Vietnam pursues policy to protect human rights

On this occasion, and to mark International Day for Human Rights (December 10), Deputy Prime Minister and Foreign Minister Pham Binh Minh, who is a member of the Party Central Committee, wrote a news article on the country’s achievements in protecting and promoting human rights, as well as on its contributions to international cooperation in this field.

The Deputy PM and FM affirmed that Vietnam’s bid to join the Human Rights Council has its roots in the consistent policy of the Party and State on protecting and promoting human rights and actively participating in international cooperation in this field.

Vietnam’s election to the UN HRC with such a high vote is of great significance. First of all, it is the international community’s recognition of the achievements the country has made in its comprehensive reform, policies and efforts regarding human rights. It is also a success of the Vietnamese Party and State’s external relations policy, reflecting the country’s increasing prestige and position in the international arena, and the international community’s appreciation of Vietnam’s role and contribution to the UN and other multilateral forums.

Deputy PM and FM Minh stressed that human rights have become a global issue attracting the great concern of the international community, and as the Party has affirmed, human rights are also a common aspiration of mankind and the fruit of human kind’s struggle through many generations.

The UNHCR is one of the most important UN agencies, bearing the responsibility of protecting and promoting human rights in the world. The council’s member countries must meet the highest standards on human rights, be ready to cooperate fully and be capable of contributing to the council’s work.

According to Minh, during its election campaign, Vietnam introduced to other countries its consistent viewpoint and policy, the legal system as well as the most outstanding achievements regarding human rights, while sharing information and experience in fields of shared interests.

Vietnam has made it clear that its policy has its origin in the aspiration for basic rights to freedom of the Vietnamese people, who used to be citizens of a colonial country.

One fact in Vietnam’s history is that human rights were included in the foreword of the Declaration of Independence that President Ho Chi Minh read to the country’s people and the world on September 2, 1945. Only one day later, on Sept. 3, 1945, President Ho stressed that one of the most urgent tasks of the new Vietnamese State was to organise a general election to elect a national assembly to devise and put in place a Constitution to affirm the ownership of the country. Even in the harsh conditions of the resistance war, the Vietnamese State made great efforts to ensure the rights and interests of the people.

The nation’s people have always been placed at the centre and been both the objective and the driving force in the development process and the cause of comprehensive reform in Vietnam. The people’s basic rights and freedom are institutionalised in the Constitution and laws, and their enforcement is ensured by many policies and mechanisms. The respect for and promotion of human rights have been affirmed in the first chapters of the revised 1992 Constitution, which was publicised for people’s feedback during the revision process.

Human rights relating to civil and political matters are demonstrated clearly in the country’s bustling political-social life. The National Assembly’s role and voice have been increasingly enhanced. The NA has promulgated and amended many laws, laying firm legal foundations for ensuring human rights in all fields, strengthening its role in inspecting and monitoring the operation of State agencies, especially through open question and answer sessions. The people’s rights are also enforced more effectively through judicial and administrative reforms. The people are assured that their opinions on the nation’s issues are heard by many important laws on the press, complaints and denunciations, and democracy at the grassroots level; socio-political organisations and the mass media enjoy rapid and diverse growth.

In Vietnam, 54 ethnic groups have maintained solidarity and mutual support throughout the nation’s history of national construction and defence. Every attempt at racial discrimination and separation is strictly banned. The life of ethnic minority groups, both spiritual and material, has seen continuous improvement. The country also boasts a diverse religious life with the presence of all major religions in the world. Besides a majority of people who practice Buddhism and the local Hoa Hao Buddhism and Caodaism, there is a large community of Catholics – one of the greatest in Asia. Vietnam also has the second largest number of Protestants in Southeast Asia.

Economic, social and cultural rights, particularly those on ownership, the freedom to engage in production and business, social welfare, creativity and enjoyment of culture, gender equality, education and healthcare as well as the rights of vulnerable groups such as children, the elderly and people with disabilities have been better ensured, helping Vietnam attain important socio-economic achievements recognised by the international community. These achievements also create more resources and conditions to better exercise civil and political rights.

The global community highly valued Vietnam as a spotlight in UNHCR’s agenda involving poverty reduction, food security, improvement in the human development index and fulfilment of millennium development goals ahead of schedule.

For the overseas Vietnamese (OV) community – an inseparable part of the nation, the State pays special attention to offering them support, ensuring that their legitimate interests in the host country are met via practical activities from direct assistance to negotiations for consular and judicial agreements.

Multiple policies and mechanisms have been put in place, alongside smoother procedures for visa applications, even visa exemptions, and civil, investment and home purchase regulations so that the OV community find it easier to return to the country, do businesses and integrate into the home society, contributing their efforts for the nation’s progress. Each year, hundreds of thousands of OV abroad find their way back to visit or live in the homeland.

