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Making the Constitution Work Better for Children is Essential, UNICEF says

© UN Viet Nam\Zurijeta\Shutterstock.com
Group of happy children playing on meadow, sunset, summertime

Ha Noi, 16 April 2013 – As Viet Nam’s National Assembly has engaged the public to put forward its views on constitutional reform, UNICEF today released a Position Paper on “Making the Constitution work for children in Viet Nam”. 

“Inclusion of child rights in Viet Nam’s new Constitution is essential,” said Lotta Sylwander, UNICEF Representative in Viet Nam. “The consultations with the public organised around constitutional reform provide a key opportunity to ensure the Constitution is more responsive to the needs of the nation, especially to those of one third of Viet Nam’s population – its children.” 

The Position Paper aims to inform the discussions and decisions on the final shape of the amendments to Viet Nam’s 1992 Constitution by articulating UNICEF’s concern for protecting and furthering child rights in this constitutional reform process. It offers carefully considered recommendations to ensure the new Constitution takes into account international norms and standards on child rights ratified by Viet Nam.

In light of Viet Nam’s international obligations and international best practice in children’s rights, in its Position Paper, UNICEF encourages the National Assembly to consider a number of ways in which children’s rights can be more strongly reflected in the Constitution:

For example, the two concepts of child (applied to people under 16 years of age) and minor/juvenile (applied to people under 18 years of age), currently used in Vietnamese legislation, cause significant confusion and result in different levels of protection for people under 18 years of age. As a result, people between 16 and 18 years can be exposed to situations of vulnerability or harm, such as early marriage, lack of protection due to abuse, exploitation or violence. For this reason, the age of 18 is strongly recommended as the determining line of child status, in line with international standards including the Optional Protocols to the CRC.

UNICEF also believes that the four guiding principles of the Convention on the Rights of the Child should be included in the Constitution. The guiding principles of the Convention are a) non-discrimination, b) adherence to the best interests of the child, c) the right to life, survival and development and d) respect for the views of the child. These four fundamental principles are mutually reinforcing and represent the underlying requirements for all children’s rights to be realised and provide a straightforward way for the Government to articulate its commitment to children’s rights.

In addition to these guiding principles of CRC, UNICEF considers some specific CRC Articles to be particularly relevant to children in the Vietnamese context and further improvement of the current constitutional draft with regard to: educational rights, health rights; rights of children with disabilities; right to registration and nationality; juvenile justice; right to rest and play.

This position is shared by UNICEF and the United Nations family in Viet Nam.

“Traditionally, the rights and interests of children in Viet Nam have been determined solely by adults in positions of power. The new Constitution provides an opportunity for the Vietnamese people to enshrine in their supreme law the fundamental principles and values it holds in relation to children”, Lotta Sylwander added.

Viet Nam has ratified several international conventions and treaties, including the CRC and the Convention on the Elimination of All Forms of Discrimination against Women (CEDAW) which are directly relating to children. Article 4 of the CRC requires State parties to “undertake all appropriate legislative, administrative and other measures for the implementation of the rights recognised.” As such, the constitution of a country is central to setting appropriate standards and measures for further improvement of the legal framework on child rights.

Please click here to download UNICEF position paper: Making the Constitution work for children in Viet Nam

About UNICEF
UNICEF works in more than 190 countries and territories to help children survive and thrive, from early childhood through adolescence. The world’s largest provider of vaccines for developing countries, UNICEF supports child health and nutrition, good water and sanitation, quality basic education for all boys and girls, and the protection of children from violence, exploitation, and AIDS. UNICEF is funded entirely by the voluntary contributions of individuals, businesses, foundations and governments. For more information about UNICEF and its work visit: www.unicef.org

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