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Preliminary Observations of the Special Rapporteur on the Right to Food, Hilal Elver, on her mission to Viet Nam 13-23 November 2017

23 November 2017

I am addressing you today at the conclusion of my official visit to Viet Nam that I undertook at the invitation of the Government from 13 to 23 November 2017.

The objective of my mission was to evaluate the realisation of the right to food in Viet Nam. The following statement outlines my preliminary findings based on the information and interviews gathered during my visit, as well as background research conducted prior to the visit. My final report will be presented at a forthcoming session of the United Nations Human Rights Council.

Firstly, I would like to thank the Government of Viet Nam for the invitation to visit the country. The Ministry of Foreign Affairs has been most helpful throughout the preparations and during the visit itself.

This is the first visit in more than three years by an independent expert appointed by the UN Human Rights Council. Based on the experience of this visit, I hope that it will open the door for other UN independent experts representing other spheres of human rights to carry out similar missions to mine. Future potential visits could further enhance the relationship between the Government of Viet Nam and the mechanisms established by the UN Human Rights Council. This could help achieve the promotion and protection of all human rights through a process of sharing good practices and effective strategies and constitute an opportunity to engage in a mutually beneficial dialogue with all relevant partners.

The Government of Viet Nam is currently in the process of preparing its report for its third Universal Periodic Review of the UN Human Rights Council, in January-February 2019, with a focus on the implementation of the recommendations made during the two previous UPR cycles. This process is a significant indication of Viet Nam’s firm commitment to human rights. 

During my stay I met with high level Government representatives from the Ministry of Foreign Affairs, the Ministry of Agriculture and Rural Development, the Ministry of Industry and Trade, the Ministry of Natural Resources and Environment, the Ministry of Labour, Invalids and Social Affairs, the Ministry of Health and the Central Committee on Ethnic Minority Affairs. I also met with the National Congress Committee on Science, Technology and Environment and the Government’s Office of Human Rights. I met with representatives from international organizations, academia, development agencies and a small group of civil society actors.

During the mission, I had the opportunity to visit three provinces: Bac Can in the North, Quang Bihn in the Centre and Can Tho in the South of Viet Nam. I met with the local People’s Committee in each province and conducted field visits to speak to people about their various situations, challenges, and livelihoods.

I visited Viet Nam shortly after the society felt the impact of hurricane Damrey and I wish to express my condolences to the people of Viet Nam for the loss of lives, mostly in coastal areas, of poor fisherfolk and farmers. I was most impressed by the efficient relief responses by the Government, several unions of women and young people, who with the support of United Nations agencies helped to minimize the social harm and human suffering in the aftermath of this natural disaster. Viet Nam also deserves international recognition for its resilience and mitigation measures in the face of climate change, particularly in relation to extreme weather events and sea level rise. 

In Bac Can I visited a small Dao-minority resettlement community, in Quang Bihn, a fishing village, and in Can Tho, I met with a women’s cooperative and rice farmers. These field visits were valuable, yet I was unable to make confidential and unsupervised contact with witnesses and representatives of the most vulnerable communities in some locations.

I am grateful to the United Nations Resident Coordinator and his staffs for their useful support both prior to the visit and during my time in Viet Nam.

Finally, I would like to express my sincere gratitude for the warm hospitality of all those who took the time to meet with me, including central and provincial officials, as well as village officials and the people of Viet Nam. I particularly benefitted from meetings with those who shared their personal experiences and relevant information on the issues at the heart of the mandate.

General Overview:

Viet Nam’s development over the past 30 years is truly remarkable. Economic and political reforms under Đổi Mới (the renovation project), launched in 1986, have transformed Viet Nam from one of the world’s poorest nations to a middle-income country. The government should describe and explain their program in a public document so other relevant countries can benefit from this extraordinary success.

According to the World Bank, since 1990, Vietnam’s GDP per capita growth has been among the fastest in the world, averaging 6.4 percent a year in the last decade, largely due to robust domestic demand and a successful export-oriented manufacturing plan.

This economic growth has facilitated dramatic reductions in poverty and hunger. In 1993, over half of the population lived on less than 1.90 dollars a day. The current rate of such extreme poverty has fallen to 3 percent. The broader achievements in reducing poverty have also been quite extraordinary, with the overall poverty rate falling from 58.1 percent in 1993 to 7 percent in 2015. This achievement has had a great positive impact on food security. As we know, hunger and food security is not only about food availability; economic accessibility to available food on the part of the poor is equally crucial.

