"Women - An Engine for an Asia of Dynamism, Development, Peace
and Prosperity"

June 5, 2003

Her Excellency Truong My Hoa
Vice President, Socialist Republic of Vietnam

Excellencies Asian Leaders,
Mr. Chairman,
Ladies and Gentlemen,

It gives me great pleasure to attend and address the 9th International Conference on "the Future of Asia" hosted by Nikkei. Tokyo provides an excellent venue for us to discuss the "Genesis of a New Asian Order", as it is the heart of Japan, which has served as an important economic engine of the region and will play an influential role in the region's future.

The past decades of vigorous and admirable growth at the world's highest growth rate have turned Asia into a global economic centre of most dynamic development. It was believed that the 21st century would be the century of Asia-Pacific. Asia has made use of the advances of the science-technology revolution and the positive sides of globalization. Especially, the region has developed its own development formula, which was export-oriented and market-friendly.

However, Asia in the final years of the 20th century was struck by the financial-monetary crisis, which undermined the significance of the region's development achievements. The crisis produced heavy socio-economic impacts on the region, which called for a serious and prompt review of the situation and of us. Among valuable lessons drawn, the importance of the sustainability of growth, the balance between social and economic development and the need for new models and development engines of our continent have been emphasized.

Globalization presents Asia with both enormous development opportunities and acute challenges. Cooperation and linkages have been expanded at various layers, domains and magnitudes. As these bonds become denser and more intertwined, the level of interdependence among nations will also be on the increase, and hence greater economic volatility. Globalization also results in tougher competition on a global scale. Countries, therefore, must be proactive and dynamic in advancing international integration by incessantly raising their competitiveness, maximizing internal resources with special attention paid to human resource development, and developing the knowledge-based economy.

The rich-poor gap within and among countries will be widened, as opportunities brought about by globalization are not equally distributed. Asia accommodating two third of the poor in the world will be most affected by the negative impacts of globalization. Poverty constitutes a threat preventing Asia from maximizing its potential for economic development, eroding stability and undermining social progress. Obviously, poverty reduction plays an essential role in Asia's sustainable development.

In addition, conflicts and terrorism continue to be potential threats to security, stability and peace in the region, the pre-conditions for economic development and prosperity.

The future of Asia relies on how today we build on the opportunities and respond to current challenges. To take the advantage of emerging cooperation opportunities in the region, and turn Asia into the world's development hub of robust growth, first of all, peace and stability must be maintained in the region. Then, the governments should express their deep interest in securing sustainable development, striking a balance between social and economic goals, ensuring equality for all people, man and women, and paying special attention to most vulnerable groups in the process of development. It can be affirmed that in our world, there exists not only market, but also invaluable humane values, which require our joint efforts to protect and develop.

As globalization evolves, trade and investment liberalization and economic and technological cooperation are closely linked and impose great impacts on women. Women and children are most vulnerable to economic, political and social changes, such as poverty, social instability, conflicts and even natural disasters. Although knowledgeable human resources are key to economic successes, the creative potential and knowledge of women, who make up half of the world, have yet to be fully unleashed.

Two third of the poor in Asia are women. For women living in rural areas, impoverishment is especially acute. This will be a barrier to human and social development, as the children of poor women will possibly continue finding themselves in the circle of poverty. To break this circle, it is essential to raise women's role in the political, legislative, cultural, economic and societal domains.

In this context, women's wide-ranging participation and increasing influence has emerged as an important factor in bringing about changes in Asia. Gradually overcoming gender bias and historical and cultural barriers, Asian women have mastered their own lives and family, and step-by-step increased their position in the society. They are now the leadership of scientific research institutions and educational establishments with worthy contribution made to the strong development of science and technology, which leads to basic changes in mode of production permissive to the strong increase in productivity and improvement of the people's life. They also engage in managing enterprises, corporations and companies, as well as directly in national economic activities and contributing to the miracle of the dynamic development of their countries. In addition, an increasing numbers of women are engaging political activities at all levels, local and central, and in all of legislative, judicial and executive institutions. Moreover, Asia is proud of her women leaders who are joining hands in building an ever grown and prosperous Asia for the sake of peace, prosperity and happiness in the world.

In its research on Prospects in the 21st century, the UNESCO stated that "women are steering the world". Reality shows that in the context of globalization, women are playing an increasingly important role in building and maintaining peace and social harmony, in sustainable economic development and the preservation and development of national cultural identities and family values.

In addition, if the role of women is widely recognized by the society and their potentials fully unleashed by policies and attention of and favorable conditions created by their countries, contribution made by women will be profound, which, in turn, will strengthen and make the society healthy and accountable, and the country stable since women are the important building blocks of families that are the basic cells of all societies and economies.

Perhaps, with the role as mothers who take care of the family, women are always given the strength with endless energy. They also possess alternative standpoint, approach and vision to the challenges posed by their social assignments. These factors, together with the strong desire and sense of responsibility of women, are the great internal strength that should be capitalized to enable them to make worthy and effective contribution to national building and development.

Women also act as actress in making the mind and behavior of the people absorb peaceful culture by their social activities and relations, thus contributing to the maintenance of peace and stability in the region, which is the prerequisite of a cooperative environment conducive to dynamic development of countries in the region and the world over.

The Vietnamese history of national building and defense is imbued with the great contribution of the Vietnamese Women. The Vietnamese women have accomplished remarkable feats in the sacred resistance wars of the Vietnamese people to safeguard their homeland and achieve national independence and liberation. Today, tens of thousands of the Vietnamese heroic mothers, who have sacrificed their lives and beloved ones for the cause of national liberation, are engaging in economic, political and social activities in their residential areas. Their undertakings are the historical evidence of the heroic, indomitable, kind-hearted and hardworking Vietnamese women.

