Promoting children's rights

HA NOI — Viet Nam has achieved impressive results in realizing children's rights since its ratification of the Convention on the Rights of the Child 20 years ago but Government leaders and international organizations agreed at a conference in Ha Noi yesterday that challenges remained.

Former Deputy Prime Minister Nguyen Khanh, who was instrumental in Viet Nam's ratification of the agreement, said progress had been made although "care and protection, intrinsic to Vietnamese culture, were not enough. Universal child rights need to prevail."

Viet Nam has roughly 24 million children, accounting for 33 per cent of population, according to statistics from the Ministry of Labor, Invalids and Social Affairs (MoLISA).

Present at the conference, Deputy Prime Minister Nguyen Sinh Hung said since ratification, Viet Nam had made great efforts to implement the convention, including raising awareness of children's rights, harmonizing the convention with national laws and increasing resources for child development.

"Viet Nam has recognized that an investment in children's rights to survival, protection, development and participation is an investment in the future," Hung said.

The country had also paid attention to ensure children and adolescents participate more in decision making that affects their lives.

A report from the ministry says the country's infant and child mortality rates have declined remarkably. Between 1990 and 2009, the infant and under-five mortality reduced by 50 per cent.

High immunization coverage resulted in the eradication of polio in 2000 and the elimination of maternal and neonatal tetanus in 2005.

The report also says Vietnamese children are better educated now that 95 per cent of eligible children are enrolled in primary schools.

Opportunities for child participation have increased. The country has paid more interest to creating safe and healthy environments for children as well as prevention and control of child abuse.

But vulnerable groups of children that live in remote areas, are of minority ethnicity or are affected by HIV/AIDS, require greater assistance from the Government and society.

Viet Nam continued to be confronted by numerous challenges in ensuring the rights of every child, the conference heard.

UNICEF child protection adviser Diane Swales agreed that Viet Nam's progress had been impressive. Children's issues had begun to be viewed as ‘public issues' rather than ‘private troubles' and the infant mortality rate had dropped to 15 deaths per 1,000 live births – representing a 73 per cent improvement o­n the 1990 rate – while primary school enrollment stood at 95 per cent in 2006.

The lack of safety nets and protective systems for children remained causes for concern, she cautioned. Malnutrition persisted as a major problem for children and the gap between legal rights, those enshrined in the law, and effective rights, those actually protected and enforced, had yet to be narrowed.

She told the conference that inequality prevailed in the distribution of children's rights in Viet Nam, and socio-economic status continued to determine access to child protection services. This, she said, was evident from a study that showed the poorest 20 per cent and richest 20 per cent of the population had birth registration rates of 49 and 97 per cent, respectively – a difference of 48 per cent.

Nguyen Hong Le from the Ministry of Planning and Investment pointed out that improvements were also needed to streamline targets for the care, protection and education of children with the Government's five-year socio-economic development plans. This way, measurable indicators could then be used to monitor progress in realizing the Convention's principles.

A lack of resources and skilled workers at the district and commune levels also remained a major obstacle to achieving targets, she added.

This view was echoed by the chair of the National Assembly Committee o­n Culture, Education, Youth and Children, Ngo Thi Minh, who also heads the Government body responsible for monitoring implementation of the convention. She identified an overlap in laws, problems implementing these laws and a lack of qualified monitoring staff in rural areas as o­ngoing issues to achieving successful implementation.

Viet Nam was the second country in the world and the first Asian country to ratify the convention in 1990. — VNS

(Source: UN)