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Friday, 22 January 2016 09:22
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Vietnam’s new position in the international community after its implementation of the national report on human rights

(LLCT) - Vietnam’s Human Rights Report was unanimously approved under the Universal Periodic Review (UPR) by 47 member countries of the Human Rights Council (HRC) and in the presence of 93 member countries of the United Nations (UN) and many international and non-governmental organizations on the 20th of June 2014 at the headquarters of the UN in Geneva. The event showed the international community’s appreciation of Vietnam’s efforts and achievements in delivering human rights and marked Vietnam’s steady progress in international integration and human rights dialogue and cooperation. It also implied that Vietnam was a good example of commitment, effort, and achievement in human rights on international scale.

The UPR is one of the most important mechanisms of the UN HRC. It was first operation in 2008 with the aim of reviewing the performance, protection and promotion of human rights in all member countries of the UN regardless of their size or level of development. The review takes place every four and a half years. The UPR adheres to the principles of dialogue, cooperation, equality, objectivity, transparency, non-confrontation and non-politicalization. It aims to promote the fulfillment of human rights duties and commitments and enhance countries’ human rights capacity through consultation, technical support, and the sharing of experience.

In order to implement the UPR, the HRC established the Working Group led by its chairman. All member countries of the UN participate in the group. A group of three member countries of the HRC are tasked with providing support for countries which are being reviewed and preparing reports. Each meeting session of the Working Group discusses three official documents: a national report of less than 20 pages long each, submitted by countries under review; a report on situation and recommendation provided by UN organs; and an information update, which is no more than 10 pages long, from national human rights bodies and non-governmental organizations prepared by the Office of the High Commissioner for Human Rights.

Review at the Working Group takes the form of dialogue, in which the country under review presents its national report and answers questions or comments by member countries. Any interested member country of the UN can participate in such a review, raise questions, or make recommendations. The Working Group then considers approving the report on the review session before submitting it to the HRC.

The UPR reviewing procedure is only complete when the report made by the Working Group is examined by the HRC at its plenary session in which any interested country and international and non-governmental organizations can participate and make a speech. What is most important is that at such a session, the country under review must either accept or acknowledge the recommendations made at the review session held by the Working Group. This is considered to be one of the measures of the seriousness, goodwill, and cooperation of the country under review with the UPR in particular and international cooperation in human rights in general. After the report is approved, the country under review must be responsible for implementing the accepted recommendations and report to the HRC on such implementation in the next cycle of review.

Vietnam has been taking part in the UPR in a serious, constructive and responsible manner since 2009. The second cycle of UPR review for Vietnam began in February 2014 at the Working Group. Before that, preparation for the review session was made by relevant ministries and sectors with the Ministry of Foreign Affairs taking the lead. Having drawn experience from the first cycle, Vietnam’s second cycle UPR national report was carefully prepared and was subject to extensive consultation from ministries, sectors and organizations in charge of implementing recommendations and from political, social, UN and international organizations in Vietnam.

Because of its efforts, achievements and experience in human rights, Vietnam’s review session received speeches from 106 countries who appreciated the country’s openness, cooperation, positiveness, achievements in the 30 years of renovation and positive development in the 2009 - 2014 period. They made 227 recommendations on different fields including socio-economic development, judicial reform, further promotion of individual rights and freedoms, realization of the Millennium Development Goals, sharing of human rights experience, and contribution to the region and world in terms of human rights. The Working Group unanimously approved the report on the Vietnam review session and submitted it to the HRC. It also set the deadline for the country responding to the recommendations at the HRC’s meeting session where the report would be endorsed.

Given that context, the meeting session to endorse the Vietnam UPR Report at the 26th HRC on the 20th of June 2014 was of importance to Vietnam’s participation in UPR and received attention from the international community. As a positive, res-ponsible and serious participant, the Ministry of Foreign Affairs and relevant ministries and sectors made elaborate, serious, and detailed preparations for the endorsing session including reviewing and studying acceptable recommendations and submitted them to the Prime Minister. Various ministries and sectors from central to local levels simultaneously carried out activities to further promote people’s physical and spiritual lives. These were important preconditions for the HRC endorsing the report.

At the meeting session and in the presence of 47 member countries of the HRC as well as a good number of member countries of the UN and interested international and non-governmental organizations, Vietnam announced 182 recommendations it accepted out of the 227 recommendations it received from the Working Group in February 2014. The rate of acceptance was high compared to ones of other countries which participated in the UPR. This showed Vietnam’s serious and open attitude towards international comments and its priority and determination to ensure and promote human rights for each and every Vietnamese citizen. On the same occasion, with the approval of the Prime Minister, the Vietnamese delegation submitted to the HRC Vietnam’s plan for implementing the 182 accepted recommendations. The plan included detailed assignment for, and periodical reporting, by relevant ministries and sectors with the aim of practically and effectively carrying out the accepted recommendations and further promoting Vietnamese people’s human rights and freedoms.      

