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Ambassador Grete Lochen's Speech at the Interfaith Conference

On 14 October, Ambassador Grete Løchen attended the National Interfaith Conference in Vietnam to promote the role of faith-based organisations in environmental protection and climate change responses together with political leaders, and leaders from faith-based organizations of 16 religions in Vietnam. Below is the full text of Ambassador's address at the Conference.

| Hue, Vietnam

Dear President of the Central Committee of Fatherland Front Tran Thanh Man,  Deputy Prime Minister Dung, Minister of Natural resources and Environment, Ha , other Representatives from national and provincial authorities, members of Faith Based Organizations, representatives from NCA, ladies and gentlemen!

It is an honour for me to be invited and address you this morning.  This conference addresses two agendas which are both very close to my heart. Firstly, climate change which effects us all and which knows no borders. The key message must be global challenges need global solutions. Climate change and environmental degradation is one the biggest threats to development and social and economic growth. It is a cross cutting and cross sector problem, that requires cross cutting solutions and solid cooperation. Cooperation from all stakeholders is key to achieving sustainable solutions to climate challenges, and to make sure no one is left behind!

The Norwegian Embassy is already working closely with the Ministry of Natural Resources and Environment (MONRE) on different initiatives to protect the environment and the effect of climate change with a special focus on protecting the oceans. Both Vietnam and Norway are costal nations. We are both affected by more extreme weather. Both our economies are very much dependent upon a sustainable ocean economy. Protection and prevention of marine littering, such as plastics is key. If we do not act now there will be more plastic than fish in the ocean by 2050.

Secondly, my academic background is as a student of comparative religions. I have done in depths studies of all the great religions, Buddhism, Hinduism, Christianity, and Islam. In my professional career, I have been involved in interfaith dialogues in many countries. I have experienced and seen the strength of different faith based organizations (FBOs) working together to support vulnerable groups. In Norway FBOs of different religious beliefs contribute to the social and economic fabric of our welfare state through for example health services, education, employment and social services. FBOs may also have an important role to play in solving conflicts and mobilising support to peace efforts. We have to make sure that they are included as important stakeholders in peace processes. My experience after 30 years of service is that inclusion is key if we want to aim for lasting peace.

Of course FBOs have an important role to play in addressing global challenges such as climate change and environmental issues, both in raising awareness and knowledge at the community level as well as encouraging and supporting government initiatives.

That is why we gather here today at this conference with a wide range of stakeholders, representing government at national and provincial level, FOBs, the Fatherland Front, and from the international community.

What I’ve learned before coming here, is that the first conference on the role of FBOs in environmental protection and climate change responses was organized in 2015 by NCA VN and Central Committee of the Vietnam Fatherland Front.

The conference created an operating framework for recognized religious groups to formally partake and mobilize efforts in environmental protection and climate change response.

Since then, FBOs in all provinces of Vietnam have implemented projects and contributed to climate change response activities along with relevant departments, organisations and agencies in the provinces.

I would like to commend the valuable tripartite cooperation or the Triangulation  between NCA, FBOs and the Fatherlands Front, Central Committee (CCFF). Such tripartite cooperation is key to building trust between government representatives and leaders of religious organizations. The CCFF commitment and their ownership to the initiatives has provided a platform on which we have been able to connect all the recognised faith traditions in Vietnam. Such multifaith cooperation on environmental issues is rather unique and very encouraging.

I would also like to take the opportunity of thanking NCA for their long contribution in Vietnam. NCA has been active in Vietnam since 1994. NCA is one of the most reputable NGOs in Norway and I know them very well from my postings in countries such as Pakistan, Afghanistan and Palestine. They are committed and professional.

NCA Vietnam has contributed to building the institutional capacity of religious organizations here in Vietnam with a focus on emergency preparedness, in order for them to scale up their ability to provide basic services and local coordination in natural disasters.

Finally, I wish the conference success. I am here to learn and listen. Working together, sharing of information and experiences between all stakeholders is extremely important. Everyone in every country in the world needs to feel ownership and responsibility if we are going to address successfully the consequences of climate change.

Thank you!