Focus Has Shifted Away From The Poor

Changes in
individual perception towards their rights and increasing accessibility to
legal aid for the poor and the vulnerable groups in Vietnam are among the
findings during a field trip to Ho Chi Minh City and the southern province of
Ben Tre by the team of Programme Officers from the Embassy of Sweden, Save the
Children Sweden and the Swiss Agency for Development and Cooperation who are
donors to the Project “Support to National Legal Aid System in Vietnam, 2005 –
2009”. Oxfam Nodic is another donor to the project.

   The trip in
October aimed to follow up the legal aid services delivered by Provincial Legal
Aid Centres – PLACs, legal mobile clinics and legal aid clubs.

   The team
met PLAC directors and staff, lawyers and collaborators, women and children and
their discussions focused on both operational and financial aspects of legal
aid activities. Project sustainability, capacity building, accessibility,
financial management and cross-cutting issues including the child’s rights and
gender equality were the key issues.

that we met told us as one of the most important results is that whereas few
years ago individual citizens perceived the law as a tool for the government to
control the public behaviours, but now the focus has shifted in order to protect
the rights of each and everyone” said Elsa Håstad – First Secretary of the
Swedish Embassy when she came back from the trip. Such changes were clearly
noticed when the team attended one legal aid session provided by the lawyers in
Ben Tre Province to address the problems of the poorest and the vulnerable
women. All the clients, who the team talked to, felt that they had received the
support they needed and that the legal services were timely delivered.

    The legal
aid network has been expanded to the grass-root level through legal aid clubs
and mobile clinics. The poor and the most vulnerable groups have accessed to
the service and their needs have been fairly satisfied.

    The role of
practising lawyers in protecting rights of the poor and most vulnerable people
including children in their interests has been strengthened. The lawyers showed
strong engagement for the clients that they were working with. And this is a
true asset of the programme to build on further. This attitude and engagement
will hopefully lead to promotion of the rule of law.

    Over the
past years, with support and assistance from the Project, the whole national
legal aid system is in place and that the poor can get lawyers to defend their
rights. However, since the donor funding is decreasing much due to the Sweden’s
phase-out, the question on how to maintain the system already built up need to
be urgently addressed by the Government of Vietnam. Nevertheless, Sweden is willing to help Vietnam in
identifying and facilitating new support by mobilising other donors in order to
ensure sustainability.

“Support for the National Legal Aid System of Vietnam 2005-2009” has received a
donor contribution of almost 8 million Euro and a contribution from Vietnam of
nearly the same size with the National Legal Aid Agency as the implementation
agency. The overall goal of the project is “to contribute to ensure equal
access to justice for the poor, preferential policy beneficiaries and
disadvantaged groups in particular, women, children and ethnic minority people
etc. so that they can enforce their legal rights upheld by Vietnamese law and
international human rights treaties, which Vietnam is member.”



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