Drafting laws that reflect the needs of ordinary people in Viet Nam
Viet Nam, July 2012 - Tran Thi Hy is the head of Cho Lau town’s study promotion association in the Viet Nam province of Binh Thuan. Recently, she attended a public consultation on a proposed measure to raise school fees.
"I was given a questionnaire to fill in and invited to speak,” she said. “I believe it is important that the People’s Council conducts such public consultations before adopting any resolutions.”
A fundamental aspect of a democratic state is the right of citizens to participate in decision-making processes. A three-year UNDP programme introducing public consultations in Viet Nam has given more than 10,000 people the opportunity to express their views on government decisions that directly affect their lives. As a result, many provincial proposals and decisions have been changed to better reflect the needs, rights and hopes of ordinary people.
For example, villagers from the commune of Minh Quang in the northern province of Vinh Phuc discovered they were no longer allowed to use their land as collateral. As a result, almost 300 loan requests had been turned down by several banks. An administrative decision that changed district boundaries had resulted in the invalidation of the land certificates, making it impossible for people to secure the credit they needed to invest in their land or businesses.
At the same time, Vinh Phuc province had been chosen to take part in a UNDPsupported pilot project to set up public consultations across the province. The province’s People’s Council set up public hearings directly addressing the land certificate problem after gathering opinions from 700 citizens.
The People’s Council then delivered those objections to the banks and the local government administration and, as a result, people received new land use certificates that correctly reflect the new administrative boundaries. They can now access credit as needed.
“I had the chance to represent the 298 households at the hearing where I was invited to speak,” said Nguyen Tien Loi, from the village of Minh Quang. Loi joined nine other representatives at the hearing. “After the hearing, I saw immediate actions from different levels of authorities, and our family has received the new land use rights certificate. I feel very happy.”
The project began in three provinces and by the end of 2011 had expanded to cover more than 16 provinces and cities across the country, including Viet Nam’s largest city, Ho Chi Minh City.
In Binh Thuan, Tran Thi Hy along with 1,300 others spoke up about the proposed school fees. The People’s Council there received a clear message from its citizenry: though the increase made sense, it would potentially make them unable to afford to send their children to school. Instead, they proposed that the increase be postponed and that any additional funds should come from the government’s budget. As a direct result of the consultation, the People’s Council agreed to delay the decision to increase the school fees.
Caption: Nguyen Tien Loi, 58, at his family rice farm in Vinh Phuc province, Viet Nam. Photo: UNDP