VNAH Organizes Workshop to Generate Input on Vietnam Disability Law
Washington, DC. (July 28) -- Our team – two American academics, two lawyers who work for the United States government, and the director of an organization that protects the human rights of people with mental disabilities – came at VNAH’s invitation to assist with the drafting of Vietnam’s forthcoming law on the rights of persons with disabilities. It was a gratifying experience to work with government officials and disabled people’s organizations (DPOs) on such an important law.
The conference we attended was cosponsored by the Nippon Foundation, USAID, MOLISA and VNAH. It brought together key government officials, concerned citizens and members of DPOs, and members of the drafting team. It was a unique opportunity to get all the key players in the same room over a two-day period and share and exchange ideas.
Prof. Michael Stein (L, Front row), Executive Director of Harvard Law School Project on Disability; Joan Durocher (L, Standing) Senior Attorney Advisor of U.S. National Council on Disability; Prof. Mike Waterstone (second left) of Loyola Law School; Kathleen Blank Riether, Disability-rights Attorney (far right), joined by representatives from DPOs at the workshop in Hanoi
We offered our thoughts and critiques on the draft law, focusing on issues like the law’s enforcement and implementation provisions, employment provisions, education provisions, and application to children with mental disabilities. It was a productive session, and it was especially gratifying during the breakout sessions to see participants from disabled people’s organizations in direct dialogue with the law’s drafters and government officials.
Several of us also had the honor of meeting with Luong Phan Cu, MP, Vice-Chairperson of the Committee for Social Affairs of the National Assembly. He spoke emphatically of the need for this law, and underscored his commitment to its passage. We discussed with him the possibility of doing some follow up work with legislators prior to the law being brought before the National Assembly in October.
We also had an incredibly productive session with the National Academy of Public Administration (NAPA) where we met with NAPA officers and members of Viet Nam’s civil service. We discussed with them the role of the UN Convention of the Rights of People with Disabilities and the future impact of the upcoming national law disability on Viet Nam, including our perspectives drawn from the United States’ experience on the role of public officials in enforcing and implementing disability laws.
Finally, our team met with the leaders of the Vietnamese Disabled People’s Organizations during a training session that focused on capacity-building and the new Vietnamese disability rights law. For us, this meeting was an extraordinary opportunity to meet those who are at the forefront of educating and empowering people with disabilities throughout Viet Nam, and learn about their accomplishments in the face of daunting challenges.
All in all, it was a productive and exciting trip. We were privileged to share an important moment in Vietnam’s history as it moves toward the passage of a national disability rights law. It was an honor for each of us to be called upon to support our Vietnamese colleagues in shaping the content and direction of this milestone legislation.