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Wednesday, 03 February 2016 10:11
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Upholding State’s responsibility for ensuring human rights

(LLCT) - During the cause of national renewal and international integration, the Communist Party and State of Vietnam have always been paying attention to the development and gradual perfection of a legal framework ensuring human rights. This is shown and acknowledged in the Party’s instructions and resolutions and the State’s Constitution and laws. 

The 2013 Constitution, which was passed by the 13th National Assembly on 28 November 2013, stipulates human rights mainly in Chapter II, one of the most important parts of the document. Articles on human and civil rights in the Constitution have a number of important revisions to basically match international laws on human rights and the country’s specific conditions and its level of economic, social and cultural development.

Meeting the requirements for a socialist law-ruled State of the people, by the people and for the people, Vietnam always attaches attention to comprehensive domestic legalization of international human rights conventions to which Vietnam is a signatory, such as the International covenant on civil and political rights (ICCPR, 1966), International govenant on economic, social and cultural rights (ICESCR, 1966), International convention on the elimination of all forms of racial discrimination (ICERD, 1965), Convention on the elimination of all forms of discrimination against women (CEDAW, 1979) and Convention of the rights of the child (CRC, 1989).

In addition to perfecting the policies and laws on human rights, the CPV and the State always encourage their implementation, which is manifested in law-enforcing bodies’ activities. As part of their duties, the Government, the Prime Minister, ministries, ministry-level agencies and local authorities have taken the following measures:

First, they have guided, organized or inspected the implementation of instructions and resolutions by the Politburo, Secretariat and Party Central Committee concerning general human rights issues of strategic significance.

With the aim of creating positive changes in the upholding of human rights, on 11 March 2011, the Prime Minister issued Decision 366/QD-TTg on the implementation of the Party Secretariat’s Instruction 44-CT-TW dated 20 July 2010 concerning human rights in the new circumstance. The Decision was a major step forward in the delegation of responsibility for ensuring human rights to certain ministries, ministry-level agencies and local authorities. Under this Decision, the Government and the Prime Minister are in charge of examining, supervising and allocating resources to increase the capacity to ensure human rights in the operation of State agencies.

Second, the observation of the law has been guided, organized and checked in order to uphold the rights that are recognized in the Constitution such as those to vote in an election, stand for elections, participate in the management of the State and society and make complaints or denunciations; freedoms of belief and religion; the right to access education and health care; and those rights concerning labor, employment and social welfare.

Third, human rights have been integrated into the formulation of developmental programs and policies and their implementation. This measure reflects changes in the Party’s and State’s thinking on development, which has been made conformable to the policy of a socialist-oriented market economy and which has linked development to human rights. During its renewal process, a number of Vietnam’s developmental programs and policies have exerted influence on the practice of human rights. Take the Programs for state administrative reform for 2001-2010 and 2011-2020 period, National Target programs for hunger eradication and poverty reduction for 2001-2005, 2006-2010 and 2012-2015 period, National Target program for job creation for 2006-2010, Program for the provision of farmland and housing and supply of clean water for poor ethnic minority families (also known as Program 134), Program for socio-economic development in extremely disadvantaged communes in mountainous, ethnic minority, border and remote areas (also known as Program 135) and Program for the building of new rural areas, among others, for example.

The above-mentioned programs and policies have effectively encouraged people to bring into full play their right of mastership in the management of the State and society and have provided them with easier access to job services, vocational training, legal aid, health care, education and social welfare. They have also helped to narrow the rich-poor gap and fulfill the objective of social equity during development.

Last, various sectors and localities have taken innovative, suitable approaches to facilitating people’s enjoyment of rights, especially among disadvantaged or vulnerable groups. They have used their initiative to carry out communication campaigns aimed at raising the awareness of human rights among government officials, civil servants and people from all walks of life. They have developed friendly, accessible social services and have organized human resource training for disadvantaged areas. Also, they have provided direct assistance for the most disadvantaged groups affected by natural disasters, crop failures, epidemics or negative consequences of economic crises.

