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Opening Remarks by UNDP Deputy Country Director, Ms. Akiko Fujii at the Legal Policy Dialogue “2015 Civil Code: Solutions for Legislative Improvement and Implementation”

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Date: 14 December 2016  
Event: Legal Policy Dialogue “2015 Civil Code: Solutions for Legislative Improvement and Implementation”
Venue: Melia Hotel, 44B Ly Thuong Kiet, Hanoi, Viet Nam

Mr. Nguyen Khanh Ngoc, Vice Minister of Justice;
Mr. Michael Greene, Mission Director, United States Agency for International Development (USAID);
Distinguished representatives of the National Assembly, Supreme People’s Court, Ministry of Justice and other justice institutions,
Colleagues from international development partner organisations and civil society organizations;
Ladies and gentlemen;
A very good morning to you all!

I would like to begin by acknowledging the Ministry of Justice and the  United States Agency for International Development, for their outstanding partnership and generous support in organizing this Legal Policy Dialogue.

Supporting policy dialogue around legal and judicial policy has been part of UNDP’s cooperation with the Ministry of Justice over the past seven years, and is by now an established and important forum for policy discussion between the Government, development partners and civil society.

The theme of today’s dialogue, the implementation of the Civil Code, is very timely, because amending the Civil Code is a central element of the ongoing process to implement the new Constitution and the Judicial Reform Strategy; and the 2015 amendments will come into effect next January 1st. Today, we will discuss how the 2015 amendments to the Civil Code can move us towards a fairer, more transparent and accountable justice system which recognizes and protects the civil rights, including property and personal rights, of all people in Viet Nam.

As the UN in Viet Nam, we are happy to have the opportunity to support the Ministry of Justice, the National Assembly and civil society in amending the Civil Code with a view to strengthening the promotion of human rights in Viet Nam, in particular the equal protection of property rights for women and men, the recognition of transgender identity and the elimination of discrimination on the grounds of gender, sex, ethnicity or disability status. We are pleased that many progressive changes have been accepted, notably the recognition of the right to sex reassignment and the right to a transgender identity in the Civil Code. We hope that this will translate into a more efficient provision of services to people, for example, through a simplified procedure in the modification of name and gender of transgender persons on their identification documents.

Ladies and gentlemen, through our experience in supporting law reforms in many countries, we have learned many lessons and good practices.  One in particular is the need to focus not just on the texts of laws, but to pay attention to how they are observed in practice. Of course, the laws themselves are an essential starting point, because there can be no human rights protection without them. However, too often, their effectiveness is limited because of inappropriate or insufficient mechanisms to enforce the laws protecting the rights set out in them.
From UNDP’s perspective I would like to highlight three issues for today’s dialogue:
Firstly, the importance of making sure that the right to civil registration, to change one’s name or to re-identify one’s ethnicity for example, is universally accessible to all as it is usually a key to the exercise of many civil, economic and other rights. The implementation of the Civil Code’s provisions on personal rights certainly has an impact on people’s access to other rights such as education, health and social benefits.

Secondly, the need for a clearer framework to protect the right to establish and operate not-for-profit entities as defined by Article 76 of the Civil Code, in line with the rights enshrined in Viet Nam’s Constitution and underpinned by its international human rights commitments. A clearer articulation will inform and complement the development of a Law on Association in Viet Nam.

Thirdly, the Civil Code underlines the principle that courts “may not refuse to settle a civil matter or case on the basis that there is no provision of law to apply”, as a way to promote the respect and protection of civil rights of individuals. Related to this, we look forward to hearing an update on the plans to provide clear guidance to realise this principle in practice.

Ladies and gentlemen, aligning its laws and practices with international human rights standards is part of Vietnam’s international integration drive and will lead to more sustainable and equitable growth. Once again let me thank the Ministry of Justice for providing this opportunity to discuss topical issues of legal and judicial reforms. UNDP looks forward to offering our continued support to Vietnam in meeting these challenges.

Let me also take the opportunity, in particular, to welcome the presence here today of national civil society organizations, universities, legal and professional associations. Civil society, academia and professional organisations all have key roles in helping to frame matters of interest to citizens, and we hope that those represented here today will participate in discussion and support onward dialogue.

Ladies and Gentlemen, I wish all participants a successful and productive meeting; together with my co-chair I look forward to your progressive discussion and proposals; and I thank you very much for your attention.

Xin Cám ơn.