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Vietnam’s views and policies in relationship with the United Nations

(LLCT) - Right after gaining national independence (1945), President Ho Chi Minh  and the Party intended to have Vietnam join the United Nations. However, more than 30 years later, in 1977, Vietnam officially became a member of the United Nations. Since then, we have proactively, actively, and responsibly participated in the United Nations, making important contributions to solving global issues, thereby, enhancing the national standing, maintaining independence, sovereignty, and firmly defending the Socialist Republic of Vietnam, creating a peaceful and stable environment for the cause of construction and development of the country. This article focuses on analyzing and clarifying Vietnam’s views and policies, achievements and prospects of the relations with the United Nations.

Keywords: Vietnam - United Nations relations.

1. President Ho Chi Minh and the Party’s views on Vietnam - the United Nations relations

After gaining national independence, President Ho Chi Minh sent a letter to request the United Nations to admit Vietnam as one of its members. In a letter to US President H. Truman (October 1945), President Ho Chi Minh appreciated the establishment of the UN Economic Commission for Asia and the Far East (ECAFE). He also stated the independence, strategic and economic importance of Vietnam, and expressed Vietnam’s desire to cooperate with the world’s democracies, as such, Vietnam deserved to be a member of the Commission(1).

To protect national independence, in his Letter to the Secretary of the US (October 1945), President Ho Chi Minh exposed the crimes of the French colonialists re-occupying South Vietnam and affirmed: “The situation in South Vietnam has reached its stage of emergency and requires immediate intervention of the United Nations”(2). He made several specific requests: “1) South Vietnam-related issues should be discussed at the first meeting of the ECAFE. 2) The Vietnamese delegation must be allowed to attend the meeting to present the views of the Government of Vietnam. 3) An investigation committee must be sent to South Vietnam. 4) Vietnam’s complete independence must be recognized by the United Nations”(3). President Ho Chi Minh  held the view that the United Nations plays an important role since its policies are supporting the freedom and independence of all nations.

In January 1946, President Ho Chi Minh sent a letter to the US, USSR, and Chinese representatives at the United Nations and earnestly requested these countries to recognize Vietnam’s independence and accept Vietnam’s request to join the United Nations. In the Diplomatic Note to the Governments of China, the US, the UK, and the USSR in February 1946, President Ho Chi Minh, on behalf of the Government of the Democratic Republic of Vietnam, wanted to make known the invasion crimes of the French colonization in Indochina through the United Nations.

President Ho Chi Minh was early aware of the importance of joining international organizations and movements, adhering to their principles, purposes, as well as applying their rules to support the Vietnamese revolution. Although the concept of “multilateral diplomacy” was never mentioned in the official documents of Vietnam at that time, it was clear that President  Ho Chi Minh soon advocated Vietnam to become a member of the largest international organization, the United Nations, adhering to the general rules of international relations(4).

During the period from 1975 to before the 6th Party Congress (1986), our Party advocated taking over the membership of the Republic of Vietnam Government in various important international organizations, especially the United Nations and other financial international institutions. The 6th Party Congress marked a turning point in the foreign policy with the intentions of “Expanding relations with international organizations... Expanding relations with all countries on the principle of peaceful coexistence”(5).

In the period from 1986 to 1990, Vietnam participated in diplomatic activities mainly at the United Nations, the United Nations specialized agencies, and the Non-Aligned Movement to gradually improve its relations and taking advantage of the support and aid to it. The 7th Party Congress (1991) stated that the mission of foreign affairs was “To contribute helping the UN to more effectively serve mankind’s goals of peace, friendship, cooperation, and development. Cooperation with international monetary and financial institutions as well as specialized organizations of the United Nations and non-governmental organizations”(6).

The 11th Party Congress (2011) affirmed: “Consistently implementing the foreign policy of independence, sovereignty, diversifying and multilateralising foreign relations, active international integration, as well as being a trusted friend and partner and a responsible member of the international community... Participating in bilateral and multilateral political and security cooperation mechanisms for national interests in compliance with the fundamental principles of international laws and the United Nations Charter...”(7).

The 12th Party Congress (2016) had further development in foreign affairs, with special emphasis on “Actively participating and promoting our role in multilateral mechanisms, especially in ASEAN and the United Nations. Actively participate in multilateral defense and security mechanisms, including cooperation activities at a higher level such as UN peacekeeping operations, non-traditional security training, and other activities”(8).

2. Reality of Vietnam - United Nations relations

Before 1975, though Vietnam had yet to join the United Nations, our country had always attached great importance to this large and multilateral organization. It was a forum for Vietnam to express views and request other countries’ support in the war against the US invasion.

