The poor and vulnerable groups are often not aware of their rights and face great challenges in accessing legal assistance. Many of them cannot afford the services of a lawyer. Their only option is to find a legal aid lawyer but not all can benefit from legal aid services.

This concern was raised by participants at a legal forum co-hosted in Ha Noi on 13 December 2018 by the Ministry of Justice, the United Nations and the EU Delegation in Viet Nam.

The legal forum focused on the protection of the rights and interests of poor people and vulnerable groups and measures to ensure law enforcement. This is part of the programme “EU Justice and Legal Empowerment” (EUJULE) that aims to increase access to justice for women, children and vulnerable groups, including ethnic minorities and poor people.

During the forum, experts presented Viet Nam’s updated legal regulations and shared international experience in securing legal aid and the implementation of the laws to protect and support poor people and vulnerable groups. 

“A protected legal framework is clearly the starting point but equally important is ensuring implementation of that legal framework for the protection of poor people and vulnerable groups,” Dr Catherine Phuong, UNDP Assistant Resident Representative in Viet Nam, emphasized. 

“Supporting poor people and vulnerable groups is a priority of Viet Nam,” said Mr Nguyen Khanh Ngoc, Vice Minister of Justice. “The Government will further work to ensure that poor people and vulnerable groups are not excluded from the benefits of development and can play an active role in the social, cultural and political activities”.

Addressing the forum, Ambassador Bruno Angelet, Head of the Delegation of the European Union to Viet Nam, highlighted the importance of involving active and responsible citizens in ensuring the information on the rights and access to justice for vulnerable groups, as well as promoting the partnership between the State, citizens and civil society organizations.

The Universal Declaration of Human Rights, adopted 70 years ago, includes the fundamental guarantee that everyone should have the right to a fair and public trial by an independent and impartial tribunal. However, most of the people who can’t enjoy these fundamental rights and guarantees often belong to the poorest and most vulnerable groups, including victims of gender-based violence, children, persons with disabilities, ethnic minority groups and LGBTI persons.

“Access to justice for the poor and vulnerable groups is not just a human rights issue but also closely related to the implementation of the Sustainable Development Goals,” UN Resident Coordinator Kamal Malhotra said. “Through EUJULE, we will seek to increase access to justice for vulnerable groups to ensure that No One is Left Behind”.

Participants in the forum are from the Party, the National Assembly, Government ministries, Viet Nam Lawyer Association, Vietnamese Lawyers Federation, academia, provinces, Women’s Union, local legal aid centres as well as development partners. The legal forum has been an annual exchange between Việt Nam and its international partners since 2004. 

*The EU Justice and Legal Empowerment Programme in Viet Nam (EU JULE) is funded by the European Union with financial contributions from UNDP and UNICEF and is implemented by these two UN agencies in partnership with the Ministry of Justice of Viet Nam.

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