Speech at the legal empowerment asia partnership annual meeting

27 Aug 2012

Speaker: Mr. Bakhodir Burkhanov, Country Director a.i., UNDP Viet Nam
Date:       27 August 2012
Event:     Legal empowerment asia partnership annual meeting

Mr. Pham Quoc Anh, President of the Vietnam Lawyers’ Association,

Country delegates,

Ladies and gentlemen:

It is my great pleasure to welcome you all to Hanoi and to the third regional meeting of the Legal Empowerment Asia Partnership.  It is a privilege to join the Vietnam Lawyers’ Association and UNDP’s Asia-Pacific Regional Centre in hosting this regional event in Viet Nam.

In 2008, the Commission on Legal Empowerment of the Poor concluded in its final report that nearly four billion people are excluded from the protection of the rule of law.  Too often, instead of being a protective shield for their livelihoods, their jobs, their land and enterprises, the law can be an inaccessible ‘dead letter’, or even worse, a threat hanging over their heads.  As the Commission said, “Poverty can only be reduced if governments give all citizens, especially the poor, a legitimate stake in the protections provided by the legal system, which should not be the privilege of the few but the right of everyone.”

The Viet Nam Lawyers’ Association has for many years played a key role in supporting access to justice for poor and vulnerable groups at grassroots level, and for more than 5 years has been a close partner of UNDP in our legal empowerment work. In fact, UNDP and VLA have just signed our new three-year project making this event our first public engagement under the new project. I am therefore especially delighted that we could join hands to host this meeting.

The presence of delegates from 12 countries from the Asia-Pacific region in addition to a strong and diverse delegation from Viet Nam is a testament to the vitality and importance of legal empowerment work in this region. It is heartening to see representatives from Governments, civil society and academia in the audience. Together with development agencies, they are all essential partners in legal empowerment. Over the next three days we will have a chance to reflect on the diversity of their work that ultimately promotes human development and helps poor people break out of the vicious circles of poverty. Throughout this meeting I would like us to keep two essential questions in mind:

Firstly, what needs to be done – by each of us playing our different roles – to strengthen the understanding and the reach of legal empowerment in each country and in the region as a whole?  Which strategies are proving most effective in bringing the law into life, and turning rights into realities?

Secondly, what particular role should we – the Legal Empowerment Asia Partnership – be playing in the future?  What is the comparative advantage of LEAP?  How can we best support the work being done on the ground across Asia-Pacific?  How should we organize ourselves and decide on our work as a regional partnership in the future?  How do we relate to and collaborate with other regional actors, such as the Asian Consortium for Human Rights-Based Approach to Access to Justice, and the Open Society Justice Initiative, both of whom we are happy to see represented at this event.

I hope that one tangible result of this meeting will be some clear and concrete answers to those questions, with some agreed ways forward to ensure that LEAP can play its part in strengthening the work of legal empowerment throughout our region, and to act as an inspiration for legal empowerment work elsewhere in the world.

I wish all participants a successful, enjoyable and productive meeting. To our country delegates, once again, a warm welcome to Hanoi. I hope your visit to Viet Nam will be a memorable one.

Thank you for your attention.