After national unification, by implementing the Party’s foreign policy, on September 15, 1976, Vietnam took over the membership of the Saigon Government at the International Monetary Fund (IMF); on September 21, 1976, Vietnam became an official member of the World Bank (WB); on September 23, 1976, Vietnam joined the Asian Development Bank (ADB).

After multiple times being obstructed by the US, on September 20, 1977, the United States and other UN member countries agreed to admit Vietnam as the 149th member of the United Nations. Immediately after Vietnam joining the United Nations, the Vietnamese delegation led by Mr. Nguyen Duy Trinh, Member of the Politburo, Deputy Prime Minister participated in Session 32 of the United Nations General Assembly with the goal of “joining the United Nations and utilizing the United Nations as a forum to gather more support for the common struggle of people around the world, and at the same time support the cause of building socialism in our country”(9). By participating in the United Nations activities, Vietnam maintained the Party’s foreign policy guideline, raised two flags of national independence and socialism, united with socialist forces for the purpose of national independence, democracy, and social progress, anti-imperialism, colonialism, racism, anti-fascist regimes, at the same time has made use of favorable international events for the protection and construction of socialism in our country(10). In the late 1970s and early 1980s, although facing isolation staged by some capitalist countries and suspended support from the World Bank and the Asian Development Bank, Vietnam could maintain a relationship with other international organizations and promoted several sectors through the implementation at multilateral forums such as the Non-Aligned Movement, the United Nations, and ASEAN in order to break the isolation. As a result, from May 1975 to 1986, Vietnam participated in 33 international organizations and 19 international treaties.

During this period, Vietnam had to deal with the severe war consequences and restructured the economy. The United Nations actively helped Vietnam in different multifaceted difficulties with a total aid of more than 500 million USD(11).

Organizations of the United Nations such as the United Nations Development Program (UNDP), World Food Program (WFP), the United Nations International Children’s Emergency Fund (UNICEF), the United Nations Fund for Population Activities (UNFPA), the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR), and World Health Organization (WHO) significantly supported the Government of Vietnam with investments in social development, focusing on education, health care, maternal and child care, population and family planning. Cooperation with the United Nations created favorable conditions for improving the level of technology and promoted scientific and technical progress in Vietnam, restored and built new production facilities, increased capacity development. At the same time, while under embargo, cooperation with the United Nations created conditions for Vietnam to access Western countries’ financial aid. Between 1978 and March 1981, the IMF lent Vietnam 205.7 million USD. In 1978, Vietnam borrowed 60 million USD from the World Bank(12).

From 1986 to 1991, Vietnam’s foreign policy had the primary task of “taking advantage of favorable international conditions for the cause of building socialism and defending the country”. Vietnam - United Nations relations should contribute to breaking the economic sanctions, fighting for peace, national independence, democracy, and socialism(13).

During this period, Western countries carried out the economic embargo and political isolation against Vietnam. making the implementation of Vietnam’s diplomatic activities in this period extremely difficult. Vietnam was isolated at international conferences when the Cambodia issue was raised to attack us at any UN meeting(14).

Even though, Vietnam succeeded in sustaining the United Nations development assistance why facing difficulties in economic development created by most Western countries and international financial institutions. Vietnam was one of the countries to receive the most aid from the United Nations. Notably, in response to Vietnam’s requirements for reconstruction and development, the UN went beyond the technical assistance function to provide non-refundable aid to investment projects and essential materials, equipment (accounting for up to 80% of the United Nations’ capital for Vietnam, while this ratio was only 15% for other underdeveloped countries)(15). In the early 1990s, when aid from socialist countries fell dramatically, the United Nations was the only source contributing to our country’s essential needs, while creating an important foundation for institutional capacity, science, and technology for the subsequent years.

Vietnam also enlisted the support of other countries for the Comprehensive Plan of Action to Address the Refugee Issue in Southeast Asia. By 1991, this issue was basically resolved, much appreciated by the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR) and other countries. Also during this period, Vietnam participated in 8 basic international conventions on human rights, the Geneva conventions on the protection of prisoners and victims of war, and actively participated in the joint activities of the United Nations on social and human rights(16).

In terms of culture, Vietnam successfully persuaded UNESCO to issue a resolution recognizing Hanoi as a “City for Peace” and Hanoi was selected as the venue for the launching ceremony of the Asia-Pacific’s International Year of Peace. This event was an official recognition of the international community for Hanoi. Thus, in the period from 1986 to 1991, the United Nations and the Non-Aligned Movement were two important forums for Vietnam to uphold its independent and peaceful foreign policy, to take advantage of the spiritual and physical support of the international community, fighting against the hostile forces, overcoming the negative effects of encirclement and embargo(17).