Poverty reduction has been accompanied by strategies to boost rice production in order to provide for internal consumption and to permit export. Not only does Viet Nam currently produce enough rice to feed its own population and to maintain reserves for natural disasters as well as unforeseen events, it is also currently the world’s third largest rice exporter, annually exporting around six million metric tonnes.

Despite Viet Nam’s needs based economic development policy, progress has been uneven in relation to those people who live in remote areas, particularly ethnic minority populations, facing persistent poverty and inequalities compared with the circumstances of the majority Kinh’s population. The result is adverse impacts on people’s right to adequate food in the poorer regions of the country, including the Northern Uplands, Central Highlands and Central Coastal areas.

The Government has taken important steps to address poverty through its 2011 –2020 Socio-Economic Development Strategy and its 2016–2020 Socio-Economic Development Plan, with both documents containing a beneficial focus on social equity and sustainability.

The United Nations supports the Government of Viet Nam through its One Strategic Plan 2017-2021. This recently launched plan represents the programmatic and operational framework for delivering United Nations support to the Government on the basis of the human rights based approach.

I am encouraged to see that the Sustainable Development Goals are a key priority of the Government of Viet Nam, a position also being positively expressed by the commitment of Viet Nam to the Voluntary Review Process. I have been informed during my visit that a transparent and participatory process has been initiated by the Government in the preparation of its report. I would be more than happy to assist in any way that might be helpful, if necessary, to policies in relation to food security and right to food in Sustainable Development Goal number 2.   

All development strategy plans should adopt a definite human rights based approach articulated as “no one left behind”, which ensures that priority will be given to the needs of the most vulnerable and disadvantaged, while at the same time making a maximum effort to promote sustainable growth.

Legal Framework

I wish to offer some observations on national legislation pertaining to the right to food. As a State party to the International Covenant on Economic, Social and Cultural Rights (ICESCR), Viet Nam has a duty to respect, protect and fulfil the right to food. It has also committed to undertake the appropriate steps, with due consideration taking account of its available resources, to ensure the realisation of the right to an adequate standard of living, including adequate food, as articulated in Article 2/1 and Article 11 of the Covenant.

Viet Nam is also party to other core international human rights treaties, including the Convention on the Elimination of All Forms of Discrimination against Women, the Convention on the Rights of the Child and the Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities, all of which contain provisions explicitly linked to the right to adequate food.

However, while these widely ratified international instruments are sources of binding law in Viet Nam, the right to food is only implicitly enshrined in the Constitution. The right to food is protected in connection with the right to life (article 19) and health care and the right to health, as stipulated in the Constitution (Articles 19 and 39 of the Constitution). This provides the possibility, but only indirectly and with uncertainty, of the right to food to be adjudicated by the courts and otherwise protected by legal mechanisms.

Justiciability of economic social and cultural rights, including the right to food, entails the legal capacity of potential victims of violations of these rights to file formal complaints before an independent and impartial body, including the opportunity to request adequate remedies and their prompt implementation. I would like to suggest that in order to protect human rights, an effective judicial remedy be made available to all citizens  and permanent residents within the Vietnamese judicial system, as it is essential to the full enjoyment of the right to food by all individuals.  As a positive step in this area, I reiterate the earlier recommendation of the Human Rights Council, suggesting that Viet Nam ratify the Optional Protocol of the ICESCR (2013).   

On a domestic level, despite many decrees and regulations to enhance food security and agricultural activities, there is no overarching framework law that includes all relevant sectors to food security, such as environment, trade, nutrition, health, women empowerment, as well as the protection of small holder farmers. Such a legal framework together with strong central institutions to coordinate various policy sectors is recommended at the global level by the United Nations Food and Agriculture Organization and the Voluntary Guidelines to Right to Food (2004). Also relevant are several recommendations by the World Committee of Food Security, a global policy making body concerned with all facets of food security and right to food. 

In this connection, I strongly encourage the establishment of a comprehensive legal framework on the right to adequate food, with clear guidelines on the promotion and implementation of this right.

Agricultural sector and policies

Since the economic reform, the Government of Viet Nam has taken measures to strengthen its agriculture sector. It is no longer a net importer of food, and has become a large–scale exporter. The Vietnamese economy is gradually shifting away from agriculture as it increases its manufacturing and service sectors.  Agriculture accounted for 17 percent of GDP in 2015, which is a dramatic drop from 31.8 percent in 1990.

