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Scientific seminar “Human right achievements of Vietnam over 70 years”

(LLCT) - On December 9th, 2015, the Ho Chi Minh National Academy of Politics held the Scientific Seminar “Human Right Achievements of Vietnam over 70 years” in Hanoi. The seminar was hosted by Prof., Dr. Ta Ngoc Tan, Member of the Party Central Committee and President of the Academy, Assoc. Prof., Dr. Nguyen Tat Giap, Vice President of the Academy, and Assoc. Prof., Dr. Dang Dung Chi,Director of the Institute of Human rights.

Attending members of the seminar were representatives of State departments, ministries, and sectors, as well as representatives of agencies in Hanoi; representatives of embassies of other countries and international organizations in Vietnam; representatives of research institutions, and many experts and scientists both from the Academy and other organizations.

Over 40 papers and speeches at the seminar focused on analyzing and clarifying 70 years of achievements in ensuring human rights in Vietnam.

In his introduction report, Prof., Dr. Ta Ngoc Tanstated: The objectives of the revolution led by the Communist Party of Vietnam are for the progression of humans as a whole. These objectives include the national people’s democratic revolution to construct a socialist system, the course of renovation, international integration, and consistent policies of the Party and State. Vietnam government has set up a number of mechanisms and policies to ensure the protection of human rights and to prevent and punish for any infringements of the rights, democracy, and freedom of its citizens. In the socialist regime of Vietnam, human rights are constantly being expanded in quantity and quality. At the 10th Party Congress in 2006, the Party confirmed the need to strengthen and gradually progress socialist democracy, ensuring that state power belongs to the people. In this regard, “the building of the law-ruled socialist State of Vietnam - a state of the people, by the people, and for the people - is an urgent demand of society. The State must institutionalize and effectively implement laws concerning civil rights and human rights of its citizens”. This is one of the guiding principles that define the socialist Rule of law in Vietnam.

For institutionalizing the above-mentioned viewpoints, the Constitution of 2013 included 120 articles, 36 of which related to human rights and the basic rights and duties of citizens. Notably, for the first time in the history of the constitutionalization of Vietnam, “the State guarantees and promotes the rights to be masters of the people. The State recognizes, respects and ensures the protection of human rights and citizen rights. The State sets its objectives as “building prosperous people, strong country, and providing democracy, justice, and civilization to all of its people for the promotion of wealthy, free, and happy lives with favorable conditions for development”. The definitions of these principles are consistent with international legal standards for human rights, which are derived from the natural advantages of the socialist system in Vietnam.

In his speech at the seminar, Deputy Minister of Foreign Affairs Ha Kim Ngocanalyzed and clarified the achievements of Vietnam in participating and implementing international commitments on human rights. Vietnam has always considered meeting international standards as a key task in becoming more proactive in the multilateral forums on human rights. Participating in and hosting conventions about global human rights issues (7 of 9 conventions) are manifestations of this task. Vietnam has included into its laws and policies general regulations on human rights that are widely recognized by the international community and also in accordance to the unique conditions of the country. Vietnam was the second country in the world, the first among Asian countries, to join the International Convention on Children’s Rights. In addition, Vietnam was also involved in 20 conventions on labor rights held by the International Labour Organization (ILO). In early 2015, Vietnam ratified the Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities and the Convention against Torture. These actions represent a very high level of commitment compared with many developed and developing countries around the world, demonstrating the great efforts of Vietnam in the midst of difficult socio-economic conditions. Many legal documents on human rights have been added and newly issued, and Vietnam has engaged in human rights advocacy on a national scale through mass media and educational programs. The country also implemented obligations related to submitting national reports and has since drafted and submitted 16 national reports to the Convention Committee on human rights in addition to taking steps to ratify its commitments, notably the mechanism of universal periodic review (UPR) used by the Human Rights Council of the United Nations.

In assessing Vietnam’s contributions to human rights issues, the Deputy Minister affirmed that the country has increasingly taken responsibility for its citizens’ entitlements and has added to the values of human rights at regional and international levels. This is consistent with the objectives of Vietnam’s foreign affairs: be not only an active member of the international community, but also shape the general regulations and standards of human rights. Through the promotion of dialogue and constructive cooperation to narrow differences and avoid confrontation, Vietnam has contributed a great deal to these important issues. At the same time, Vietnam supports a comprehensive approach that provides balance between individual rights and collective rights. Vietnam has committed to the United Nations’ multilateral system in regard to human rights and the systems within the framework of ASEAN.

Some speeches at the seminar asserted that, in recent years, Vietnam has reached great achievements in human rights. There must be mentioned that all problems relating to human rights were confirmed and legalized. The policies concerning human rights have been carried out in all aspects, including cultural and spiritual ones. Conditions for ensuring the people’s welfare are guaranteed in many ways.

Regarding the rights of ethnic minorities, Dr. Phan Van Hung, Deputy Chairman of the Committee for Ethnic Minorities, clarified some recent developments: 1) the rate of deputies with an ethnic minority background is now 16% and 48 ethnic minorities now have their own deputies. The ethnic minority deputies account for 20% of provincial, district, and communal People’s councils. 2) Poverty reduction policies for ethnic groups have been greatly appreciated by the international community. Vietnam has reduced the poverty rate of ethnic minorities by about 4-5% every year. 3) The socio-economic infrastructure in areas with large ethnic minority populations has significantly improved, creating favorable conditions for people to access services and social welfare.  In the past 5 years, the government has granted land to 300 thousand people and granted houses to 500 thousand households of the ethnic minorities. 4) The system of primary education has become universal; illiteracy has been eliminated. There is now a system of 400 boarding schools and half-boarding schools for ethnic minorities. 5) The rate of key cadres who are Party members with ethnic minority backgrounds continues to increase. 6) Investments were made to upgrade the health care system for ethnic minorities. Epidemics have been prevented and eliminated. The average life expectancy has significantly increased as a result. 7) The languages and scripts of some ethnic groups are taught in schools. Radio and television broadcasting channels for ethnic minorities have been established in 26 ethnic languages. 8) The religions of ethnic minorities have been recognized and are allowed to operate and function. The achievements ofethnic minority policies point to their success in ensuring human rights for this population in politics, economics, cultural heritage, society, and religious rights.