In addition to improving the efficiency of the implementation of human rights laws, the CPV and the State have focused on building and strengthening the institutions meant to uphold human rights. According to Vietnam’s Constitution and law, state institutions such as the National Assembly, the President, the Government, the Prime Minister, ministries, sectors, local authorities, People’s Courts and People’s Procuracies are all responsible for facilitating human rights. Over the past years, Vietnam has attached importance to the establishment and reorganization of some official bodies and organizations in order to meet the increasing need for higher effectiveness and efficiency of state institutions in the protection and promotion of human rights. These institutions can be divided into two main groups: 1) Those directly in charge of upholding human rights such as the Steering Boards for human rights at Governmental and local levels; human rights research and educational establishments at political and administrative schools and at universities; agencies and organizations entrusted by the State to preparing reports on the implementation of international human rights conventions to which Vietnam is a signatory, human rights Reports within the framework of the United Nations Human Rights Council’s Universal Periodic Review (UPR) and other international cooperation projects in human rights; 2) Those with special interest in upholding human rights within their scope of authority such as the National Assembly’s Ethnic Affairs Council and its committees; inspection authorities of the Government, ministries, sectors and provinces; and people’s Courts and Procuracies at various levels.

Since the implementation of the Party Secretariat’s Instruction 12-CT/TW of 1992, human rights communication and education have been carried out in different ways. For instance, Theories of human rights was first taught as a subject at the Ho Chi Minh National Academy of Politics in the 1998-1999 academic year. Following that, a number of research, communication and education programs concerning human rights were implemented at Political Schools, the Government’s Steering Board for human rights, universities and research institutes. Human rights communication and training courses have also been organized through international cooperation projects by the National Assembly, Government; sectors and agencies in the spheres of foreign relations, justice, public security, journalism, religion and ethnic work; and political, social and professional organizations. In recent years, human rights communication and education have been continuously promoted and integrated into a number of academic subjects and some postgraduate curricula. To date, master’s courses in human rights have been provided at Vietnam National University in Hanoi, Vietnam Academy of Social Sciences and the Ho Chi Minh National Academy of Politics. These communication and education efforts have made a positive contribution to raising the awareness of human rights among the leadership and management of Party and State organizations, law-enforcing officers, university students and members of certain political, social and professional organizations.

In order to play a more important role in the international arena and integrate into the international politico-social life, Vietnam has joined or ratified almost all major international conventions on human rights. Since the 1980s, Vietnam has been writing most national reports for international human rights conventions to which it has acceded, and has presented them on a timely basis. Vietnam is now a member of the United Nations Human Rights Council for the 2014-2016 period. While implementing UPR, the country successfully presented its reports for 2009 and 2014 and received feedback from other countries. It also  evaluated other countries’ similar reports for these years.

Vietnam made positive contribution to the founding of the ASEAN Intergovernmental Commission on human rights (AICHR), ASEAN Commission on the promotion and protection of the rights of women and children (ACWC) and preparation of the ASEAN Human Rights Declaration in November 2012. By doing so, the country showed its strong commitment and determination when it came to the respect and promotion of human rights as well as international laws on human rights.

While promoting human rights in the period of national renewal, Vietnam has drawn a number of useful lessons, which can be used to improve the practice of such rights. However, its promotion of human rights is still faced with challenges and difficulties:

-The awareness of human rights among parts of government officials and civil servants remains limited. Although human rights communication and education have been increasingly carried out in Vietnam, they are not really popular or easily accessible among government officials and civil servants. Moreover, human rights cover a wide range of sensitive, complicated issues related to democracy, religion, ethnic affairs, justice and information access, which shall take time and require radical changes in the country’s human rights communication and education to become common.

-The Vietnamese system of laws on human rights is somewhat unreasonable. It does not match the stipulations on rights in the 2013 Constitution. In addition to being complicated and overlapping, it has yet to institutionalize certain constitutional rights, thus creating a phenomenon called “suspended rights,” which are barely effective. The law has also been found marginally effective in the protection of disadvantaged and vulnerable people’s rights and the economic and social rights of laborers in different forms of enterprises.