These reforms created conditions for a strong supply oriented agricultural response to growing domestic demand and improved international market opportunities. Agricultural production more than tripled as measured by volume in the period between 1990 and 2013. Viet Nam is now the world’s largest exporter of cashews and black pepper, the second largest exporter of coffee and cassava, and the third largest exporter of rice, fish and seafood.

The modernisation progress in Viet Nam has put significant pressure on the agricultural sector in terms of land conversion (see section on access to land below) where significant areas of land have been converted from rural to semi-urban or urban uses, infrastructure development and industrial investment. The proportionate contribution of agriculture to overall GDP has been declining, but its role in job creation and food production for the poorer populations in rural areas remains a vital contribution to overall food security. This suggests that people in rural areas are producing for their own consumption, but their income is not increasing, and it might become problematic in the future.

The agricultural sector provides employment for about 24 million people, approximately 46 per cent of total employment. The conversion rate of agricultural land and labour to urban and industrial uses is high— approximately 70,000 hectares per year and 100,000 labourers per year, respectively. This has the effect of creating overall job insecurity, and migration from rural areas to cities often causing difficult adjustment processes. These policies and developments need to be carefully reviewed and revised as appropriate. 

According to United Nations Food and Agriculture Organization and the Government, in the near future, it will be difficult for the agriculture sector to maintain its current growth rate if continuing to rely on its existing development model based on resource-based production growth and intensive use of capital inputs and raw-material export.

While rice production of Viet Nam is now at record levels with three harvests a year, it is important to consider quality and variation of the product for long term sustainability and market competition. The diversification of agricultural production is always a desirable policy, especially in times of climate change. The government is certainly sensitive to these considerations, and it would be beneficial to implement policy adjustments at the earliest possible time.

Livestock production has achieved positive results with growth of 4.5-5 percent each year during 2011-2016, which was a major contribution to the overall growth of the agriculture sector. Some locally produced livestock products have both been able to meet domestic demands and yet be also available for export. Milk production especially has been supported by government policies and has attracted foreign investment. Complete value chains have been developed, particularly for pork, egg, and dairy products. Over time, the negative impacts of livestock upon the environment should be carefully considered and appropriate regulation should be adopted. 

Fisheries and aquaculture, representing between 4-5 per cent of GDP, ranking 5th among export commodity groups, contributes over 50 per cent of dietary protein, and provides employment for approximately 10 per cent of the population. However, overfishing and harmful fishing practices in certain national settings, poor planning and inadequate regulations cause not only environmental harm but also produce social conflicts and economic losses. The Master Plan on Fisheries Development of Viet Nam to 2020, Vision to 2030 sets forth the development objectives for the sector.

Access to food, poverty and people’s livelihoods

The right to social security is directly linked to the right to food and enshrined in the 2013 National Constitution of Vietnam in its article 34 stating that : “Citizens are guaranteed the right to social security”.

The Social Insurance Law passed in June 2006, and amended in 2014, covers public and private employees in the event of disability, sickness, maternity, work injury, unemployment insurance, and old-age on a compulsory basis.

However, people who are not “poor enough” to be eligible for state-funded social assistance are left behind . In 2012, for the first time, the Government adopted a resolution aimed at the establishment of a universal social protection system by 2020.

We were informed of a lack of a complete Government school feeding program, which would have been important in ensuring children’s access to nutritious food. On the other hand we received information about the Milk Program. This raised several concerns, related to the lack of alternatives for children in particular in relation to lactose intolerance but also due to the fact that there seem to be vested interests on behalf of the corporate section in particular the milk and packing industries.

Internal migration

Viet Nam is also urbanizing rapidly, with the urban population at 33.12 million in June 2010, accounting for 38.6 percent of the total population. Internal migration has recently become a national phenomenon, with all of Viet Nam’s provinces recording internal movement of individuals to larger urban or industrial centres. It is important to ensure that internal migrants can access the full suite of social services, in order to remain food secure.

Fisherfolk and the impact of the Formosa Incident

Fisherfolk, in particular in the Central Coast, are among the poorest in Viet Nam with insecure incomes exacerbated by the vulnerability to climate change which aggravates extreme weather events. During my visit to Viet Nam I visited the Quang Binh Province on the central coast. Most fishing households in this area are relatively poor, and highly dependent upon natural resources. The poorest near-shore fishing households are therefore amongst the most vulnerable segments of Quang Binh’s population.

