirdly, the new Population Law must ensure that all population groups, regardless of age, sex, marital or income status, or geographical location or ethnicity have equal access to sexual and reproductive health information and services, including family planning. We should make the Population Law rights-based and let it squarely focus on universal and equitable access to sexual and reproductive health for all population groups.
And last but not least, the new Population Law must develop a legal basis for the integration of population variables into all development policies and sectoral planning to ensure that the needs of different population groups, particularly vulnerable groups, to be addressed in all development sectors.
What will UNFPA support Viet Nam in the development of the new population law?
As a leading UN agency on population and reproductive health, UNFPA is happy to support the Government in developing population policies which are an integral part of the country's national socio-economic development and which fully conform to the Principles of the ICPD PoA and other relevant international conventions, to which the Government of Viet Nam is a signatory.
Read the full interview in Vietnamese in the Family and Society newspaper