Speech at the Biannual Conference and Legal Partnership Forum

22 May 2007

Speaker: Mr. John Hendra, United Nations Resident Coordinator
Date:       Tuesday, May 22, 2007
Event:      Biannual Conference and Legal Partnership Forum

Honourable Minister of Justice Mr. Uong Chu Luu

Deputy Chairman of the Office of the Central Committee of the Party, Mr. Nguyen Van Quyen,  

Director of the International Cooperation Department, Mr. Nguyen Huy Ngat

Senior officials from the Government and the National Assembly, colleagues from donor agencies, the United Nations and from the media

Ladies and Gentlemen,
 
Let me first express my sincere thanks on behalf of the United Nations to the Honourable Minister of Justice Uong Chu Luu and project staff for organising this forum at this critical moment in Viet Nam.
 
With the election of the 12th legislature of the National Assembly this past Sunday, it is indeed an opportune time to be here this meeting to reconfirm our commitment to policy dialogue, legal reform and capacity development efforts with the National Assembly. The previous legislature set an impressive precedent of passing legislative acts and we in the United Nations, and I believe in the broader donor community, feel that it is important that this new Assembly strives to maintain the same level of legislative productivity.
 
Ladies and Gentlemen,

In short, ensuring the continuity and deepening of legal and judicial reform in this country is vital. The Judicial Reform and Legal Reform Strategies, and their subsequent Action Plans, set-out an ambitious reform agenda touching on key aspects of institutions, codes and norms. Legal and judicial reforms are essential components of Viet Nam’s overall reform agenda, so as to guarantee the rule of law, the rights of all citizens to have access to justice and judicial administration and, as such, to contribute to a well-regulated and stable society.
 
This forum then is an important opportunity to reinforce the legal and judicial dialogue between the Government and the donor community, while seeking new opportunities for cooperation to strengthen the coordination of our efforts.
 
Viet Nam has made significant efforts and achieved a good deal in both legal and judicial reform. The recent approval by the Standing Committee of the National Assembly of the long-awaited Action Plan for the implementation of the Legal Systems Development Strategy (LSDS), is something we are particularly happy to see take place.
 
As we know, the Action Plan is a potentially powerful tool to further improve and develop the quality of the legal system. In particular, we hope it can contribute to ensuring uniformity between legal normative documents and constitutional norms and international obligations, including UN Human Rights Conventions and Treaties to which Viet Nam is a signatory. We believe the Action Plan can also help to address shortcomings in the legislative process, including through the promotion of public participation in the drafting and review of new laws and by strengthening the legal drafting skills of civil servants in central and local law departments.
 
We know that uncertainties and contradictions in the legal framework have at times led to inconsistent and arbitrary implementation of laws – especially at the local level. This requires more than improving the quality of the legal framework, but also further strengthening and capcity development of critical judicial institutions – the courts, the procuracy, lawyers and the legal profession, the police and the prison system. Special attention should also be given to improve the dissemination system, legal education and legal aid for the poor.
 
The LSDS and the Judicial Reform Strategy are complementary. And the success of either one is ultimately dependent on the political commitment to their implementation through the allocation of financial and human resources, as well appropriate coordination arrangements. With regard to the latter, we would like to urge the Government to further strengthen the steering mechanism for the LSDS.  
 
This morning then let me reaffirm the commitment of the United Nations and the international donor community to continue to support the Government of Viet Nam in its efforts to accelerate, to expand and to deepen legal and judicial reforms in this country. Apart from the multi-donor project on the LSDS supported by Denmark, Ireland, Ireland, Norway, Sweden and UNDP, many donor agencies here are also supporting a range of projects on legal and judicial reform. The ability and willingness to coordinate such efforts is clearly a key factor in maximizing their impact and sustainability.  
 
In the spirit then of the Ha Noi Core Statement on Aid Effectiveness, we need concerted action to reinforce the policy dialogue and donor coordination on legal and judicial reform. This may include the organisation of regular, informal coordination meetings and policy seminars on key elements of the legal and judicial reform strategies, as well as the identification of further research and data gaps to strengthen the empirical basis for reform. We understand that the Ministry of Justice is ready to assume an important coordinating role for such efforts, supported by the multi-donor project on the LSDS.
 
In closing, I would like to again express our appreciation to Honourable Minister Luu and the project team for the hard work that went into making this forum happen today. I would also like to thank so many Government and donor partners for attending this morning. I’m sure your active participation will greatly contribute to the success of this forum and importantly to further progress on legal reform in Viet Nam.
 
Thank you very much for your kind attention