According to information received and testimonies, on April 4 2016, during the pilot operation of the Formosa Steel Production Factory a local diver and fishermen discovered an underground pipe near the Formosa steel plant located on the coast in the Hat Thin province to the North of Quang Bihn, leaking dark-yellow water.  Two days later, tons of dead fish began washing up along the coasts of the four provinces of Ha Tinh, Quang Tri, Quang Binh and Thua Thien Hue. Seafood catches dropped dramatically as all fishing activities had to be suspended with important effects on people’s livelihoods for several months.

Following an investigation and later an official apology of the Formosa Company in June 2016 seven affected sectors in Ha Tinh, Quang Binh, Quang Tri, and Thua Thien – Hue received compensation.

The total figure paid by the foreign company was 500 million US dollars, but I received no official information on how compensation was nationally distributed. In Quang Bihn, local authorities confirmed that they received 140 million dollars that were distributed amongst victims.

During the field visit to Quang Bihn, in additional meetings and in analysing an impact assessment conducted by UNDP in collaboration with the local government I received information about the unfair distribution of compensation in the aftermath of the incident.  As agreed with the Government, I am excepting to receive further clarification on this matter from the relevant authorities. The compensation on certain occasions seems to have been insufficient in relation to the more long-term impact on the fisherfolk and their families’ livelihoods.

I also received complaints from people that saw themselves obliged to eat the contaminated fish, due to the drastic income reduction from being unable to conduct fishing activities.  I was further informed that both internal and international migration in affected areas have become more widespread as people search for new opportunities.

I encourage the Government, despite all their efforts, to be transparent and open with regards to the incident that had a severe impact on many families and their livelihoods and created a lot of fear. Complementary Government support to affected families could also help in mitigating the impact on people’s livelihoods.

Malnutrition

Viet Nam’s progress in combating undernourishment has also been remarkable. The proportion of undernourished in the total population fell from 46 per cent in 1990-92 to 13 percent in 2012-14.  The Global Food Security Index, currently ranks Viet Nam as the 64th country in the world in terms of achieving food security with undernourishment affecting 11 percent.

Yet, according to Viet Nam’s most recent General Nutrition Survey 2009- 2010, one in three children under the age of five are stunted. Stunting, or being too short for one’s age in the first 1,000 days of a child’s life results in an irreversible outcome due to chronic nutritional deficiency and negatively affects the development of a child’s brain.

The General Nutrition Survey revealed emergent socio-economic disparities as well as regional disparities, with stunting rates among children in remote and inaccessible areas, affecting particular for minority groups, is twice as high as the stunting rate among their peers in areas where normal conditions prevail.

I am impressed to see that the 2011-2012 National Nutrition Strategy focuses on stunting reduction since the effects of under-nutrition are generally irreversible. Lack of access to adequate and nutritious food will have a detrimental impact on Viet Nam’s future generations, and this should be addressed as a matter of urgency.

I was further impressed to observe that the 2012 Labour Code increased maternity leave from four to six months, constituting one of the longest maternity leave periods in Asia. Longer maternity leaves encourage mothers to attend to the health and nutrition of their children and offers enhanced opportunities for breastfeeding. I strongly encourage Viet Nam to maintain and protect breastfeeding, and especially to resist pressure from either private or public sector employers.

According to the most recent General Nutrition Survey somewhat less than 20 percent of infants in Viet Nam were exclusively breastfed until the age of 6 months. 35 percent of children during the same period were bottle-fed before the age of two, which involves the introduction of a corporate baby formula into the early diet. Breastfeeding is not only beneficial to the child's health but also provides immediate and over time health protection for the mothers.

Adopted in 2006, Decree 21 aims at supporting optimal infant and young child feeding and limits the promotion of breast milk substitutes. The decree primarily regulates advertising of formula for children less than 12 months of age. It is generally recommended that this age limit be extended to two years of age as reinforced by a complete prohibition of all promotional and marketing tactics.  I am pleased to learn that the Government of Viet Nam supports the World Health Organisation’s most recent relevant recommendations. It is important also to monitor practices of the private sector that aggressively and often misleadingly advertise their products as a healthy alternative to breastfeeding. 

Although it is not yet a big problem in terms of numbers of people affected, overweight rates for children in Viet Nam are on the rise; the General Nutrition Survey showed that nationally close to 6 per cent of children under five are overweight and obese. In Ho Chi Minh City and Ha Noi this figure rises to 12-15 per cent. The national rates are six times higher than in 2000, putting an increasing number of children at risk of contracting a variety of obesity-related diseases. The trend is disturbing, and should be addressed at an early time as a high policy priority.

