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Harsh punishment for child offenders doesn’t prevent further criminality

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A teenage boy in conflict with the law in Dong Thap, was arrested for several small misdemeanors and petty theft. UNICEF and social worker help him to reintegrated to his community and became an active member of the youth club at his village. Photo: UNICEF Viet Nam\2015\Truong Viet HungA teenage boy in conflict with the law in Dong Thap, was arrested for several small misdemeanors and petty theft. UNICEF and social worker help him to reintegrated to his community and became an active member of the youth club at his village. Photo: UNICEF Viet Nam\2015\Truong Viet Hung

The age at which a child, can be held criminally liable is a controversial issue around the world. Within Viet Nam, this issue is currently being grappled with in the Penal Code amendments. Some argue that a "get tough on crime" approach is necessary to punish children to prevent further criminality.

However, international research shows that because of their developmental stages, labelling and treating children as criminals at an early age can have serious negative impacts on their development and successful rehabilitation.

Proposals to lower the minimum age of criminal responsibility are not in line with scientific evidence that a child's brain is structurally and functionally immature, which influences decision-making and increases their tendency to engage in risky behaviors during adolescence. Science has also shown that children are more likely to "grow out" of such behavior.

If they can be influenced into committing crime by ill-intentioned groups, it is also true that children have the formidable capacity to be influenced to do good if they are offered a proper rehabilitation programme instead of being given harsh punishment.

Viet Nam has been a child rights pioneer for over 25 years and the recent implementation of the Child Law is a major step forward. This law enhances children's rights by focusing on their best interests and protection. Further, new amendments to the Penal Code seek to ensure stronger measures to divert juveniles away from the criminal justice system; to provide alternatives and stronger limits to the detention of juveniles; and to provide stronger protections against various forms of violence against minors.

In light of these positive child rights advancements, amendments to the Penal Code decreasing the minimum age of criminal responsibility for certain crimes can be seen as a major step back in the protection of children's rights.

International standards require all States to establish and set a single age below which a child cannot have the legal capacity to infringe the penal law. The Committee on the Rights of the Child strongly recommends that an appropriate age for criminal responsibility is between 14 and 16 years. Currently, Vietnam is one of the few East Asian and Pacific countries in line with this recommendation. The Vietnamese law has a tiered minimum age of criminal responsibility in which all children above 16 years can be held liable for infringing the penal law, and those between 14 and 16 can also be held liable for certain types of offences.

The propensity of children to offending is heavily influenced by factors such as the child's family, school, or community where children are exposed to risky behaviors. Evidence indicates that "getting tough" or "scaring" children out of misbehavior always fails, as this approach does not address the underlying causes of their behavior. Indeed, detention of children merely exposes them to more negative behavior and generally pushes them further into a criminal lifestyle.

As the evidence suggest that incarcerating children is not effective in rehabilitation and prevention of future offending, laws should not be made harsher. As adolescence is a time when children can be influenced for the better or worse, rehabilitation and reintegration must be the main goal.

UNICEF is calling for amendments to the Penal Code which do not widen the net of child offenders who bear criminal responsibility and in essence amounts to a lower age of criminal responsibility. Children aged 14-16 years should only bear criminal responsibility for the 28 listed very serious and extremely serious crimes. We are confident that Viet Nam will pursue a more holistic solution to child offending which does not criminalise children, but rather focuses on addressing the root causes of the children's behaviour. This approach encourages children to take responsibility for their actions, and provides them with proper rehabilitation services that facilitate their reintegration as productive members of society.

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Op-Ed – Minimum Age of Criminal Responsibility
By Youssouf Abdel-Jelil, UNICEF Representative in Viet Nam

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Harsh punishment for child offenders doesn’t prevent further criminality

The age at which a child, can be held criminally liable is a controversial issue around the world. Within Viet Nam, this issue is currently being grappled with in the Penal Code amendments. Some argue that a "get tough on crime" approach is necessary to punish children to prevent further criminality.

However, international research shows that because of their developmental stages, labelling and treating children as criminals at an early age can have serious negative impacts on their development and successful rehabilitation.


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New Year Greetings from the United Nations Resident Coordinator a.i. in Viet Nam

 

On the occasion of New Year 2017, on behalf of the United Nations family in Viet Nam I wish to reiterate our appreciation and express our warmest wishes to our partners and friends throughout the country. We wish our partners and their families in Viet Nam peace, prosperity, good health and happiness in the coming year.

As we enter the second year of the Sustainable Development Goals era, we look forward to continuing our close cooperation for the sake of Viet Nam’s future development; one which is inclusive, equitable and sustainable, with no one left behind.

Youssouf Abdel-Jelil
United Nations Resident Coordinator a.i. in Viet Nam


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UN Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon’s message for World AIDS Day, observed on 1 December

 

Thirty-five years since the emergence of AIDS, the international community can look back with some pride.  But we must also look ahead with resolve and commitment to reach our goal of ending the AIDS epidemic by 2030.

There has been real progress in tackling the disease. More people than ever are on treatment.  Since 2010, the number of children infected through mother to child transmission has dropped by half. Fewer people die of AIDS related causes each year.  And people living with HIV are living longer lives.

The number of people with access to life-saving medicines has doubled over the past five years, now topping 18 million. With the right investments, the world can get on the fast-track to achieve our target of 30 million people on treatment by 2030.  Access to HIV medicines to prevent mother to child transmission is now available to more than 75 per cent of those in need.


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The secretary-general's message for the International Day to End Violence against Women and Girls

 

25 November 2016 - At long last, there is growing global recognition that violence against women and girls is a human rights violation, public health pandemic and serious obstacle to sustainable development.  Yet there is still much more we can and must do to turn this awareness into meaningful prevention and response.


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UNIDO Director General's Op-Ed Article to media on the occasion of UNIDO's 50th anniversary

 

Did you know that in Viet Nam, the net flow of foreign direct investment increased from USD1billion in 2003 to USD10 billion in 2008, and that by 2015 reached USD23 billion?  Or that the total value of exports rose from USD2 billion in 1990 to USD72 billion in 2010, to reach USD162 billion in 2015? These impressive figures highlight the country’s robust economic success, providing a boost to the economy and employment.

These accomplishments are largely due to the reforms undertaken by Viet Nam since Doi Moi in 1986 which liberalized the economy, attracted foreign investment, fostered exports and reduced poverty. To prepare for reform, Viet Nam received extensive technical assistance from the international community, including from the United Nations Industrial Development Organization (UNIDO), well before 1986 and, more precisely, since 1978.

For more than 35 years, UNIDO has been sharing international best practices to help Viet Nam develop inclusive and sustainable industry. With more than USD100 million in expenditure, UNIDO’s technical cooperation activities have been carried out across a broad range of fields, including support to the private sector and technical and industrial research organizations, facilitation of technology transfer, trade capacity-building, human resource development, environmental protection, energy efficiency, investment promotion and responsible business practices.