Vietnam’s respect for the UPR and its international commitments and holistic approach received appreciation from UN countries and organizations present at the meeting session. Many of the countries which made speeches expressed their support of Vietnam’s effort and determination to further ensure human rights in the country. They affirmed that Vietnam’s sense of dialogue, construction, and cooperation was a great example at the HRC, especially given its high UPR recommendation acceptance rate. ASEAN countries expressed their hope that Vietnam would continue to make further contributions to the joint efforts of the Southeast Asian region, particularly in cooperation through such mechanisms as the ASEAN Intergovernmental Commission on Human Rights and the ASEAN Commission on the Promotion and Protection of the Rights of Women and Children. Many Asian and African countries highly regarded Vietnam’s admirable achievements in socio-economic development, poverty reduction and sustainable development. They recommended that Vietnam continue sharing its precious experience in those areas with the international community, especially with developing countries. Most notably, Vietnam’s 2013 Constitution and its implementation of the document in an effort to strengthen the rule of law and laws on human rights were widely discussed in speeches made at the meeting session. Many countries highly regarded the fact that human rights were comprehensively covered in the 2013 Constitution. They appreciated the meticulous process of drafting the document and consulting with the public before it was submitted to the National Assembly for approval. In addition, they mentioned Vietnam’s achievements in ensuring the rights of vulnerable groups such as women, children, elderly people, ethnic minority people, and the disabled; as well as its plan to participate in fundamental international Conventions on human rights such as those on the disabled and anti-torture.

At the endorsing session, many NGOs at the UN made objective and positive comments about Vietnam’s human rights records. They also mentioned difficulties or challenges Vietnam was faced with in order to emphasize the significance of its achievements in, and contributions to, the ensurance and promotion of human rights. Many of the organizations operational in Vietnam provided concrete evidence of the country’s achievements in ensuring human rights, especially given the context of how Vietnam was a developing country with a low starting point and prone to natural disasters, and having just escaped the wars for its independence and freedom. Most speeches by the NGOs called for continued support for Vietnam so it could further improve its people’s physical and spiritual lives.

The HRC quickly and unanimously approved Vietnam’s second cycle UPR report, which marked a milestone in the country’s efforts to ensure and promote human rights, contributed to further dialogue and sharing and helped the international community have a better understanding of Vietnam’s human rights policies, efforts and achievements.

The approval of Vietnam’s first cycle UPR report in 2009 and its second cycle report in 2014 is a progressive process and shows how consistent the country’s policies on human rights are. During that process, the entire Vietnamese political system including the relevant ministries, agencies, and sectors from central to local levels have paid serious attention to the implementation of the UPR. As a result, human rights have been further ensured and promoted in the country. Regional and international communities have acknowledged this achievement.

The successful implementation of the UPR and positive results at the meeting sessions of the Working Group and HRC have further affirmed Vietnam’s position as an innovative and dynamic partner which is willing to participate in dialogue, cooperation, and extensive integration; and to contribute to issues of common concern of the international community including human rights. Vietnam deserves to be an examplar on the international scale for its consistent policies and strong commitment as regards human rights. Its successful implementation of the UPR once again confirmed its voice and responsibility for the common international cause of human rights, especially as Vietnam is now a member of the HRC for the 2014-2016 period.

In light of these successes, in the times to come, relevant ministries and agencies need to develop plans and detailed road maps for their respective areas so as to implement the 182 recommendations Vietnam has accepted. Given its consistent policies on human rights, Vietnam needs to introduce more measures and policies and allocate more resources in order to better ensure such rights in accordance with international norms and conventions on human rights. Its priorities include strengthening its legal system based on the 2013 Constitution, carry out administrative reform, promote democratic rights, intensify the rule of law, implement national programs and strategies for increasing vulnerable groups’ access to social welfare programs or services and enhance human and civic rights education. On the international scale, the country needs to continue to participate, in a positive and responsible manner, in the common work of the HRC and UN, join in some other international conventions on human rights, and promote its cooperation with UN human rights mechanisms and other UN member countries and international partners for the sake of better ensuring its peoples’ rights and freedoms.

 

Hoang Chi Trung

Head of the Department of International Organizations,

Ministry for Foreign Affairs

 

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