Legal Forum on Civil Judgment Enforcement in the Development of the Socialist Rule-of-Law State in Viet Nam

Opening Remarks by Ms. Caitlin Wiesen, UNDP Resident Representative in Viet Nam

Posted December 16, 2021

Mr. Phan Chi Hieu, Vice Minister of Justice

Mr. Giorgio Aliberti, Ambassador – Head of the European Union Delegation to Viet Nam

Colleagues from ministries, national and international partners and non-governmental organisations;

Distinguished guests.

On behalf of UNDP Viet Nam, I am delighted to welcome all of you to today’s legal forum on the important topic of ensuring justice and fairness in society – the enforcement of civil judgments in developing the rule-of-law state in Viet Nam. This is a significant subject for both human rights protection and economic growth. On this occasion, UNDPwelcomes the efforts of the Government of Viet Nam to further improve the domestic legal framework to meet international human rights and economic standards.

In opening today’s forum, I would like to share three key points that I hope will contribute to the discussions:

First, solutions for the enforcement of court’s decisions requires a human rights-based approach. Effective judgement enforcement is essential to the right to adequate remedy and the right to access to justice – two of the fundamental human rights protected by the Universal Declaration of Human Rights and the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights which Viet Nam has ratified. Although these two UN human rights instruments and their guiding principles often refer to these two basic rights in criminal justice rather than in civil settings, the rights to remedy and access  justice apply to everyone who engages  with the law and seeks  fairness, regardless of which branch of law that is. As a human rights matter, the realisation for awards granted by a lawful judgement is the  State’s responsibility.

As enshrined in articles 8 and 10 of the Declaration and article 14 of the Covenant, the first and foremost duty of the State is to ensure that any decisions by a court of law must be made by one that is impartial, competent, and independent. Without this fundamental condition, we risk enforcing unfair and unjust decisions.

A human rights based-approach to enforcing civil decisions is even more pressing when the ability to collect judgement debts has significant impact on the most vulnerable members of society, who are often the weaker parties to disputes. A single mother, for example, who has to rely on the court to secure child support payments is not in a position to pursue a judgment enforcement against a father who ignores his legal duty. A similar case applies for workers whose months of hard earned salaries are denied when their former employer refuses to honour a court’s decision.

Streamlining the process for special categories of civil cases involving the most vulnerable populations will be a significant advance towards the goal of making the judicial system accessible for all. We encourage the Vietnamese judicial authorities to identify particularly vulnerable classes of litigants and take measures to ensure that their judgments afford them adequate remedy and justice.

Turning to the second point,  the enforcement of civil judgments are vital for public confidence in the judiciary and thereby, an indispensable driver for economic development.

 

When people believe that they can enforce the terms of a contract in an effective and timely manner, they are more likely to engage in commercial enterprise. This principle is particularly true for international transactions. International investors would be more likely to engage in trade with Viet Nam when they are confident that the arbitration clauses in their contracts would be enforceable if they ever find themselves in a dispute.

Viet Nam’s current reform efforts to update and improve the existing legal framework for collecting  judgments is an important step towards reforming the judiciary that could greatly increase public confidence. The capacity to materialise a court’s decision is a test that proves (or disproves) that the judicial system is capable of fairly and impartially adjudicating and resolving contractual and monetary disputes.

As Viet Nam endeavours to become an upper-middle income country by 2030 and ultimately a high-income one by 2045, solutions for better enforcement of civil judgements would be a lever to achieve this ambition, thereby improving the livelihood of the Vietnamese people.

As today’s forum seeks to identify solutions for enforceable legal judgments, I would like to offer my last point on the importance of innovations in the enforcement of civil judgements.

Resolutions of the XIII Party Congress set the goal of promoting innovation in order to create an enabling business investment environment for all economic sectors. We are encouraged that  Viet Nam’s  Socio-Economic Development Strategy for the period from 2021 to 2030 highlights the requirements for mordenising the judiciary by "implementing digital transformation in all enterprises and state agencies”. Responding to this need, UNDP has recently agreed with the Government on our next 5-year Country Program in which, inclusive and human-centric digitization and innovation form a central pillar of  UNDPs support for the period2022 to 2026. 

The presentation on international experiences that my UNDP colleague will share  later this morning will hopefully shed light on  successful innovations that have resolved backlogs in judgment enforcement. For example e-justice or the application of digital technologies to administer, deliver or monitor justice services has been proven an effective solution to improve justice integrity and reduce backlog in the court system. Beyond this forum, UNDP is committed to continue providing technical assistance to Viet Nam to explore and adapt some of the promising good practices and recommendations.

The Covid-19 Pandemic that is still with us today has had an unprecedented impact on how we live our lives and we do  business. The New Normal has also opened doors for more digitalisation and innovations so that daily life and business can continue  amidst restrictions to contain the virus. It is also a reminder that human rights protection and economic development are two intertwined aspects and should always be seen as such in law and policy making. Solutions for enforcing judgments should therefore reflect today’s challenges and take advantage of the opportunities. 

I would like to conclude  by sharing a quote from  President Ho Chi Minh, ‘the society is good only if the justice sector is good.  This simple but profound statement  stresses the critically important  role of the judiciary in upholding justice and good governance. With strategic support from the EU and close collaboration with sister UN agencies, UNDP stands ready to deepen our partnership with  the Government of Viet Nam to accelerate actions to advance judicial reform that translates into greater access to justice for those most vulnerable and left behind.

I look forward to the discussions and outcomes of this important Legal Forum.

As we approach the end of 2021, allow me to extend my wishes to all present for great health, happiness and prosperity.

Thank you – Xin cam on!