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Opening remarks legal policy dialogue: Court Administration in Viet Nam

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Speaker: Ms. Louise Chamberlain, UNDP Country Director
Event:      Legal Policy Dialogue: Court Administration in Viet Nam
Date:       23 November 2012, 8:15-12:00
Venue:   InterContinental Hanoi, 1 Nghi Tam, Westlake

Excellency Standing Vice Minister of Justice Hoang The Lien;
Distinguished representatives of the Office of the Standing Committee for Judicial Reform, Supreme People’s Court, Ministry of Justice and other justice institutions;
My colleague Country Manager of UNODC in Viet Nam Zhuldyz Akisheva;
Other esteemed colleagues from the international development partners and civil society organizations;
Experts and practitioners,

Good morning and a warm welcome to you all. I have the pleasure to welcome you to the Policy Dialogue today as part of UNDP’s ongoing cooperation with the Ministry of Justice on the implementation of the legal system development strategy and the judicial reform strategy. This is the sixth legal policy dialogue which by now has established itself as an important forum for discussion between the Government and development partners on key priorities in the legal and judicial reform agenda in Viet Nam.

The theme of today’s dialogue, court reform, is very timely because the restructuring of the justice system is a central element of the ongoing constitution amendment and reform process. We acknowledge that Viet Nam endorses the key role of the court system in building a state based on rule-of-law principles and in providing access to justice for the citizens. This is also stated in Resolution 49 on the Judicial Reform Strategy which emphasizes that the courts are at the centre of judicial reforms.

I welcome the representative of the Office of the Judicial Reform Steering Committee who will update us on progress and remaining challenges on court system reform in Viet Nam.

We will also have the first chance to hear the results of a ground breaking research on court administration commissioned by the Office of the Judicial Reform Steering Committee with UNDP support and conducted in 2011-2012.  More than 2,500 judges, representing almost half of the entire judiciary across provincial and district courts nationwide took part in the research, making it the most comprehensive survey to have been conducted to date. The judges have provided valuable inputs about their caseload, working conditions, budget constraints, and most importantly the challenges they are facing to uphold the constitutional principle of quote “independence of judges in deciding cases” end quote, professionalism and integrity.

We will hear from the UNDP Policy Advisor on rule of law and access to justice on some reflections on comparisons and contrasts between the research findings and the expert report on court administration in China, which was also commissioned by the Ministry of Justice with UNDP support.

This research and international expert reports provide an excellent evidence base for our ongoing discussions on court reforms.

From UNDP’s perspective I would like to highlight three key elements for today’s dialogue:

Firstly, the report on court administration emphasizes the importance of publicizing judgments more systematically. Enhanced transparency of courts through better accessibility of judgments will help increase accountability of judges.

Secondly, the report identifies the ongoing constitution reform as an important window of opportunity to improve the independence of the judiciary. The new definition of the rule of law, with its emphasis on the mutual controls or checks and balances between different branches of state power, provides an important opportunity for Viet Nam to clarify which powers belong to the judicial branch, as well as its role in controlling other branches of state power.

Thirdly, the report emphasizes the model of regional court organization as a way of enhancing the independence of courts, a reform which enjoyed the support of the great majority of judges surveyed. Related to this, we look forward to hearing an update on the plans to reform Viet Nam’s court system and to introduce regional courts which can operate more independently from local government bodies.

I hope that through our discussions today, we can together come to some clear joint conclusions on ways to further strengthen our support to Viet Nam’s judicial reforms.

Ladies and Gentlemen, I wish all participants a successful and productive meeting, and I thank you for your attention.