After that, we made efforts to clear the relations with international financial and monetary institutions such as the International Monetary Fund (IMF), World Bank (WB), Asian Development Bank (ADB)... At the United Nations, Vietnam held the position of Vice Chairman of the United Nations General Assembly in 1997, a member of the UN Economic and Social Council (ECOSOC) for the 1997 - 2000 term, Human Rights Committee from 2001 to 2003, Executive Council of UNDP/UNFPA from 2000 to 2002, Governor Council of the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) in the periods of 1991-1993, 1997-1999, and 2003-2005. Vietnam’s senior leaders also attended important conferences such as the 50th Anniversary Conference of the UN (1995), the Millennium Summit (September 2000), international conference on the environment, food security, finance for development, human rights, population and development, women, children, anti-racism, HIV/AIDS prevention, and so on.

Besides the participation in the action programs of international conferences, Vietnam implemented policies in the country and fulfilled the obligations to report on the implementation of the international action programs. Since 1995, Vietnam has participated in and regularly reported on the United Nations weapon registry; from 1996 began to contribute to the budget of peacekeeping operations, and from 2014 began to participate in UN peacekeeping activities.

Since the 1990s, Vietnam has shown responsibility for peacekeeping efforts through financial contributions, deploying forces in the form of individuals who are coordinators and observers, liaison officers, general officers in South Sudan and the Central African Republic. The year 2019 marked the 5th anniversary of Vietnam participating in the United Nations peacekeeping operations, Vietnam has sent hundreds of soldiers to participate in the activity, including 43 officers on duty and 126 permanent professional officers and soldiers at two Level 2 Field Hospitals in the Peacekeeping Mission in South Sudan. Currently, we are training and implementing the third Level 2 Field Hospital to replace the second one on duty in South Sudan; The United Nations awarded the staff of Vietnam’s No. 1 Level 2 Field Hospital a Medal for the cause of peacekeeping.

Since 2006, Vietnam has successfully held the following positions: Non-permanent member of the United Nations Security Council (2008-2009), Chairman of the World Disarmament Conference (2009), President of Board of Governors of the International Atomic Energy Agency (2013-2014), member of the Human Rights Council (2014-2016), continued to be elected to the leadership positions of funds, programs and professional organizations such as the United Nations Development Program/ the United Nations Population Fund (UNDP/UNFPA), the United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization (UNESCO) and successfully organized the 132nd Assembly of the Inter-Parliamentary Union (2015).

On January 2, 2020, as Chairman of the United Nations Security Council, Vietnam started the term of membership of the Security Council for 2020-2021, approved its proposed January 2020 work program. Accordingly, the Security Council is expected to have 12 public meetings, 15 retreat meetings to discuss numerous international and regional issues such as the situation of the Middle East, Syria, Yemen, West Africa, Sahel, Mali, Libya, Central Asia, and Cyprus. The agencies under the Security Council will conduct meetings on issues such as sanctions, counter-terrorism, courts, children, and armed conflict... Vietnam has proposed to organize an open seminar promoting compliance with the United Nations Charter, cooperation between the United Nations and ASEAN in maintaining international peace and security and thus received endorsements from the members. At the same time, Vietnam also wishes to enhance the efficiency of cooperation and comprehensive partnership between ASEAN and the United Nations, for the mutual benefit of ASEAN countries and the international community.

Despite being affected by the Covid-19 pandemic, as an active and responsible member of the international community, the Government of Vietnam decided to contribute 50,000 USD to the WHO’s Covid-19 Response Fund. In the context of a complicated pandemic situation in many parts of the world, WHO completely agreed with the four measures proposed by Vietnam at the Ministerial Video-Conference on Covid-19 in the framework of the Alliance for Multilateralism on Covid-19, which are “Solidarity, Share, Stop, Stimulate” the post-Covid-19 economy; approved Vietnam’s suggestion for an International Day of Epidemic Preparedness(18).

3. Prospects of Vietnam - United Nations relations

Vietnam’s foreign policy orientation towards 2025 is an integral part of the international integration orientation, including the overall strategy for international integration and a vision towards 2030, which were approved by the Prime Minister on January 7, 2016. Accordingly, the general objective of the foreign policy orientation from now to 2025 is to promote deeper international integration; strengthen the synergy of all external sectors (including the Party’s external relations, State diplomacy, people-to-people diplomacy) in forums, mechanisms and multilateral relations; contribute to improve the country’s international standing, maintaining national independence, sovereignty, unity, territorial integrity and firmly defending the Socialist Republic of Vietnam.

For the first time, our Party identified multilateral diplomacy as a strategic direction at the 12th Party Congress: “Proactively, actively and responsibly work with ASEAN countries to build a strong community. Expand, deepen and improve the efficiency of the Party’s external relations, state diplomacy and people-to-people diplomacy... Proactively participate and promote Vietnam’s role in multilateral mechanisms, especially ASEAN and the United Nations. Proactively and actively participate in multilateral defense and security mechanisms, including cooperation activities at a higher level such as UN peacekeeping operations, security trainings, non-traditional security and other activities”(19).

