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Viet Nam: a rights-based approach key in addressing new development challenges, says UN expert on debt

HANOI (30 March 2011) – UN Independent Expert on foreign debt and human rights, Cephas Lumina, applauded Viet Nam’s model of human development, which places Vietnamese citizens at the centre of national development. However, he underlined that a human rights-based approach is needed in addressing the new challenges to the country’s development.

“To fully ensure that principle, it is important that national economic and social policies and programmes are firmly anchored in a human rights-based framework that underscored participation, transparency and accountability,” Mr. Lumina said at the end of his first mission* to Viet Nam.

“The citizens of Viet Nam are not only the main beneficiaries of the Government’s economic and social development programmes,” the Independent Expert said, “they are also the most important stakeholders in the country’s development.”

During his nine-day visit to the country, Mr. Lumina assessed the impact of Viet Nam’s debt burden on the realization of human rights and the achievement of the Millennium Development Goals (MDGs). He also explored the impact of the global economic downturn on country’s debt burden, human rights and MDGs.

Mr. Lumina pointed to a number of challenges, including those linked to the country’s newly-achieved “lower middle-income” status. While commending the remarkable progress made towards fulfilling the MDGs, he underscored that Viet Nam’s reliance on official development assistance (ODA) “is increasingly challenged by the decline of ODA at the global level and by the impact of the global economic downturn.”

On the sustainability of Viet Nam’s foreign debt and its effect on the MDGs, the Independent Expert pointed out that the budget and trade deficits required urgent attention with a view to ensuring that social protection measures were not affected. He welcomed the Government’s commitment to ensuring that these were not adversely impacted.

Mr Lumina highlighted the challenge of access to information, and noted that “to enhance transparency and accountability in the management and use of public resources, the Government should ensure broad availability of accurate and timely information on, inter alia, debt and ODA.”

The UN Independent Expert also warned that climate change posed a serious challenge to the country’s development efforts, given that the region is prone to environmental hazards and is vulnerable to sea-level rise. He urged the international community to continue supporting the Government in its endeavour to address this issue.

Mr. Lumina is a Zambian lawyer who holds a PhD in international law/human rights. He was appointed ‘Independent Expert on the effects of foreign debt and other related international financial obligations of States on the full enjoyment of all human rights, particularly economic, social and cultural rights’ by the Human Rights Council in 2008. He is independent from any government or organization and serves in his individual capacity. The mandate of the Independent Expert covers all countries.

(*) Check the Independent Expert’s full end-of-mission statement: http://www.ohchr.org/EN/NewsEvents/Pages/DisplayNews.aspx?NewsID=10901&LangID=E

Learn more about the mandate of the Independent Expert, please visit: http://www2.ohchr.org/english/issues/development/debt/index.htm

OHCHR Country Page – Viet Nam: http://www.ohchr.org/EN/countries/AsiaRegion/Pages/VNIndex.aspx

For further information and media requests, please contact Jamshid Gaziyev (Tel: + 41 797 520 484 / email: ieforeigndebt@ohchr.org), or Louise Nylin (Tel: +844 394 21495 ext: 168 / email: Louise.Nylin@one.un.org)