Viet Nam makes efforts in promoting and protecting human rights

As published in Vietnam+ on 9 April 2013

With a view to contributing further to the joint efforts of the UN and the international community in promoting and protecting human rights on the world, Viet Nam has joined almost all important international conventions on human rights and made efforts to make basic human rights be respected and better ensured. Viet Nam News Agency interviewed Ms Pratibha Mehta, UN Resident Coordinator in Viet Nam, about Viet Nam’s efforts in promoting and protecting human rights, as well as the UN assistance to Viet Nam in this area.

On the occasion of the closing of the 22nd UN Human Right Council on 22 March in Geneva, what would be your comments on the implementation of the basic human rights?

As the UN High Commissioner for Human Rights, Navi Pillay, reminded us at the opening of this 22nd Session, we are celebrating the 20th Anniversary of the Vienna Declaration and Programme of Action. This is the most significant overarching human rights documents produced in the last quarter of a century, establishing the underlying principle that human rights are universal, indivisible, interdependent and interrelated, taking the key notion of universality a step further by committing States to the promotion and protection of all human rights for all people regardless of their political, economic, and cultural systems.

The so-called nine core-human rights treaties developed since the Second World War present a formidable legal framework for the protection and promotion of human rights. For the first time in history, States have accepted legal obligations to respect, protect and fulfill human rights and fundamental freedoms of each and every one of us. This commitment places the human being at the center and imposes restrictions on how States’ exercise their authority vis-à-vis people who live within their territories.

Despite the progress made since the Vienna Declaration, many human rights challenges remain unfulfilled, much work remains to be done until the promotion and protection of basic human rights and freedoms is made real without any prejudice and discrimination.

What do you think about Viet Nam efforts in contributing to promoting and protecting human rights on the world over the past several years?

Over the past few years the Government of Viet Nam has increased its engagement with international human rights mechanisms. These mechanisms are tasked to monitor the human rights situations around the world, including the compliance of Governments with core human rights treaties. For example, in 2009 Viet Nam subjected itself to the Human Rights Council Universal Periodic Review (UPR). The UPR is a peer-review process whereby a country undergoes a review of its human rights situation by other countries. Viet Nam has accepted as many as 93 out of a total of 123 recommendations made by other countries on the improvement of the human rights situation. Currently the Government is preparing for the second review to take place at the beginning of 2014.

As part of the Universal Periodic Review process, United Nations Country Teams and civil society organizations can also send their own independent assessments of the human rights situations in their respective countries to the Human Rights Council. The United Nations Country Team in Viet Nam will submit such a report providing an analysis of the human rights situation based on the UN’s development work with national partners.

There are also other encouraging recent developments, including proactive consultation on draft laws with stakeholders. For example, during the drafting of the law on handling of administrative sanctions,  sex workers and drug users had a chance to meet with the drafting committee; the current  Land Law amendment in which the Economic Committee of the National Assembly organized a workshop with Vietnamese NGOs to hear the voices of farmers; and the revisions to the Law on Marriage and Family, for which the drafting committee has conducted surveys and workshops with Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual and Transgender groups to consider issues such as the rights and interests of same sex couples and transgender.

The currently ongoing public consultations on the draft amended constitution is a good way of educating and listening to the public about the new constitutional amendments. The constitutional reform process provides a very good opportunity to Vietnam to further strength protection and promotion of human rights.

Viet Nam has ratified a number of international conventions on human rights and agreed on steps to implement them. How has the UN been assisting Viet Nam to implement its obligations in the framework of these conventions?

Viet Nam has ratified five out of nine UN core human rights treaties. They are the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights, the International Covenant on Economic, Social and Cultural Rights, the Convention on the Elimination of all Forms of Discrimination against Women, the Convention against all Forms of Racial Discrimination and the Convention on the Rights of the Child. In the past two years, with UN support, the Government submitted reports to four of the five treaty bodies that are tasked to monitor the compliance.

The UN is also providing support to the Government as it prepares a periodic report on the fifth, the Covenant on Civil and Political Rights. This report will provide an important baseline on the status of implementation of civil and political rights in Viet Nam which can be used to revise several important laws on civil and political rights, such as the law on referendum, the law on access to information…

Last year we launched our ‘One UN Plan for 2012 – 2016’, which assists the country to meet its national priorities and inter-governmental commitments. Our development cooperation is rights-based, which means that our support contributes to the protection and promotion of various rights of people.  In practical terms, the UN system provides technical assistance and capacity development, promotes evidence based advocacy and sharing of international best practices.

For example, during the revision of the law on the handling of administrative sanctions, UN agencies facilitated a number of key consultations that brought together civil society organizations, affected groups, drafting committee officials and committees of the National Assembly to review a number of key evidence-based recommendations. The adoption of the new Law in June 2012 marked an important step forward in the protection of rights and access to justice in Viet Nam.

Our work continues this year with support to the Supreme People’s Court and the Ministry of Justice to draft related sub laws, including procedures, a new decree on administrative sanctions in the area of public order, safety and security.

The UN is also supporting the Government to address gender based violence through a set of measures aimed at legislation development, development of social services and improving the capacity of Justice officials. We are also engaging in cooperation with national authorities on application of the international standards to address needs of women in justice, including those in prison.

Moving forward, the Government has reaffirmed their commitment to ratify the Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities, and the early accession to the Convention against Torture. The UN is currently supporting the Government to prepare for ratifying the Disability Convention, and we are also working with organizations of disabled people to ensure their right to participation in economic, social and political life is better reflected in public service delivery and national legislation.

Thank you sincerely.