VNAH Workshop Generates Input on Vietnam Disability Law
By Prof. Michael Stein
Hanoi, Vietnam (July, 2009) — At VNAH’s invitation, our team consisting of two American academics, two disability advocacy lawyers, and the director of an organization that protects the human rights of people with mental disabilities, came 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 Vietnam’s government officials and disabled people’s organizations (DPOs) on such an important law.
The conference we attended was co-sponsored by the Nippon Foundation, USAID, MOLISA and VNAH. It brought together key government officials, members of DPOs, members of the drafting team, and concerned citizens. It was a unique opportunity for these key stakeholders to share and exchange ideas.
Our team 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 the law’s application to children with mental disabilities. It was a productive session, and we found it especially gratifying to see participants from disabled people’s organizations in direct dialogue with the law’s drafters and government officials during the breakout sessions.
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 on the Rights of People with Disabilities and its broad impact, together with the upcoming national disability law, on Viet Nam. We also shared our perspectives drawn from the U.S. experience on the role of public officials in effectively implementing and enforcing 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 get acquainted with those who are at the forefront of educating and empowering people with disabilities throughout Viet Nam. We were moved by their stories of accomplishment and hope in the face of daunting challenges.
For all of us, it was a productive and exciting trip. We were privileged to share with our Vietnamese colleagues this important moment in their nation’s history as they work toward the passage of a comprehensive 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.