I was further informed during my visit that the Government has an ambitious plan to increase the average height of the Vietnamese people by 2013. When confronted by such prospects, great caution should be used. This project approved by the Government in 2011 is estimated to cost about US$287 million, and covers studies and action programs that will increase awareness and encourage exercise and other healthy habits. It has a particular focus on milk consumption. I would like to recall that it is crucial that nutrition policies are comprehensive with an eye toward diversification of a healthy diet, targeting of all forms of malnutrition, including obesity, and micronutrient deficiency. To reach these ambitious goals depends on making sure that they are adequately supported financially and supervised by independent experts from a health perspective.

Food Safety

Food safety has been a priority in Vietnam since 1990 but the number of food poisoning outbreaks has hardly diminished. In 2010 there were 175 outbreaks reported involving over 5,000 people leading to 51 deaths, which is similar to the levels recorded in 2000. Most food poisoning episodes (around 60 per cent) occur within family homes. Food safety issues are of great concern to the people in Viet Nam, in the cities and in the rural areas, both with regard to local produce but also with respect to imported products.

The excessive and to a certain extent unregulated use of pesticides and others chemicals in the production chain have led to an increase in contaminants. Contaminants in food include non-food colour additives, pesticides and fungicides, antibiotics, heavy metals such as cadmium and mercury.

Viet Nam has a thriving street-food tradition, which also is an important source of income earnings as well as a way for people to access nutritious, varied food at an affordable price. However this sector due to its size and relative informality remains difficult to oversee and the quality of the food served cannot be guaranteed to be safe. According to the Viet Nam Food Administration traditional practices of preparing food are usually not hygienic and the lack of refrigeration limits the ability of many vendors and consumers to store food at safe temperatures.  In the more remote areas the lack of clean water for cooking and for properly washing kitchen utensils is a major problem that leads to the spread of food-borne pathogens.

The National Strategy on Food Safety for 2011-20 sets a general objective of implementing master plans on food safety from production to consumption by 2015, and controlling food safety over the entire food supply chain by 2020.

The penal code contains a provision for breaching regulations on food hygiene and safety. I am concerned that the responsibility to oversee food quality is divided among three different ministries, which might reduce the reliability and efficiency of oversight mechanisms and control procedures. The lack of effective monitoring and sufficient resources for supervision is a weakness that could be addressed by imposing more severe fines for food safety-breaches. If well implemented, a system of fines and penalties will improve food safety for the Vietnamese people.  

Access to Land

The 2013 Constitution of Viet Nam and the 2013 Land Law state that “Land is owned by all the people, and represented and uniformly managed by State”.  The State shall hand over “land use rights certificates” to users. 

As mentioned above, the conversion rate of agricultural land to urban and industrial uses is considerable-approximately 70,000 hectares per year. I received information that in many land expropriation cases, the compensation received by farmers and their families was not adequate, and below the market price of the land.
 

In some locations subjected to expropriation for socioeconomic development projects local residents protested as they felt that the Government forcibly seized their land. I also was informed that authorities have arrested and convicted land rights protesters on charges of “resisting persons on duty” or “causing public disorder.”  According to the Government’s Human Rights Office under the Ministry of Public Security, the number of complaints filed over land disputes has increased dramatically in the last decade, constituting around 70 percent of all petitions and complaints.

With regard to gender discrimination, despite the egalitarian legal structure women’s access to land is lower than that of men due to customary practices. For example, on average 13 percent more men than women have their names on land certificates in Viet Nam in general and in the rural area this difference increases to 16 percent.

Climate Change and Disaster Management

Viet Nam is currently among the countries at extreme risk for the impact of climate change and natural disasters, the risk being especially high along its  extensive coastal areas as well as in mountainous regions. Women and girls are among the most vulnerable groups affected by natural disaster and climate related weather events.

Disasters and extreme climate events such as drought, flood and salinity intrusion are common in Viet Nam, especially in the Mekong Delta, Central Highlands and Southern Central provinces.

Hazardous weather events in Viet Nam are now more frequent, intense, longer and difficult to forecast due to climate change. Since the 1970s, natural disasters have caused more than 500 deaths annually in Viet Nam and amount to more than 1.5 percent of GDP in economic losses. Viet Nam’s report on Intended Nationally Determined Contributions, which was launched in October 2015 United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change-Conference of parties, indicate that these costs could rise to 3-5 percent of GDP by 2030.

