Legal Policy Dialogue Improving the Effectiveness of Judicial Support to Meet Requirements of Judicial Reform in Viet Nam

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

December 15, 2021

Ms. Dang Hoang Oanh, 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, it is my pleasure to welcome all of you to today’s Legal Policy Dialogue.  As the two honorable speakers before me have mentioned, this Dialogue is made possible by the EU Justice and Legal Empowerment Programme, or EU JULE which is on its third full year of implementation and about to enter its fourth.

During these three years, EU JULE has been able to achieve encouraging results that have advanced the goal of enhancing an accessible justice system that benefits people on an equal basis. Among many achievements, one that cannot be underestimated is the opportunity for constructive policy dialogue between the EU, the Government of Viet Nam and UNDP on legal and judicial reform. The Legal Policy Dialogue today is a vivid attestation of our long-term trusted partnership. On this occasion, I welcome the Ministry of Justice’s constant efforts to further improve legal frameworks for Viet Nam; and extend our thanks to the European Union for its strategic support in this important development area.

The topic for our Legal Policy Dialogue today is improving the effectiveness of judicial support activities to meet the requirements of judicial reform in Viet Nam. Judicial support is an area that comprises many diverse services that are indispensable to litigation and beyond, encompasses all legal areas: criminal, civil and administrative. In Viet Nam, as in many other jurisdictions in the world, the court - represented by its judges, is constitutionally affirmed to be the adjudication body that exercises judicial power to safeguard justice. The court does not work alone. There are supporting forces to help the court to operate more judiciously and effectively. For example, the court relies on lawyers to debate facts and laws of a case. It depends on notaries to validate lawful written evidence, or bailiffs to help enforce its administrative decisions.  Beyond the courtroom, there are mediators and arbitrators who offer alternative mechanisms to settle disputes, which reduce the court’s workload. All these crucial tasks are delivered by judicial support services. With Viet Nam’s growing integration into the world, judicial support activities have an expanding role to play in guaranteeing justice, human rights, equality, and trust in society.

Since 2005, the importance of judicial support services in ensuring “high efficiency and effectiveness of adjudication” has been recognized by Resolution No.49 - the highest-level policy document on judicial reform of Viet Nam. Following the Resolution, the legal framework on judicial support is strengthened with issuance and revision of a number of laws including the Law on Notary 2006, the Law on Lawyers 2006, the Law on Commercial Arbitration 2010. The role of judicial support has been once again identified as a significant policy area under the Socio-Economic Development Strategy in the period from 2021 to 2030.  According to this Strategy, over the next nine years, Viet Nam aspires to establish a professional, modern, fair, just judiciary with integrity. To achieve this aspiration, effective and modernized judicial support services are one of the key drivers. 

As today’s Dialogue seeks to find solutions for the improvement of judicial support services, particularly in notarization, commercial arbitration and mediation, I would like to draw your attention to  challenges and recommendations in three key areas:  institutional structure, legal framework and service delivery. 

First, judicial services need a functional structure that enables effectiveness while upholding integrity and transparency. The functions, duties, powers and responsibilities of judicial support organizations and officers needs to be clearly defined in all stages of legal proceedings, from investigation, prosecution, adjudication to judgment enforcement. The state management of judicial support activities should be improved, ensuring the Government’s unified management of these activities and heightening the advisory role of the Ministry of Justice. In recent years, privatization of legal services, such as services of notaries and bailiffs, have brought some positive results. An institutional structure that better coordinates privatization of services and state’s management is an approach that is worthy of consideration.

Second, the legal framework on judicial support should be improved to provide clear mandates of each agency while aligning with international standards. In the field of alternative dispute resolution, the international standards that could serve as guiding examples for Viet Nam to improve current regulations in mediation and arbitration are the UNCITRAL Model Laws on international commercial mediation and arbitration. These model laws provide uniform rules for mediation and arbitration processes that meet international standards. They cover all crucial aspects of arbitration and mediation practices and have been accepted by a large number of states with different legal and economic systems. Most importantly, they provide principles to ensure a just and fair process where all parties to disputes receive equal treatment.

Third, judicial support service delivery should be high quality, innovative and digitalized. Judicial support officers should be equipped with information technology and soft skills to meet international integration requirements. Qualified legal training institutions should be allowed to provide training on arbitration and mediation to supply judicial support professionals for society, especially for the resolution of international commercial disputes related to the ASEAN Community and trade agreements. Innovative and digitalized approaches should also be applied to gain 100% online public judicial support services as directed by the Ministry of Justice’s Plan for Digital Transformation of the Judiciary Sector to 2025, with an orientation to 2030.

With the improvements in institutional structure, legal framework and service delivery that I hope today’s Dialogue will bring, judicial support services can assist the administration of justice more effectively as well as provide better alternative mechanisms to access justice for the people.  In order to break the barriers to access to justice and bring the services closer to communities, the reform of the judicial support services needs to place vulnerable service users at the center of all policies and laws, and prioritize them in implementation. This is especially important as Vietnam develops a new strategy on judicial reform until 2030 with a vision to 2045.

In closing, I would like to share a remark made by Prime Minister Pham Minh Chinh at the recent Industry 4.0 Summit earlier this month, who highlighted the importance of people’s need and happiness to be the lever for development, beyond and above “simplistic economic growth”. This remark resonates with the recommendations that I mentioned earlier and affirms the need to review and reform domestic regulations through a human-centric lens.

Thank you for listening and I wish you a stimulating exchange!

            Xin cam on!