Advancing human rights diplomacy

WVR - In recent years, Vietnam has been a beacon in terms of its economic, political, social achievements, and its commitment to human rights. The country's happiness index has climbed 12 places, moving from 77th in 2022 to 65th; its peace index has improved by four ranks to 41st; and it has entered the top 20 globally in terms of equality. Notably, strides in human rights diplomacy have significantly enhanced Vietnam's position on the international stage.
Giáo hoàng Francis chụp ảnh với Chủ tịch nước và Phu nhân cùng đoàn đại biểu cấp cao Việt Nam, ngày 27/7. (Ảnh: Vatican Media)

President Vo Van Thuong, his spouse and the high-ranking Vietnamese delegation met with Pope Francis during their visit to the Vatican on July 27, 2023. (Photo: Vatican Media)

Highlights in human rights diplomacy

Since its accession to the United Nations (UN) in 1977, Vietnam has actively engaged in diplomatic efforts, notably in the realm of human rights, achieving commendable results in 2023.

First, Vietnam has served as a responsible member of the UN's human rights framework. In its initial term as a member of the UN Human Rights Council (HRC) for 2023-2025, Vietnam promoted the message of "Respect, understanding, dialogue, and cooperation, human rights for everyone," marking several significant initiatives.

On April 3, 2023, in Geneva, Switzerland, the Resolution commemorating the 75th anniversary of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights (UDHR) and the 30th anniversary of the Vienna Declaration and Programme of Action (VDPA), proposed by Vietnam, was adopted by the HRC with support from 98 countries. This underscores Vietnam's role as a proactive and responsible member contributing to the HRC's mission of global human rights assurance and promotion.

Second, Vietnam has diligently fulfilled its obligations under international human rights treaties. To date, it has ratified or acceded to 7 of the 9 core UN human rights treaties and 25 conventions of the International Labour Organization (ILO), including 7 of the 8 fundamental conventions.

In 2023, Vietnam completed and submitted its report on the implementation of the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights (ICCPR) and the Convention against Torture and Other Cruel, Inhuman, or Degrading Treatment or Punishment (CAT), and successfully defended its fifth national report on the implementation of the International Convention on the Elimination of All Forms of Racial Discrimination (CERD).

Third, Vietnam has created conducive conditions for the operation of non-governmental organizations (NGOs) within its borders. Over recent years, to amplify the role of both domestic and international NGOs in human rights diplomacy, the Party and State have issued numerous policies, progressively refining the legal framework concerning the registration and management of NGO activities. This includes extending the NGO representative office registration duration to up to five years and simplifying administrative procedures and processing times for issuing, renewing, and amending registration certificates.

The Vietnamese Government has also made available seven forms and reports to facilitate the administrative tasks of foreign NGOs in Vietnam. By the end of 2022, more than 900 NGOs had established relationships and were operational in Vietnam, many contributing positively to human rights as well as to the country's socio-economic development.

Phó Thủ tướng Trần Lưu Quang tham dự Khóa họp lần thứ 52 của Hội đồng Nhân quyền Liên hợp quốc tại Geneva, Thụy Sỹ, tháng 2/2023.  (Nguồn: TTXVN)
Deputy Prime Minister Tran Luu Quang attended the 52nd session of the United Nations Human Rights Council in Geneva, Switzerland, in February 2023. (Photo: VNA)

Fourth, being proactive in foreign affairs and human rights dialogues. With its increasingly elevated position on the international stage, Vietnam's stance when participating in dialogues and working with countries on human rights, ethnic, and religious issues has reached a new height: proactive, confident, direct, flexible, and adaptable in the spirit of the "bamboo" foreign policy, achieving many successes.

Notably, the upgrade of relations between Vietnam and the Holy See, through the Agreement on the Status of the Permanent Representative and the Permanent Representative Office of the Holy See in Vietnam.

Or based on the foundation of the comprehensive strategic partnership between Vietnam and the United States, during the visit to the US by the intersectoral delegation and religious dignitaries, Vietnam proactively informed the US side of its efforts and achievements in ensuring the freedom of belief and religion; while also requesting that the US side should gather information on the human rights situation in Vietnam through the official channels of Vietnamese diplomatic missions abroad, not allowing misinformation to affect the relationship between the two countries…

Besides, the annual human rights dialogues between Vietnam and the US, Vietnam and the EU, Vietnam and Australia have become more in-depth and substantive. On one hand, providing full, official information about Vietnam's human rights situation to partners, and on the other hand, effectively disputing and refuting misinformation, resolving issues, reaching a common understanding, and respecting the uniqueness of each party's human rights, thereby promoting cooperative relations in the field of human rights, contributing to the development of bilateral relations.

Sixth, actively participating in maintaining international peace and humanitarian relief. Since 2014, Vietnam has sent hundreds of officers from the Ministry of Defense and the Ministry of Public Security to serve in the UN peacekeeping missions in South Sudan.