Extreme climate events such as typhoons, of which typhoon Damrey is a recent example being one of the worst storm to hit Viet Nam in years, typically sweep through largely poor, rural areas of Viet Nam with deadly force.  According to UNICEF, Damrey hit poor communities where the nutritional status of children was already of concern due to malnutrition rates above national average.  Populations in that region rely heavily on agriculture and fish farming for their livelihood and the storm caused extensive damage to these agricultural infrastructures, which is seriously reducing the capacity of poor families to earn a sufficient income to care for their children properly.

I am encouraged about the steps taken by Viet Nam to mitigate these impacts and I also take this opportunity to urge the Government to undertake all measures based on a human rights approach, placing particularly women and girls at its heart”.  

Sustainability

Due to fast growing economy and industrialization, environmental pollution and resource depletion have become important problems in Vietnam. There has been an increase in the use of pesticides and growth stimulants in agricultural sector that pollutes land and water.

Pesticides also have a dangerous impact on human health, especially for children and pregnant women being particularly vulnerable to their long-term effects. Toxic chemicals that remain in products purchased by the consumers also have detrimental health impacts. Unfortunately, it has been extremely difficult to directly and scientifically link a variety of serious health issues to a particular pesticide. Moreover, many countries, including Viet Nam, lack effective monitoring systems to regulate the pesticide industry, supervise their use by farmers, and effectively control illegal traffic of the pesticides entering the country.  

The rapid economic development of Viet Nam should never occur at the expense of human rights, food security and environmental protection. The sea, rivers, streams, ponds and lakes are becoming increasingly polluted from factories in industrial zones, either as a result of their regular functioning or accidents. Such contamination has a direct impact on the access to safe drinking water and the fish population, and indirect impact on the livelihood of fisherfolk.  As a result of urbanization, domestic users discharge water without proper waste management systems, which has the effect of contaminating agricultural land.

In the context of industrial development, it is vital that development plans and policies take into account the true cost of export oriented farming methods on human health, soil and water resources, as well as the impact of environmental degradation on future generations, rather than basing policy only on short term profitability and economic

Impact of agriculture from the use of Dioxin “Agent Orange”

During the war with the United States in Viet Nam, some 20 million gallons of herbicide known as “Agent Orange” was sprayed over vast areas in the centre and south of Viet Nam. Agent Orange contains the toxic chemical ‘dioxin’. Scientific research has demonstrated that even small amounts of dioxin may cause various diseases, birth defects and other disabilities. 

Since the war, the dioxin concentration has been declining, yet it remains dangerous in highly contaminated hotspots, mostly located in the vicinity of former military airbases. In these areas, dioxin could affect the entire ecosystem.

I had a chance to visit and speak to children with disabilities, some of them directly and indirectly affected by Agent Orange in Can Tho. I remain concerned about their well-being and their families’ livelihoods and the impact on future generations.

Genetically modified organisms

Since 2006, the Prime Minister has approved two key programs for biotechnology in agriculture (for maize, soybean, sweet potato and cotton products amongst others) and fisheries. This is part of the Government’s general effort to increase productivity along with a number of technological improvements in Viet Nam’s agricultural sector. In this process it is important take into account the food sovereignty of farmers and their freedom to use and exchange seeds freely, as well as to preserve indigenous seeds and the valuable associated traditional knowledge. Moreover, genetically modified organisms are not attractive in relation to some otherwise promising potential export markets including in Europe. Such concerns should be carefully assessed before expanding the use of genetically modified organisms within Viet Nam’s agricultural sector.

Conclusion

In concluding, human rights are of central importance to the success and achievements of Viet Nam’s sustainable development efforts that are closely connected with achieving high levels of food security and self-sufficiency. My suggestions are made against a background of enormous admiration for the progress that Viet Nam has made in recent years with respect to poverty reduction and improving nutritional standards.

Viet Nam is clearly committed to the implementation of the Sustainable Development Goals and will submit a National Voluntary Review report in July 2018. I encourage Vietnam to continue to ensure full and meaningful participation of civil society during the consultation period.

I strongly encourage Viet Nam, in line with a number of recommendations given in the framework of the Universal Period Review-process, to consider the establishment of an independent National Human Rights Institution in accordance with the Paris Principles.

I trust that the Government will give priority to designing and implementing effective policies with the participation of all relevant stakeholders aimed at ensuring the right to adequate food. I am convinced that Viet Nam could further improve the current situation and make impressive strides in attaining food and nutrition security for everyone in the future, while at the same time working towards achieving the Sustainable Development Goals.

Finally, I wish to reiterate my commitment to continue the dialogue initiated during this visit. I look forward to working with the Government in a spirit of cooperation on the implementation of my forthcoming recommendations.