About exchanges with global partners, Vietnam straightforwardly touches upon existing challenges and stands ready to talk about differences. The Declaration set at the 1993 Vienna World Conference on Human Rights, while saying that human rights hold universal values, noted the need to consider characteristics in each nation and region with different historical, cultural and religious settings. Each country must build and enforce laws to defend national security, social safety and order, and the legitimate rights of organisations and individuals. Articles 18, 19, 20, 21 and 22 of the International Covenants on civil and political rights make clear the rights to religious freedom, expression of opinion without interference, peaceful assembly and freedom of association with others must go hand in hand with special obligations and responsibilities in accordance with the law, including the guarantee of rights and prestige of other individuals, safeguarding of national security, order and public ethics; ban on propaganda for war or advocacy of national, racial and religious hatred.

The Vietnamese Party and State’s consistent policy is also clearly reflected in international partnerships in human rights protection and promotion. Vietnam is now a member of almost all the most significant global treaties on human rights, including the Covenants on civil and political rights, Conventions on economic, socio-cultural rights, children’s rights, and the elimination of all forms of discrimination against women. On November 7, 2013, Vietnam signed the International Convention on Anti-Torture and is working hard to fulfil regulations on procedures to adopt the International Convention on Rights of Persons with Disabilities in 2014.

Vietnam has also joined 18 treaties of the International Labour Organisation on the rights of labourers. The State of Vietnam has made efforts to build and supplement domestic laws, abide by global treaties reached in the past, including the obligation to make periodic national reports. The Convention bodies have so far concurred that Vietnam is serious about making national reports, saying that the country has made progress in following treaties.

Seven years since the UNHCR was established, Vietnam – as an observer – has actively contributed feedback and ideas on many issues on the body’s agenda and done its part for resolution design and the decision-making process.

Particularly, Vietnam made thorough preparations and successfully presented the report within the framework of the Universal Periodic Review mechanism, while seriously conforming to recommendations in previous presentations. In 2010, it welcomed four special UN rapporteurs or independent experts in poverty reduction, ethnic minority community, healthcare and the impacts of foreign debts. Between November 18 and 29, the Vietnamese Government greeted the special rapporteur on cultural rights and will welcome others from different fields in the coming time. At the UN General Assembly and the Socio-Economic Council, Vietnam made positive contributions and strongly voted for almost UN Resolutions on human rights. Vietnam’s viewpoints also match the general viewpoint expressed in international documents and UN documents on human rights.

Within the region, together with ASEAN member countries, Vietnam has made positive contributions to the establishment of the ASEAN Inter-Governmental Commission on Human Rights, the ASEAN Commission on the Promotion and Protection of the Rights of Women and Children and the ASEAN Human Rights Declaration.

The country also strengthens bilateral cooperation and dialogue with other countries on human rights to share information and experience to better ensure human rights in the country and related nations.

According to the Deputy PM and FM, Vietnam’s winning the election to a post in the UN Human Rights Council (UNHRC) with the highest votes manifested the international community’s welcome to the country’s ability to contribute to promoting the issue of human rights.

He further said that the country will take part in the council’s activities in a serious, positive and constructive manner.

Vietnam will also continue contributing ideas to important topics, individually and jointly propose and negotiate the council’s resolutions and decisions, and pay special attention to issues that concern developing countries, including rights for development, economics, society and culture and the fight against climate change.

The country will strengthen cooperation with the council’s regimes and procedures and be willing to work with other members of the council and international partners to put forth initiatives to promote new issues for the common benefit.

As a member of the UNHRC, Vietnam will have more opportunities to introduce its comprehensive renewal, external policies of the Party and State, its efforts and achievements in all fields regarding the protection and promotion of human rights while combating false opinions, said the official.

The country will also have more chances to contribute more deeply and fully to important international issues, expand cooperation with other foreign partners and learn from their experiences, Minh added.

Vietnam’s experience during the doi moi (renewal) process, human rights protection and promotion and its position as a member of the Association of Southeast Asian Nations (ASEAN), the non-Aligned Movement, the Francophonie and other regional and international organisations will contribute to the council’s operation.

Comprehensively strengthening the renewal process, successfully implementing the target of a wealthy people, a strong nation and a democratic, equitable and civilised society, and the State and Party’s consistent policies of protecting and promoting human rights continue to be the orientations for the country in completing laws and institutions, better ensuring people’s civil, political, economic, social and cultural rights.

Following the sound external relations policy put forth at the 11 th Party Congress, which says Vietnam is willing to be a reliable friend and responsible partner in the international arena, actively and positively integrating into the global community, the country will spare no efforts to make more contributions to the common tasks and well perform its role as a member of the UNHRC.