Having suffered from the huge losses caused by the wars, more than any one else, the Vietnamese women treasure and appreciate the true value of peace and national independence and sovereignty. Accordingly, the Vietnamese women fully understand the standpoint and expectation of the women and people in the region for a peaceful and stable environment conducive to cooperation, prosperity and development.

In the new era, like other Asian women, the Vietnamese women continue to establish themselves in the cause of national reform. Accounting for over 51% of the Vietnamese population, the Vietnamese women are actively participating in all economic, social, cultural and political activities in their country. They provide not only the important labor forces but also the outstanding leaders of government agencies and enterprises. According to our statistics, women account for nearly 20% of leaders and corporate managers. They are also the heads of 30% farmer households in Vietnam. The Vietnamese women are especially active in managing small and medium enterprises, in labor-intensive industries and in hunger eradication and poverty reduction.

The role of women in the economic transition also reflects clearly in the magnitude that women engage in the decision-making process and state affairs. In Vietnam, women have been active and become nucleus actors of some political and social organizations. The numbers of women who are the leadership of mass organizations have been on the increase, accounting for 30% of the members of the executive committees at all levels. Those are the potential contingent of women leaders. Vietnam stands the first in Asia and second in the Asia-Pacific region in terms of women parliamentarians with the rate of 27.31%.

Over the past time, women have made enormous contributions to the socio-economic development in Vietnam. Thanks to the achievements recorded, we are now in good position to care for women and promote their advancement. We highly value the assistance of the international community to Vietnam in the process of doimoi and economic reform. I would also like to take this opportunity, on behalf of more than 40 million women, the Government and people of Vietnam, to express the profound gratitude to the Japanese Government and people for providing financial and technical assistance to our reform process and economic development even when the Japanese economy is in difficulty. That invaluable assistance is not only significant for Vietnam to achieve high and sustainable economic growth but also contributes to enhancing the role of Vietnamese women. Technical assistance for human resource development, poverty reduction and infrastructure development programmes have helped increase women's access to development resources, narrow the gender gap and enhance women's capacity in economic development. In that regard, we look forward to the continued assistance of the Japanese Government and people to Vietnam in the reform process in general and the advancement of women in particular.

For its part, the Vietnamese Government always attaches great importance to advancing gender policies.

First, promoting gender equity. In 2002, the Vietnamese Government approved the National Strategy for the Advancement of Women 2001-2010 with the main goal of improving women's material and spiritual life, creating favorable conditions for women to implement their fundamental rights, participate fully and equally in all political, economic, cultural and social activities and benefit from them.

To realize this Strategy, the Vietnamese Government has established the National Committee for the Advancement of Women, the function of which is to strengthen the apparatus for women advancement at all levels and assist the Government in the formulation and implementation of gender policies. In addition, there are many other social institutions representing Vietnamese women such as the Women's Union, National Committee on Population, Family and Children. These institutions not only help create jobs for women, ensure their equal access to education and healthcare but also increase their participation in social activities. The Women's Union has organized many campaigns and training courses aimed at enhancing the capacity of female delegates in elections which helps them to be elected as parliamentarians and increase female representation in executive and legislative bodies.

Vietnamese women not only bring into full play their role in state administration and management of social and economic activities but also increase their influence in legislative bodies, the country's supreme power institutions, and supervising the operation of executive bodies and protecting people's legislative rights and interests.

Second, mainstreaming gender issues in the formulation and implementation of economic policies. The Vietnamese Government has approved the Comprehensive Growth and Poverty Reduction Strategy, which is welcomed by the international community. The Strategy not only reflects the comprehensive policies aimed at enhancing growth and reducing poverty but also underlines equality and social development, including the advancement of women and gender equity.

Third, enhancing the capacity of women in international economic integration. Vietnamese women have made enormous contributions to the process of international economic integration. As a member of ASEAN, APEC and ASEM, Vietnam is proactively participating in these organizations' activities and is negotiating for the WTO membership in the near future. In this process, Vietnamese women are making not only enormous contribution to the cause of national construction and development but also many efforts to deepen friendship and cooperation within ASEAN and between Vietnam and countries in the region and the world at large in the interests of peace, cooperation and development. In the context of globalization, regional and international integration, Vietnamese women in particular and women all over the world in general are facing many challenges during the their participation in various cooperation levels and forums. In that context, Vietnamese women are joining efforts to overcome challenges and assume national, regional and international responsibilities with more confidence.

In the process of development and international integration, we are of the view that in order to bring into full play women's roles and make the best use of their potentials, leaders at all levels need to adopt a right perception of women. At the same time, gender issues must be mainstreamed in socio-economic development strategies, as women are both beneficiaries and participants in the development process. The protection and advancement of women are closely related to sustainable development of a nation. Given globalization and the rapid development of information technology, Governments should double efforts to ensure women's access to advanced technology and narrow down the gender gap. As such, national and international human resource development programs targeting at women will positively contribute to the efficiency of gender policy, creating sustainable development and social harmony, at the same time providing skilled, well-qualified, potential, enthusiastic manpower who are accountable to the national destiny as well as the cause of building a world of peace, stability, prosperity and happiness. To that end, we hold that cooperation and assistance of people all over the world including women and international organizations in addressing gender issues is critical in sustaining and promoting development in each nation.

An Asia of sustainable development, peace and prosperity in the future will depend on our endeavors today, which cannot exclude the increasing contribution of Asian women.

Thank you for your attention.

Titles of speakers, names of companies, etc., were correct as of the time when the forum was held.