Chief of Mission Residence
Hanoi, Vietnam

THE VICE PRESIDENT:  Thank you very much.  And thank you for the work that you’ve been doing here in Vietnam, through USAID.  It is one of the important roles that our government plays in a diplomatic mission to support leaders such as those at this table to begin important work that is lifting up voices and lifting up all communities.

So thank you for your leadership, and I’m looking forward to our discussion.

I want to start by saying that — and I’ve been saying this a lot recently — but I do believe we are entering a new era in many ways, we as — in the world.  And it is in large part defined by the increasingly obvious nature of the interconnection and interdependence of people around (inaudible).  And in that way, I consider the interconnection and interdependence to be based on a number of issues, including the issue of human rights, the issue of equality, the issue of fairness.

And it is in that spirit that I am looking forward to this conversation, and also understanding that, in this new era, it is critical that if we are to take on the challenges that we face, that we must do it in a way that is collaborative, that we must empower leaders in every sector including, of course, government, but community leaders, business leaders, civic society leaders, if we are to maximize the resources we currently have in the interest of the empowerment of all people.

And we have seen great examples of this work here in Vietnam: Government agencies and the Live and Learn for Environment and Community that’s helped to reduce poverty.  The Ministry of Health and its tea time helped craft the draft — and draft — the transgender rights law. Disability-based organizations, community-based organizations, (inaudible) have worked with the local government to deliver mental health and social services.  And community advisory boards with expanding healthcare options across the country.  And I know that among the work that the leaders here do, it is also about women’s empowerment, as you mentioned, Ann Marie.

But there’s still more work to be done — a lot more work to be done.  And in doing that work and recognizing the work that needs to be done, it is important to know that you are not alone; that as a society, as a community — a global community — the support exists for you to do the courageous work that you do, and that we applaud you for doing the work that you do.
It is important to, of course, as it relates to the advocacy at this table, recognize that people with disabilities need full accessibility.  It is something that we are still working to achieve in the United States.  And (inaudible) is about allowing people the ability to reach their full potential.
Transgender people deserve and need equal access to healthcare services.  This is an issue that we still face in the United States, and it is an issue here in Vietnam, I know.  And we will work together and support you and the work you are doing in that regard.

Women need to live free of gender-based violence.  Again, this is the universal truth.  And we must all, regardless of gender, like to ensure that women live free of violence. 

And, of course, the society’s success requires empowering its people and ensuring the full participation of the (inaudible).  A society is at its strongest when everyone is able to participate.  A society is weaker when anyone is left out of the opportunity to participate.  That is the spirit with which I believe we are joined together today.

And I will state that the United States, especially through our work with USAID, is proud to support the kind of advocacy and leadership that is demonstrated by the leaders at this table. 

So thank you all, and I’m looking forward to our discussion.

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