To promote its role as a responsible member, Vietnam is required to contribute to solving common problems of the world at global forums, first of all at the United Nations, thereby contributing to shape the most general rules of the game, re-influencing other mechanisms and multilateral levels at inter-regional, regional and sub-regional levels.

Vietnam’s “proactive, active, responsible” participation in the United Nations in the coming period would be prioritized problems that remain impossible, have not been done or ineffective at the regional level (such as planning global development policies, addressing global challenges, ensuring international peace and security, promoting the role of international law...).

Vietnam participates as one of the most active countries in maintaining a peaceful international environment conducive to sustainable development, solving challenges to international peace and security firstly by peace measures under Chapter 6 of the United Nations Charter, peacekeeping operations; proactively prepare to utilize the mechanisms and forums under the United Nations in case of need to protect the interests of Vietnam’s territorial sovereignty. Vietnam will participate in peacekeeping activities in a comprehensive and responsible manner, at a higher level.

Vietnam will continue to strengthen cooperation with the development organizations under the United Nations to bring into full play the advantages of the entire United Nations system; continue to advocate the United Nations to support it in terms of resources, capacity building, and transfer of knowledge. Vietnam will implement the United Nations development goals, especially the sustainable development goals up to 2030, and integrate them into Vietnam’s socio-economic development strategies and plans, harmonized with the framework of cooperation signed with the United Nations in phases. Vietnam will continue to support and actively contribute initiatives and measures to improve the efficiency of the entire United Nations development system globally, as well as at national level within the “Unified Action” initiative framework.

To implement the above orientation, Vietnam needs to prepare and stand for more substantive candidacy to the executive agencies of the major development organizations of the United Nations (with high priority to the Joint Executive Council of the UNDP/ UNFPA/ UNOPS), gradually participating in the executive positions of these agencies (Chairman, Vice-Chairman).

Vietnam has joined a group of leading countries in promoting the implementation of international agreements in response to climate change, such as the Paris Agreement 2015. At the United Nations forums, Vietnam works with other countries towards a shared goal to promote activities of the United Nations in the direction of a comprehensive approach to economic, social, cultural, civil and political rights groups; to harmoniously combine principles of international law with specific historical, political, economic, social, cultural, religious and national conditions; respecting and ensuring the rights, first of all the responsibility of each nation, no nation has the right to impose its own political, economic and cultural models and values ​​on the others. With the United Nations human rights mechanisms, Vietnam will continue to show its attitude of cooperation and dialogue, ready to provide information on request, to relieve concerns from all sides.

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Endnotes:

(1), (2), (3) President Ho Chi Minh: Complete works, vol.4, National Political Publishing House, Hanoi, 2011, p.60-61, 80, 82-83.

(4), (12), (13), (16), (17) Le Hoai Trung (Chief Editor): Vietnam’s multilateral diplomacy in the period of proactive and active international integration, National Political Publishing House, Hanoi, 2017, p.35, 65, 61, 64-66, 66.

(5) CPV: Complete set of documents of the Party, vol.47, National Political Publishing House, Hanoi, 2006, p.561.

(6) CPV: Complete set of documents of the Party, vol.51, National Political Publishing House, Hanoi, 2007, p.48.

(7) CPV: Documents of the 11th National Congress, National Political Publishing House, Hanoi, 2011, p.138, 236.

(8), (19) CPV: Documents of the 12th National Congress, National Political Publishing House, Hanoi, 2016, p.155, 154-155.

(9), (10) Archives of the Ministry of Foreign Affairs.

(11) Nguyen Hoang: Vietnam - United Nations Relations: Looking back on a journey, 2013, http://baochinhphu.vn/Tin-noi-bat/Quan-he-Viet-Nam-Lien-Hop-Quoc-nhin-lai-mot-chang-duong/181231.vgp.

(14) http://vietnamnet.vn/vn/tuanvietnam/doithoai/30-nam-doi-moi-nhin-tu-nganh-ngoai-giao-toi-van-nho-cam-giac-bi-co-lap-va-suc-ep-nang-ne-322082.html.

(15) Dang Dinh Quy: Multilateralism in the world and multilateral foreignism of Vietnam, National Political Publishing House, Hanoi, 2019, p.252.

(16) http://baodientu.chinhphu.vn/Quocte/Viet-Nam-ung-ho-Quy-ung-pho-voi-COVID19-cua-WHO/393974.vgp.

Dr. Nguyen Van Duong

Institute of International Relations,

Ho Chi Minh National Academy of Politics

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