Advancing child rights across government agencies

Viet Nam establishes its first National Committee on Children

Youssouf Abdel-Jelil
Youssouf Abdel-Jelil, UNICEF Representative in Viet Nam
UNICEF Viet Nam\Truong Viet Hung
06 December 2017

One of the most important milestones for children’s rights is achieved in Viet Nam with the establishment of the first National Committee on Children chaired by the Deputy Prime Minister. The Committee will play an instrumental role in creating a new pathway on child rights implementation and to ensure that “no child is left behind” in the pursuit of sustaining progress towards the Sustainable Development Goals.

The National Committee for Children is a cross-governmental coordination mechanism on children’s rights that brings together all Ministries and comprises the Ministers of MOLISA, MOET and MOH as Vice Chairs. 

The National Committee for Children will offer an important mechanism to support Viet Nam to discharge its duties for State party reporting on the implementation of children’s rights. Viet Nam has obligations to fulfil through the reporting on the Convention on the Rights of the Child, as well as international human rights treaties and conventions that Viet Nam has ratified including the Convention on the Elimination of All Forms of Discrimination against Women, the Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities, and the Universal Periodic Review process.

Viet Nam has undertaken significant legal reform in recent years. Indeed, the Constitution, which was approved by the National Assembly in 2013, has a chapter on human rights with a specific provision on children’s rights and the role of the State in ensuring the protection of children. Importantly, the recently enacted Law on Children further articulates these Constitutional provisions by providing the legal framework for fulfilling the rights of all children in Viet Nam with greater alignment to the Convention on the Rights of the Child.

Given the cross-sectoral nature of the Law on Children, the National Committee for Children is well placed to provide concrete guidance on its implementation, ensuring all relevant ministries are engaged in and accountable for its implementation, as well as ensure its alignment with international children’s rights standards. To this end UNICEF continues to advocate for rectifying the definition of the age of the child to include all children under 18. 

The launching ceremony of the national hotline for children protection at 111
The launching ceremony of the national hotline for children protection at 111

The Ministry of Labour, Invalids and Social Affairs (MOLISA) on December 6 launched a national hotline for children protection at 111 instead of the old number 18001567 that had been used for the past 13 years.

The Committee can also play a crucial role in ensuring sufficient government resources are allocated and collection of data to implement child rights as guided by the Convention on the Rights of the Child and the Law on Children itself. While Viet Nam has made steady progress to reduce poverty, increase school enrolment, and lower child mortality, there is still a considerable unfinished agenda that require concerted efforts and dedicated attention from all line ministries. 

Data on children (under 18 years) in Viet Nam remains fragmented and with many gaps – creating enormous challenges for the development and implementation of policies and programmes for children. It also challenges Viet Nam’s human rights and Sustainable Development Goals monitoring and reporting obligations. UNICEF has played an important role in supporting the Government to conduct five Multiple Indicator Cluster Surveys (MICS) over the past 18 years and the Committee offers a prime opportunity to lead the incorporation of MICS into routine national data collection processes.

Across the world there is extensive and compelling evidence that the early moments of the life of a child offer an unparalleled opportunity to build the brains of the children that is vital for Viet Nam’s economic growth and competitiveness in the regional and global economy. But far too often, it is an opportunity squandered, leaving the country with young workforce with poor health, less skills and reduced earning potential. The Committee can be transformative for the lives of every child in Viet Nam by bringing line Ministries and partners together to break the intergenerational cycles of poverty and disparities, whilst also propelling Viet Nam towards achieving its objective to become a 21st century economy.

Ensuring that “no child is left behind” requires that breakthrough solutions are created to fast track the process towards inclusive and sustainable development for all. UNICEF is honoured to be a key partner of Viet Nam and its partners in the realisation of child rights. UNICEF stands ready to work closely with the National Committee for Children as a specialist advisory body to the Committee, in line with our role mandated under the Convention on the Rights of the Child, providing our national, regional and international expertise and experience across the full spectrum of children’s rights.