-The supervision of the guarantee of human rights remains somewhat formalistic and ineffective in discovering and overcoming organizations’ and individuals’ shortcomings in the realization of human rights according to the law. One of the main reasons for this is that Vietnam lacks a full-time national institution with a full legal status, which would becapable of chairing, coordinating and supervising the practice of human rights and guiding state bodies and social and economic organizations in ensuring human rights.

New, diverse requirements for human rights have taken shape as the country is building a socialist-oriented market economy and integrating itself into the global economy. In such condition, social stratification is not only affected by the rich-poor differentiation but also cultural and ethnic diversity as well as the process of international integration. Social stratification has led and will lead to further diversification of needs for human rights among different classes. The State must meet the increasing need for human rights among urban dwellers while ensuring essential rights, especially economic, social and cultural ones, for vulnerable groups. Demands have been made for new rights such as those to a clean environment, social welfare and private ownership, third gender rights and foreigners’ and overseas Vietnamese rights to settle in Vietnam. Such diversity of rights has presented and will present new challenges to policies and laws, including those not only on human rights:

In order to deal with such challenges and further improve the effectiveness and efficiency of the guarantee of human rights among Vietnam’s official organizations, it is necessary to adopt the following major solutions.

First, based on the 2013 Constitution, new laws on human rights need to be made and the existing laws further improved. In doing so, it is necessary to:

Institutionalize human and civil rights stipulated in the 2013 Constitution into clear, transparent standards which should be consistently interpreted and achieved.

Build a legal framework for democracy, rule of law and social administration aimed at ensuring human rights; institutionalize the organization and operation of the de facto socialist law-ruled State (e.g. organizational mechanisms, operation of the National Election and Auditing Councils, mechanisms for protection of the constitution and so on); institutionalize the State’s responsibility for national administration including making laws on the supervision and critics of the Fatherland Front and management of national security.

Second, attention should be given to the establishment and consolidation of state institutions in charge of protecting human rights and supervising their practice. On the basis of respect for the principles of openness, transparency and accountability, it is necessary to strengthen or perfect the mechanisms for compensating for damage caused by violations of human rights; those for discovering and preventing such violations; and those for protecting disadvantaged or vulnerable people’s rights. Next, a full-time national body in charge of human rights should be founded and work, besides the existing legislative, executive and judicial ones. It is necessary to consider several plans for the founding of such body so that it will conform to international standards and the effort to build a socialist law-ruled State in Vietnam.

There are four possible plans: 1) The National Assembly ombudsman or human rights Council as a National Assembly Committee led by the National Assembly’s Party member group; 2) The Committee for human rights under the Government; 3) The Association of the Protection of Vietnamese human rights as a social organization under the Vietnam Fatherland Front; and 4) The National Institute of Human Rights.

Third, human rights-based approaches are to be adopted while formulating and implementing laws, policies, programs and projects related to socio-economic development. To this end, there should be measures to raise the capacity of right-holding entities and right-exercising ones in specific areas and creating radical changes in the provision of economic, social and cultural rights for the poor, the disabled, ethnic minority people and people with HIV/AIDS.

Fourth, human rights communication and education are to be heightened. A current central task is to renew the content and method of human rights education for leaders and managers at various levels, law-enforcing officers and university students. Then it is necessary to introduce human rights education into the curricula of political and administrative schools, universities and mass organizations’ schools. Such education should aim at raising the awareness of human rights among state bodies, civil servants, economic and social organizations and developmental program and project officers and improving their sense of respect and observation of such rights.

Last, international cooperation in human rights needs to be promoted in order to improve the country’s law making and enforcement capacity as well as its ability to protect human rights and supervise their provision. At present Vietnam needs to increase the quality of its Reports in accordance with the international Covenant on human rights and United Nations human rights Council. The country needs to be more proactive while participating in some United Nations’ and ASEAN’s human rights mechanisms and procedures. It needs to take part in human rights dialogue and international cooperation in human rights education. 

 

Assoc. Prof., Dr. Nguyen Thanh Tuan

MA. Tran Thi Hoe

Institute of Human Rights

Ho Chi Minh National Academy of Politics

 
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