Speech at the UNDP - Viet Nam Lawyers' Association Project Signing Ceremony

Sep 29, 2006

Speaker: Mr. John Hendra, United Nations Resident Coordinator
Date:       Ha Noi, 29 September 2006
Event:     Signing Ceremony of the VLA-UNDP Project Document on “Strengthening Capacity of the Viet Nam Lawyers Association”
Mr. Pham Quoc Anh, President of the Viet Nam Lawyers’ Association  
Distinguished member of the Viet Nam Lawyers’ Association  
Excellency Ambassadors and Representatives of Development Partners
Distinguished guests

Ladies and Gentlemen
It is my great pleasure as the United Nations Resident Coordinator to represent UNDP today at this signing of a very important project for Strengthening the Capacity of the Viet Nam Lawyers Association.  
First, I would like to thank the Viet Nam Lawyer’s Association, the various Government Ministries and colleagues at UNDP and with financial support of UK DFID for all of their hard work and commitment to get us to this point.
This is also a special privilege for me today, as it is the first cooperation agreement between UNDP and a Vietnamese counterpart that I am signing since I began my post here in Viet Nam two months ago.
Viet Nam clearly recognizes the importance of equal access to legal services for all citizens. Access to legal services is a fundamental element of legal and judicial reforms based on the rule of law.
This project we have signed this morning will support the Viet Nam Lawyer’s Association to make even greater contributions to the ongoing legal and judicial reform agendas in Viet Nam -- to provide greater access to legal information and services; to increase skills of the legal community; to increase participation, and to play a more active role in the legal reform process.  
In short, this project will make an important contribution to the Rule of Law in Viet Nam. The Rule of Law is of crucial importance for effective development outcomes, for human rights realization and for successful anti-corruption efforts. What’s more, the Rule of Law can only contribute to the realization of rights if it is applied impartially and universally. UNDP supports the continued development of a capable and healthy legal profession. Organizations like the Viet Nam Lawyers’ Association can play a key role in ensuring that judges, lawyers and prosecutors adhere to the highest ethical standards for the benefit of all people.
Viet Nam has made significant progress in pursuing judicial reforms towards the development of a professional and independent judiciary. Of course, it will take time and much needs to be done to achieve this goal, but the strong political commitment exhibited and progress made have shown that Viet Nam is moving in the right direction. UNDP is very happy to form this partnership with the Viet Nam Lawyers’ Association as it represents the legal profession in Viet Nam and will play a key role in accelerating progress going forward.
Clearly, the Rule of Law cannot be upheld without a capable and healthy legal profession which is also essential for driving key core reform initiatives, especially with regard to anti-corruption efforts. Accessing higher legal standards will have an important impact upon marginal social groups -- particularly the poor. In this regard, VLA has an important role to play in ensuring high ethical standards of legal services delivered by judges, prosecutors and lawyers to all Vietnamese people. To support this, VLA’s existing legal aid centres will be strengthened and mobile legal aid clinics will also be established to reach the poorest and most remote populations.
I would like to thank our colleagues from DFID for their financial contributions and commitment to this important project and our other partners here this morning like SDC, CIDA and SIDA for this support to UNDP, support to legal reform and broader governance work. Finally, I would like to thank the President of the VLA and distinguished colleagues for your commitment and partnership. In closing, I would like to reconfirm UNDP’s commitment to deepen this very close cooperation to make this VLA initiative a great success and the first step in what we hope will be a long partnership to support the legal community in enhancing legal reform in Viet Nam.
Thank you for being with us this morning