To be frank, in the past time, such as during the national liberation revolution, in the resistance wars (1945 – 1975) and in the time of building socialist society towards the former socialist model (1975 – 1986), due to many reasons, human rights were not fully observed in our country.
After the collapse of the USSR and the disintegration of Eastern Europe communist countries, hostile forces strengthened their strategy of “Peaceful Evolution” to counter our State and society with the aim to transform our regime to a strange “democratic, human rights” model. In that context, our Party and State, on one hand, were steadfast in the aim of national independence and socialism; on the other hand, applied and creatively develop Marxism – Leninism and Ho Chi Minh thought, thereby changing the old socialism model to a new one. Our Party stated that: “Socialist society that we are building is the one in which people are rich, the country is strong, democratic, equal, civilized,…” and “People is the centre of all development strategies and the subject of development. Since then, human rights in our country have seen significant achievements, representing new progresses in the fields of human rights that are undeniable.
Legally, basing on the Platform and lines of the Party, up to now, Vietnam has signed most of core international conventions on human rights. In 2013, for the first time, Vietnam Constitution spared a whole chapter – Chapter II – for human rights and the basic rights and obligations of its citizens. It can be said that, the 2013 Constitution and the present legal system of Vietnam are not only comparable with international conventions on human rights but also considered one of the most advanced legal systems in the world. For this reason, Vietnam became a member of the UNHRC for the 2014 – 2016 term, member of UN ECOSOC for the 2016 – 2018 term and recently it has been elected to the UN International Law Commission for the 2016 – 2021 term.
Over the past years, human rights in economic, social, and cultural fields have received due care from our Party and State and gained great outcomes: economic growth is maintained at fairly good rate, per capita income increased from USD 1,024 per year in 2008 to the estimated USD 2,200 in 2016. Vietnam has become a middle-income country since 2010 and its poor household rate decreased sharply from 13.7% in 2008 to below 5% in 2015.
Second, human rights in civil and political aspects have also seen significant progresses. Take the Election of Deputies to the XIV National Assembly (NA) an example. 67,485,480 voters (equal to 99.35%) went to the poll. Among the 500 members of the NA, 86 are ethnic minorities, 133 are women, 21 are not Party members, etc. Members of the NA in the XIV term are also the more educated than those of the previous terms: over 310 members (accounting for 62.50%) have higher degrees; 180 of them are graduates (accounting for 36.30%); only 6 members haven’t got tertiary education. Female and ethnic rate in our NA is rather high in comparison with many other countries in the region. For the first time ever, an woman chairs the NA.
Third, the freedom of speech and the freedom of press are respected and broadened. At present, there are 105 newspapers and magazines, 83 of which have online versions. There are 22 independent electronic newspapers and magazines. 248 electronic news pages of press agencies have been licensed. During the past 5 years, there have been more 44 electronic presses going into existence. There are 67 radios and televisions country wide, including the two national one, namely The Vietnam Television and The Voice of Vietnam.
Besides the domestic press, Vietnamese people are now able to access to tens of foreign presses and televisions, such as: Reuters, BBC, VOA, AP, AFP, CNN, and many other major ones.
It can be said that Vietnam has built almost all technical infrastructure of a “flat world”. Tools for searching and storing information, such as Google, Yahoo, YouTube, etc and social networks, websites, personal blogs are now accessible anytime. According to many international organizations, Facebook’s growth in Vietnam is the fastest one in the region.
Fourth, our Party and State always regard the respect and promotion of the freedom of religion and belief; the right of ethnic minorities as their duty and part of the strength of the national unity block. In reality, our Party and State have always paid attention to the spiritual and material lives of religious followers and to the harmonious development of the religions with the nation. In Vietnam, all religions are permitted as long as their operations are pursuant to laws. No one is forced to follow or not allowed to follow a particular religion.
To ensure socio – economic rights of ethnic minorities, our State pays special attention to the development of infrastructure. At present, 92% of the communes can be accessible by car; 95% of the communes have electricity; 80% of the communes have irrigation; 65% of the communes have clean water. Ensuring the right to education is the basic goal in the State’s policy. Educational facilities have been built synchronously in all remote communes. In addition, poor children also get subsidy from the government so that they have more chance to education. Health system are developed widespread, including remote areas. Health clinics have been built in 99% of the country’s communes.
Fifth, the rights of the vulnerable groups (including women, children) is a matter of special concern of our Party and State. Annually, the Ministry of Labor, Invalid and Social Affairs coordinates with other related ministries, branches, organizations and localities to launch “Action Month for Infants” (June) in order to involve the whole society in the protection and caring of children, creating safe and healthy living environment for the physical, intellectual and spiritual development of children.
Concerning women’s right, since 2010, the NA has issued 40 laws regarding women’s rights. The National program on gender equality in the period 2016 – 2020 is aimed to “Reducing the gender gap and raising the status of women in some fields, sectors, areas, localities which have gender inequality or high risk of gender inequality, contributing to successfully realizing the National Strategy on gender equality in the 2011 – 2020 period”.
In the Party’s executive bodies, three members of the Politburo are woman, accounting for 15,78%; more than 50% of the ministries, central bodies have female key cadres.
In the field of labor and job, the ratio of female laborer is still maintained at high level, accounting for 48,3% of the workforce. The percentage of women holding managerial positions in enterprises is 24,9%. Maternal mortality has decreased by more than three folds, from 233 mothers per 100,000 children in 1990 to 59 mothers per 100,000 children in 2014 and in 2015, the number was estimated at 58.3/100,000.
Sixth, international cooperation in the field of human rights has been strongly fostered by our State. Our political institution, social regime have been respected by other nations. The U.S. – Vietnam Comprehensive Partnership launched by President Truong Tan Sang and his U.S. counterpart Barack Obama in July 2013 affirmed the principle that: “ The two sides observe the UN Charter, respect international law and their respective political institution, independence, sovereignty and territorial integrity”. This means that the US shall respect social regime led by our Party and Vietnam’s legal system. Certain differences between the two sides can only be narrowed through dialogues and equal cooperation.
Ensuring human rights is the goal of all nations. Vietnam’s achievements in the field of human rights are important and undeniable. However, Vietnam is still facing a number of challenges. Living in a clean environment is considered a basic and important right by international community. However, serious environmental pollution is a huge threat to our human right.
In the field of ensuring civil and political rights, in the context of market economy, the biggest challenge to us is the degradation in moral and lifestyle, bureaucracy, corruption, group's interest, etc of some cadres, party members as pointed out in the Central Resolution 4 (XI, XII tenure) which have an adverse affect on not only people’s belief in the Party and regime but also on the protection of human right.
However, we strongly believe that, following Marxism – Leninism, implementing the Party’s Platform, the State’s policy and law, we will inevitably enjoy human rights more fully.
Cao Duc Thai, PhD
Ho Chi Minh National Academy of Politics