Speech By UNDP Deputy Country Director, Mr. Bakhodir Burkanov at the workshop on International Experience on Environmental Law

18 Feb 2014

Event:         International Experience on Environmental Law
Location:    Movenpick hotel, Ha Noi

Mr. Phan Xuân Dũng, Chairman of the National Assembly Committee of Science, Technology and Environment,
Mr. Vo Tuan Nhan, Vice-Chairman of the Committee of Science, Technology and Environment
Mr. Le Ke Son, Deputy Director-General, Viet Nam Environment Agency, MONRE
Honourable Deputies of the National Assembly,
Representatives from ministries and development partner organizations
Ladies and gentlemen:

First of all I would like to wish you all a successful New Year: Chúc mừng năm mới, Mã đáo thành công!

I would also like to thank the Committee of Science, Technology and Environment of the National Assembly and the Ministry of Natural Resources and Environment for organizing today’s Policy Dialogue on environmental protection law, and for this opportunity to address you on this occasion.

This dialogue is both timely and of great importance, especially as new environmental protection issues have emerged, such as high-profile cases of industrial pollution and extraction of mineral resources. Effects of climate change and other multi-sectoral development challenges have also gained prominence. These issues have affected the lives and livelihoods of local people, and have raised concerns amongst the population about environmental challenges in Viet Nam.

I am pleased to welcome Ms. Masnellyarti Hilman, former Vice-Minister of Natural Resources and Environment of Indonesia, and Ms. Lixia Zheng of Tsinghua University, Beijing. We also welcome other experts, who will share their insights on formulating and implementing environmental legislation at today’s policy dialogue.

Viet Nam has achieved many of the Millennium Development Goals targets ahead of 2015. It has also made a significant contribution to the post-2015 development debates by citing a cleaner environment and a more environmentally sustainable growth model as key aspects of the new development paradigm. This holds great significance for Viet Nam since MDG 7 on environmental sustainability is one of the few that the country is unlikely to achieve, especially the targets on clean water supply, sanitation, and biodiversity. In addition, there are significant – and in some cases rising – disparities among provinces and populations groups. This calls for a top-notch environmental law, and highlights the importance of law implementation and law enforcement.

UNDP commends Viet Nam for the inclusion of separate chapters on civil society organizations and climate change in the draft Law on Environmental Protection. The draft Law has been prepared based on a thorough research, consultations, and international best practices. UNDP is proud to have enabled these studies and preparation of the draft Law.

The current draft is comprehensive and is likely to position Viet Nam as a good regional example. In the context of this policy dialogue, I would like to make four suggestions for your consideration ahead of the finalization of the draft Law.

Firstly, the Law should ensure consistency and harmonization in State management and national development planning. An option of assigning a single ministry to take lead on both State environmental management and the integrated and harmonized environmental plans should be seriously considered. A truly effective environmental protection needs to ensure integration and harmonization of all planning processes, among related resources such as Land, Water, Biodiversity, Minerals, and Marine and Coastal resources, as well as integration of these plans into socio-economic development planning and defence planning.

Secondly, while the draft Law recognizes the general rights and responsibilities of civil society organizations and local communities in environmental protection, the Law should enable active participation of citizens and people’s organizations in environmental impact assessment as well as monitoring environmental pollution. It can define more clearly how a community is a legal entity, for example, the smallest unit of village, known as "Thon" in which the head is nominated by all the people and is recognized by Vietnamese legal system. With more specific definitions about who can represent the rights of affected people, the Law would enable the community to play an active role as a legal entity.

Thirdly, Viet Nam’s legislative frameworks and policies have recognized gender equality as an underlying principle, and the Law on Environmental Protection should also institutionalize the formal rights and responsibilities of women, girls and women’s organizations in environmental protection and natural resources management. Women continue to make significant contributions to environmental protection and should be enabled to also effectively participate in the decision-making processes at all levels.

Fourthly, recognizing the special importance and focus of the Law on Environmental Protection, lawmakers may consider putting in place innovative supervision mechanisms to enhance the oversight and monitoring the enforcement of the Law. This should include both regular visits and intermittent spot checks in order to timely assess situation in the field and identify potential problems. The Law should enable effective participation of media and local people, and ensure open and transparent flow of information relating to the enforcement of the Law and monitoring its implementation.

Ladies and Gentlemen,
We are pleased to see that many of these issues have been highlighted in the excellent appraisal document of the current draft Law prepared by the Committee of Science, Technology and Environment.

I hope that the information and discussions today will contribute to the knowledge and experience of the National Assembly members in their deliberations on this important Law for the benefit of the people and communities across Viet Nam.
Xin cảm ơn va chúc sức khoẻ.