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Legal Perspective of its Economic, Social, and Cultural Rights

Vietnam: Country Profile
Vietnam is a country located in Southeast Asia, sharing land boundaries with Cambodia,
China, and Laos.1 Vietnam finds its earliest roots from the rice lands in the northern Red River
Delta extending southward.2 As a nation, it had been exposed to Chinese ideology including but
not limited to administration, law, education, literature, language, and culture. 3 It has also been
a prey to several colonial occupations by the French and the Japanese and threats to national
sovereignty from China, Cambodia, which caused intervention from the United States. 4 The
intervention has caused South Vietnam to defeat the North Vietnamese army.5
The burdened nation which suffered with long years of war continued to struggle even after its
reunification. Vietnam sought to balance its ideological origins with its goals to expand
economically.6 By 1986, it began a change in economic policies through the adoption of doi moi
or renovation.7 Such is characterized by a more practical approach to agriculture, state
enterprises, price system reformation, and opening up the country to foreign investments. 8 While
the country adopts more reforms to economy, Vietnamese politics has been described not have
been as progressive. The promulgation of the 1992 Constitution has maintained the power of the

Business Publications (2007).
2 Id.
3 Id.
4 Id.
6 Id.
7 Id.
8 Id.

Communist Party. The socio-economic changes however, have affected the force of political
reorganization and professionalize the different branches of the government.9
Introduction to the Economic Social and Cultural Rights
The International Covenant on Economic and Social and Cultural Rights (ICESR) along with
such other Covenants which are the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights, and the
Universal Declaration are considered the three core agreements comprising the International
Bill of Human rights advocated by the United Nations. 10 ICESR which became open for
signature by on December 16, 1966, mirrored strengthened pledge that affirms respect for human
life, and the rights which accompanied its development. 11 As of 2002, it was said that 145 States
have either ratified or acceded to the Covenant which sets it as the most adopted human rights
agreement among all nations.12 The basic tenets of the agreement recognizes the right to work
(article 6); the right to just and favorable conditions of work (article 7; the right to form and join
trade unions and the right to strike article 8); the right to social security including social
insurance (article 9); the right to protection and assistance for the family and the prohibition of
child labor (article 10); the right to adequate standard of living for oneself and ones family,
including adequate food, clothing and housing and to the continuous improvement of living
conditions (article 11); the right to the highest attainable standard of physical and mental health
(article 12; the right to education, the freedom of parents to choose schools other than those
established by public authorities (articles 13 and 14) and the right to take part in cultural life and
to benefit from scientific progress (article 15).13
Initial findings would show the difficulty to implement social, economic, and cultural rights as it
was considered distinct from political and civil rights. 14 The latter was deemed less difficult to
monitor since independent organizations have ways to keep track on governmental actions which
could interfere against the individual freedoms.15 On the other hand, the former rights are said to
necessitate legislative actions for implementation. To address the gap, the Protocol to the
9 Id.
11 Id.
12 Id.
13 Id at 3.

International Covenant on Economic and Social and Cultural Rights was adopted on December
10, 2008, as a complaint and inquiry mechanism.16 In the protocol contains mechanisms by
which the country signatory to it could assert their social, economic, and civil rights before an
international tribunal. It necessitated for an exhaustion of domestic remedies before a complaint
may be filed.17 From the complaint the Committee could request for more information and
thereby make the necessary recommendations to parties involved.18 It may also conduct an
inquiry which looks into the violations that may have been sustained by complainant.19
Vietnam in Relation to ICESR
Vietnam adopted the Covenant on September 24 1982. Significantly, it made the objections to
Article 26, par. 1 of the ICESR. The provision states that:
The present Covenant is open for signature by any State Member of the United Nations
or member of any of its specialized agencies, by any State Party to the Statute of the
International Court of Justice, and by any other State which has been invited by the
General Assembly of the United Nations to become a party to the present Covenant.

Vietnam declared disagreement on the basis that the provision is discriminatory in nature
and should have adapted a more accommodating approach to encourage equality to all state who
are willing to participate.20
In the perusal of the list of the signatories to the OP-ICESR, the author observed that Vietnam is
not a signatory thereby stating that the further observations in this paper would solely be in
regard to the ICESR.

15 Id.
16 Id.
17 Optional Protocol to the International Covenant on Economic and Social and Cultural Rights Article
18 OP-ICESR Article 6, 8, 9.
19 OP-ICESR Article 11.
20 United Nations Treaty Collection, Chapter IV Human Rights. International Covenant on Social,
Economic, and Cultural Rights. available at
src=IND&mtdsg_no=IV-3&chapter=4&lang=en (last accessed July 9, 2014).

