On 6 April, UNDP Viet Nam and the Viet Nam Ministry of Justice, with support from the Government of Sweden, organized the second national consultation workshop to advance responsible business practices in the country. As part of a broader initiative to promote business and human rights, the workshop was key step in the development of a National Action Plan (NAP) on Responsible Business Practices, including consultation with key stakeholders.
The workshop was a hybrid event joined by representatives of the Ministry of Justice, the Swedish Embassy in Viet Nam, UNDP and key stakeholder groups, as well as independent experts. Among them notably were Deputy Minister of Justice Phan Chi Hieu, First Secretary of the Embassy of Sweden Ola Karlman, UNDP Global Lead on Business and Human Rights Livio Sarandrea and UNDP Resident Representative Caitlin Wiesen.
In her opening speech, Wiesen stressed the need to integrate and mainstream human rights in the country’s legal framework, while at the same time emphasizing the importance of garnering support and consultation from the attendees.
“The impact of this plan will be proportional to the level of consultations from which it originates. And now is the time to contribute to this discourse. Your voice matters and your voice counts,” Wiesen said.
Highlighting the significance of the occasion, representatives of the Ministry of Justice and the Swedish Embassy echoed the need to consult with all relevant stakeholders, with Deputy Minister Hieu emphasizing the important role responsible business practices play in sustainable development.
Viet Nam is among several countries in Asia in the process of developing a NAP to strengthen the implementation of the UN Guiding Principles on Business and Human Rights. The workshop helped advance this process, building on the first consultation that took place in 2020, a Preliminary Assessment of the Regulatory Framework on Responsible Business Practices in Viet Nam, and a recently completed national baseline assessment (NBA).
During the workshop, a team of legal experts – NBA Research Team Leader Nguyen Hung Quang, Vanessa Zimmerman from Pillar Two, and Sarandrea – presented the findings of the baseline assessment and outlined recommendations for the development of the NAP. The assessment shows that businesses operating under the responsible business framework benefit not only their shareholders but also key stakeholders. More importantly, there is a clear global trend demonstrating that, in the long run, business enterprises committed to responsible practices generate greater returns than they would otherwise.
“We must understand that adopting a responsible business approach is not only the right thing to do, but also the smart thing to do. It is a ‘win-win’ situation that should be inclusive to stakeholders in all aspects,” said Sarandrea.
To this end, the experts emphasized that the task of realizing a responsible business approach is not only the duty of the state, but also hinges on the commitment of businesses to respect human rights, conduct routine due diligence, and provide effective access to remedy.
The discussions that followed were led by a panel moderated by Nguyen Thanh Tu, Director General of the Department of Economic and Civil Legislation in the Ministry of Justice. The panel covered recommendations for developing the NAP and streamlining legal frameworks for responsible business practices. Following this, key stakeholders and participants were invited to put forward their own recommendations and questions for the panel.
In the closing of the event, representatives from the Ministry of Justice and UNDP, along with the panelists, suggested that the draft of the NAP be released to the public for further consultation, after which it will be submitted to the prime minister in 2023 for his consideration.