Mr. Luu Quang Tuan, Deputy Director of the Scientific Institute of Labour and Social Affairs (Ministry of Labor, Invalids and Social Affairs) summarized the achievements of social policies for human rights in Vietnam.  During the renovation period since 1986, the policies of labor and social affairs have been unceasingly renewed and modified in accordance with practical international standards. In regard to children’s rights, Vietnam has ratified the International Convention on Children’s Rights of the United Nations. Vietnam has also passed numerous policies for protective child services - the Law on Protection, Care and Education of Children, the Fund for Children’s Protection, the National Children’s Protection Program for the 2011-2020 period, and the National Action Program for Children for the 2012-2020 period. In addition, a policy for the exemption of school fees for poor students was recently implemented.

Regarding labor and employment, Vietnam has ratified 21 conventions on the international level (including 5 of 8 principal conventions on assistance labor, fair payment, anti-discrimination, minimal working age and the elimination of abusive child labor). A number of laws on labor and employment were issued, supplemented and modified, such as the Law for Professional Training, Employment Law, and the Law on Vietnamese Guest Workers. The National Program for employment has been implemented, in addition to preferential credits for workers, job training programs, and programs encouraging employment of youths, rural workers, and the poor. The system of laws regarding social insurance and unemployment insurance and the policies for preferential credits and granting free housing to the poor were amended and enhanced.

Vietnam has made great progress in terms of human rights issues over the past 70 years, but there still remain a number of challenges.  Analyzing the most prevalent issues in society, Assoc. Prof., Dr. Vu Hoang Cong (Political Theory Journal, Ho Chi Minh National Academy of Politics) has clearly outlined some of the challenges that face Vietnam in ensuring and implementing human rights policy. These problems have objective reasons. For example, disadvantaged and vulnerable groups in Vietnam still make up a large proportion of the population: 7% have disabilities (6.5 million), 7.8% of the population are considered “poor” (in 2012), 15% are people of ethnic minority, half of whom are poor, and 30% of the population currently living around the Mekong river delta (10 million) is vulnerable to rising sea levels. Also, millions of farmers are affected by industrialization and urbanization and may not be able to adapt to this age of international integration. The lack of awareness, along with motives of profit, has led to dangerous behaviors. On the other hand, some subjective challenges arise in the limitations of policy-making and the limitations of public servants and judicial systems to implement these policies, especially regarding administrative procedures, shortage of resources, corruption and bureaucracy, and the decline of both the absolute value and relative classification of Vietnam in recent times (the HDI index in 2007 was 0.725, ranked 116th of 182; the HDI index in 2012 was 0.617, ranked 127th of  187).

Assoc. Prof., Dr. Vu Hoang Congsuggested that Vietnam government should continue to modify current policies, especially policies concerning disadvantaged and vulnerable groups, to promote the most effective implementation of guaranteed human rights. The State and Party should continue strengthening the legal framework by passing laws on religion, the establishment of associations, and protests, as well as amending laws on criminality and criminal lawsuits, civil infringements and civil lawsuit, etc. The administrative reform and the reform of the judicial system should be continued. As the safety of human life is among the most basic rights, legal tools must be applied appropriately and media attention should be increased to ensure the safety of people as they participate in traffic, purchase food and medicines, and who live in areas involved in the mining of natural resources.

Speaking at the seminar, Assoc. Prof., Dr. Vo Khanh Vinh, Deputy Chairman of the Academy of Social Sciences of Vietnam and Director of the Institute of Social Sciences, said that human rights are diffused into society and all of its elements. Therefore, we must approach human rights in multidisciplinary, interdisciplinary, and comprehensive ways because issues such as poverty reduction, provision of clean water, and food security affect each other and must be seen as related problems, not isolated ones. Above all, the ideals of human rights advocacy must be integrated into agendas; and powerful social and political movements should be considered as the most effective way to ensure human rights in Vietnam.

Attending members of the seminar proposed that the National Assembly must enhance the efficiency of supervision, especially in the fields of criminal justice, corruption, and settling complaints. The government should implement tasks and use their competence to protect human and civil rights, and should carry out simultaneous advocacy, education, and training regarding human rights. Steps must be taken to standardize the education of human rights for the contingent of cadres and civil servants.

In his closing speech, Prof., Dr. Ta Ngoc Tan expressed his appreciation for the papers, which focused on analyzing and clarifying the increasing achievements of human rights in Vietnam over 70 years, immediately concerning the prosperity and happiness of every citizen. He also affirmed the consistent policies of respect and ensuring more rights and freedom to the citizens, which will ultimately strengthen international cooperation on human rights issues and allow Vietnam to actively participate in related conventions. These policies also aim to implement international commitments on human rights in serious and open-minded ways, significantly contributing to the basic rights and freedoms of the people of Vietnam. Along with these achievements, Vietnam will continue contributing to the common values of human rights in the region and the world.

MA. Nguyen Thi Lan

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