Vietnam Constitution: Highlighted Provisions Adhering to the Principles Laid Down in

ICESR as apparent in the 1992 Revised Constitution of the Socialist Republic of Vietnam
as Ameded on November 28, 2013.21

On Social Rights
abundant, free and happy life
Article 3
The State shall guarantee and promote the People's right to mastery;
recognise, respect, protect and guarantee human rights and citizens'
rights; and pursue the goal of a prosperous people and a strong,
democratic, equitable and civilised country, in which all people enjoy an
abundant, free and happy life and are given conditions for their
comprehensive development.

right to ownership
Article 32
1. Everyone has the right to ownership of his or her lawful income,
savings, housing, chattels, means of production and capital contributions
to enterprises or other economic entities.
2. The right to private ownership and the right to inheritance shall be
protected by law.

political, social, economic, cultural and social rights

Article 14
1. In the Socialist Republic of Vietnam, human rights and citizens'
rights in the political, civil, economic, cultural and social fields shall
be recognised, respected, protected and guaranteed in accordance
with the Constitution and law.

health, honour, and dignity

21 Vietnam, The Constitution of the Socialist Republic of Vietnam, available at (last accessed July 9, 2014).

Article 20
1. Everyone has the right to inviolability of his or her body and to the
protection by law of his or her health, honour and dignity; no one shall
be subjected to torture, violence, coercion, corporal punishment or any
form of treatment harming his or her body and health or offending his or
her honour and dignity.
children shall be protected
Article 37
1. Children shall be protected, cared for and educated by the State,
family and society; children may participate in child-related issues.
Harassing, persecuting, maltreating, abandoning or abusing children,
exploiting child labour or other acts that violate children's rights are
right to health
Article 38
1. Everyone has the right to health protection and care, and to equality in
the use of medical services, and has the obligation to comply with
regulations on the prevention of disease and medical examination or
2. Acts threatening the life or health of other persons and the community
are prohibited.

right and obligation to learn

Article 39
Citizens have the right, as well as the obligation, to learn.

On Cultural Rights
unified nation of all ethnicities
Article 5
1. The Socialist Republic of Vietnam is a unified nation of all ethnicities
living together in the country of Vietnam.
2. All the ethnicities are equal and unite with, respect and assist one
another for mutual development; all acts of discrimination against and
division of the ethnicities are prohibited.

3. The national language is Vietnamese. Every ethnic group has the right
to use its own spoken and written language to preserve its own identity
and to promote its fine customs, practices, traditions and culture.
4. The State shall implement a policy of comprehensive development and
create the conditions for the minority ethnicities to draw upon/further
their internal strengths and develop together with the country.

access to cultural values

Article 41
Everyone has the right to enjoy and access cultural values, participate in
cultural life, and use cultural facilities.

On Economic Rights
trade union as a socio-political organisation
Article 10
The Trade Union of Vietnam is a socio-political organisation of the
working class and labourers voluntarily established to represent
labourers, care for and protect the rights and lawful and legitimate
interests of labourers; participate in the state management and socioeconomic management; participate in the examination, inspection and
supervision of the operations of state agencies, organisations, units and
enterprises regarding issues related to the rights and obligations of
labourers; and mobilise labourers to learn to improve their professional
qualifications and skills, abide by law, and build and defend the
freedom of enterprise
Article 33
Everyone has the right to freedom of enterprise in the sectors and trades
that are not prohibited by law.

right to work
Article 35
1. Citizens have the right to work and to choose their occupations,
employment and workplaces.
2. Employees are guaranteed equal and safe working conditions; and
have the right to wages and rest periods.

Vietnam: At Present
The World Bank country profile describes Vietnam as a development success story.22
According to the institution, the doi moi which prompted the countrys economic and political
transformation has led towards a triumphant leap from a war-torn country to a lower middle
income country with a per capita income of $1,130 by 2010.23 It has also been a champion for
equity distribution with focus on socio-economic aspects.24 The Socio-economic Development
Strategy or SEDS 2011-2010 defines its breakthrough areas:25

promoting human resources/skills development (particularly skills for

modern industry and innovation),
improving market institutions, and
infrastructure development. The overall goal is for Vietnam to lay the
foundations for a modern, industrialized society by 2020.

The General Statistics Office of Vietnam also maintains a comprehensive online database which
monitors agricultural yield, production, investment, government expenditures, trade, carriage,
tourism and even social issues such as farmers food shortage, epidemic diseases, and traffic

22 World Trade Organization, Vietnam Overview, available at (last accessed July 14, 2014).
23 Id.
24 Id.
25 Id.
26 General Statistics Office of Vietnam, Social and Economic Situation, four beginning months of 2013.
Available at (last accessed July 14,

In sum, the country has indeed found ways to curtail poverty which has been endured by the
country for the longest time. It has been able to integrate socialist values with economic
capitalism and came up with a country that protect its people and at the same time open to
international cooperation and integration. From viewing the basic tenets of its Constitution, the
author believes that its framers have a basic understanding of the needs of the social, economic,
and cultural needs of the people as a well as a goal towards a progressive and developed nation.

De Schutter, Oliver. International Human Rights Law: Cases, Materials,
Commentary (Cambridge University Press: 2010)
IBP USA, Vietnam Recent Economic And Political Developments, (USA
International Business Publications: 2007).
Sepulveda, Magdalena. The Nature of the Obligations under the International Covenant on
Economic and Social and Cultural Rights (Intersentia: 2003).
V. LARGO, Current Issues And Historical Background (Nova Science Publishers Inc.: 2002).
Internet Sources

General Statistics Office of Vietnam, Social and Economic Situation, four beginning months of
2013, available at (last
accessed July 14, 2014).
United Nations Treaty Collection, Chapter IV Human Rights, International Covenant on Social,
Economic, and Cultural Right, available at
src=IND&mtdsg_no=IV-3&chapter=4&lang=en (last accessed July 9, 2014).

Vietnam, The Constitution of the Socialist Republic of Vietnam, (last accessed July 9, 2014).