Vietnam's field hospitals in South Sudan not only provide medical examination and treatment but also carry out humanitarian and voluntary activities for the local people. Moreover, Vietnam is always active and ready to join hands with other countries to overcome the consequences of natural disasters and provide international humanitarian relief.

On February 9, 2023, 100 officers and soldiers from the Ministry of Defense and the Ministry of Public Security flew to Turkey to participate in the rescue efforts for the earthquake victims, providing emergency support to Turkey and Syria, each country with 100,000 USD along with tens of tons of medical supplies and food aid.

UN Secretary-General Antonio Guterres once commented: "Vietnam is an important partner of the UN, having made substantial and effective contributions to the UN's peacekeeping activities. This positive relationship needs to be further strengthened in the coming time to promote peace, sustainable development, and human rights around the world."

Overcoming challenges, affirming human rights values

Although it has achieved many successes and made breakthroughs, Vietnam's human rights foreign affairs work still faces numerous challenges.

Recently, hostile forces and opposition elements have thoroughly exploited human rights issues, especially the prosecution of opposition individuals violating the law... to spread fabricated and incorrect information about Vietnam's human rights assurance efforts, lobbying other countries to intervene and pressure us, especially during important political events and ahead of human rights dialogues... aiming to paint a "dark picture" of Vietnam's human rights situation, undermining our country's reputation.

Đoàn phóng viên nước ngoài thăm nơi giáo dân Đắk Lắk sinh hoạt tôn giáo
A group of foreign journalists visited a religious activity site in Dak Lak, 2023. (Photo: Nguyen Hong/WVR)

The work of foreign human rights information has been focused on but has not yet become a widespread movement; external propaganda has not been unified, failing to create comprehensive strength; awareness of the importance of human rights foreign affairs among a portion of officials, party members, and people is not fully adequate and profound; human rights foreign affairs primarily concentrate on the activities of the State, and people's diplomacy is limited; there has been a lack of initiative in approaching and lobbying methods for others to understand the human rights situation in Vietnam...

Therefore, to improve human rights foreign affairs work, it is necessary to focus on implementing the following solutions:

First, strengthen foreign human rights information based on the thorough grasp and serious implementation of Conclusion No. 57-KL/TW dated June 15, 2023, by the Politburo on continuing to improve the quality and effectiveness of foreign information work in the new situation and directly deploy the Human Rights Communication Project in Vietnam (Decision No. 1079/QĐ-TTg dated September 14, 2022, by the Prime Minister).

Innovative thinking and proactive promotion of foreign information and propaganda are needed; expand the scope, diversify forms, methods, and content of propaganda in multiple languages. Creative approaches and the advantages of science and technology should be utilized to reach foreign audiences, bringing positive information about Vietnam to other countries.

Second, clearly distinguish between targets and partners in human rights foreign affairs; combat the schemes and tactics of hostile forces that slander and distort Vietnam's human rights situation; expose the dark tricks, incorrect, and hostile arguments so the world can see the true nature of organizations using "human rights" to accuse and sabotage Vietnam through accurate evidence, logical and convincing arguments.

Third, flexibly and creatively apply diplomatic methods, consistent with Vietnam's "bamboo diplomacy" school: steadfast in principles, flexible in strategies; soft, clever yet firm, determined; flexible, creative but confident, and brave in facing all difficulties, challenges, for national independence, and the freedom, happiness of the people; united, compassionate but determined, persistent in protecting national interests.

"Solve problems where they arise" when issues arise in human rights foreign affairs. Make partners clearly understand the human rights situation in Vietnam, avoid prolonged unresolved issues, not handled in a timely manner; implement the principle of "talk matching actions" to build trust, enhance consensus.

Fourth, closely combine human rights foreign affairs with economic, political, cultural, and social foreign affairs; diversify foreign affairs activities, promote Party foreign affairs, state diplomacy and people-to-people exchanges.

Strictly implement international human rights treaties that Vietnam participates in, signs; actively and positively contribute effectively to the United Nations' human rights activities; promote initiatives on human rights protection against traditional and non-traditional security threats, challenges.

Continue to create favorable conditions for NGOs, both domestic and international, country representatives to promote human rights foreign affairs based on respect for international law and Vietnamese law.

Fifth, link economic growth with sustainable development, improve the material and spiritual life of the people; strengthen socialist democracy, ensure social equity, progress. Harness the strength of national unity; combine national strength with the power of the era. Correctly and effectively resolve the relationship between domestic and foreign affairs with the spirit of "internal warmth, external harmony."

Persist in the viewpoint that humans are the subjects, the center in all development policies and strategies, human rights for all people. Build a clean, strong political system, operating effectively; enhance Vietnam's position and prestige internationally as a solid basis to improve the quality of foreign affairs work in general, and human rights diplomacy in particular.

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Translated by Trung Linh
Translated by Trang Linh