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Speech: MOFA-UNDP Project “Implementing Human Rights Treaties in Viet Nam”

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Date:  Thursday, 20 March, 2008
Event:  Signing ceremony for the MOFA-UNDP project: “Implementing Human Rights Treaties in Viet Nam”, Ha Noi
Mr. John Hendra, United Nations Resident Coordinator for Viet Nam

  • Your Excellency Vice Minister Minh
  • Mr. Trung, Director General Department of International Organizations
  • Senior Government Officials and Colleagues from the UN
  • Distinguished Guests
  • Ladies and Gentlemen

John Hendra, UN Resident Coordinator in Viet NamIt is a great pleasure for me to be here today to help launch this important project supporting the implementation of human rights treaties in Viet Nam.  At the outset, I would like to sincerely thank our colleagues in the Ministry of Foreign Affairs and in other Government agencies, as well as my colleagues at the UN Development Programme, for your very hard work to make this important signing event a reality.

Looking back over the past three decades, Viet Nam has undergone substantial change. Twenty years ago few would have predicted that today Viet Nam would have one of the world’s fastest growing economies; that it would be on track to achieve most of the eight Millennium Development Goals before the target date of 2015; or that it would be on the cusp of entering the ranks of middle income countries.

After becoming a member of the World Trade Organization in 2007, Viet Nam - for the first time in its history - took its place earlier this year as a non-permanent member of the UN Security Council after receiving overwhelmingly strong support from almost all countries in the General Assembly. Since January, the country has been making important contributions to the work of the Council and is increasingly making its mark as an active member of the international community, and of the United Nations in particular.

Without question, Viet Nam is making great strides in international integration and is exerting growing influence and leadership in world affairs.

On the development front, Viet Nam is not only seen as a model for translating years of consistently high economic growth into progressive social outcomes but also as a pioneer in spearheading UN reform. Through the “One UN Initiative”, Viet Nam, the UN Country Team and development partners are working together under the strong leadership of the Government to maximize the policy, normative and advocacy impact that the United Nations can have as Viet Nam rapidly moves toward middle-income status.

Finally, Viet Nam is also active with regard to the third pillar of UN work --- protection and promotion of human rights. Viet Nam was one of the first countries to ratify the Convention on the Elimination of all Forms of Discrimination Against Women and the Convention on the Rights of the Child. And in October last year Mr. Le Luong Minh, Head of the Vietnamese Delegation to the UN, signed the landmark UN Convention on the Rights of People with Disabilities.

Acceding to important international human rights treaties and conventions – and then ensuring their effective implementation  in part by ensuring domestic legislation fully represents these commitments -- is absolutely critical.

We as the UN Country Team here in Viet Nam – and what’s more the UN System more broadly – stand ready to assist Viet Nam in meeting its international commitments to ensure the human rights of its people, and to report to the relevant UN bodies on progress towards achieving international human rights standards.

We stand ready through this particular initiative, through the normative work of various UN Agencies as well as through first the UNDAF (United Nations Development Assistance Framework 2006-2010), and now the revised One Plan, that brings the work of 14  Agencies together into one overall framework focusing on five outcomes. Participating UN Organizations in the One Plan share a commitment to support Viet Nam’s progress towards achieving the MDGs and the goals and targets of international conference, summits, convention and human rights instruments to which Viet Nam is a Party, providing capacity building assistance to comply with international norms, standards, guidelines and conventions.

In fact through  both the UNDAF and the One Plan, the UN takes a rights-based approach to helping address key development challenges facing Viet Nam during its dynamic transition to middle-income status. As outlined in the UNDAF (and I quote)  “based on this (rights-based) approach, United Nations Agencies will concentrate efforts on building an inclusive society in which all Vietnamese have the means to achieve their human potential and the freedom to express their intellectual and cultural creativity”.

As former UN Secretary-General Kofi Annan outlined:

“The right to development is the measure of the respect of all other human rights. That should be our aim: a situation in which all individuals are enabled to maximize their potential, and to contribute to the evolution of society as a whole.”

This was also made clear by Vice Minister Minh during the recent High Level Segment of the 7th Session of the Human Rights Council, where he reiterated that ensuring and upholding human rights is the foundation for all the policies and activities of the State for achieving a “prosperous people, strong nation, and equitable, democratic and advanced society.”

As the UN we could not agree with you more Honourable Vice Minister. Adherence to human rights is fundamental, and will need to form part of Viet Nam’s wider development agenda if it is to continue on its path of  sustainable development with equity.

Ladies and Gentlemen,

With this important UNDP-MOFA project we are taking an important step towards ensuring that international treaty obligations are effectively met and that everyone in Viet Nam can reach their full potential for the benefit of the entire country now, and into the years of rapid change ahead.

2008 is the year the world celebrates the 60th anniversary of the signing of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights, so the timing of this joint project could also not be more appropriate.

As you know, the Universal Declaration is a seminal document guaranteeing the rights of all people and acknowledging  that all forms of discrimination based on race, colour, sex, language, religion, national or social origin, property, birth, opinion or other status is prohibited.  The Declaration has become the most translated document in history and now serves as the foundation for the many human rights treaties created since.

As we also know, Viet Nam is a signatory to the Universal Declaration and many of its related human rights treaties.  As with this project, signing – while important -- is just one step. There is indeed a lot of work ahead of us. It is now up to Viet Nam to take the next steps and fully implement these global treaties to which it has committed. While the implementation of international treaties is a national responsibility, through this joint project UNDP -- and the UN more broadly -- are here to support you to fulfill these important responsibilities and obligations.

Through the support of this project, more Vietnamese officials will become aware of their obligations as duty bearers, more treaty body reports will be more systematically produced, treaty body comments will be better followed up on and a more inclusive and multisectoral dialogue on human rights will be developed.

One of the project outcomes will also be the accumulation of new knowledge, knowledge that Viet Nam will be able to share with other countries, and add to the United Nations’ expanding base of global experiences and lessons learnt.

In closing, we see this project as another example of the strong cooperation between the United Nations and the Vietnamese Government and a key area for the One Plan to help support now and in the years ahead.To my colleagues at the Ministry of Foreign Affairs and the UN Development Programme, sincerest congratulations.

Thank you very much for your kind attention.


See also the:

Fact Sheet of the MOFA-UNDP Project: “Implementing Human Rights Treaties in Viet Nam”