The following information reports U.S. Government priorities and activities of the U.S. mission in Vietnam to promote democracy and human rights. For background on Vietnam's human rights conditions, please see the 2009 Country Reports on Human Rights Practices
and the International Religious Freedom Reports
Part 1: U.S. Government Democracy Objectives
Persuading the country to adopt internationally accepted norms in respecting human rights and religious freedom is at the top of the U.S. Embassy's agenda. The U.S. Government regularly urges the Government of Vietnam to eliminate restrictions on fundamental freedoms, encourages meaningful political reform, and raises specific cases where the government has infringed on the human rights of individuals. The U.S. Government focuses on five main areas of human rights: promotion and protection of individual human rights as stipulated in the Universal Declaration of Human Rights, including immediately releasing political prisoners; freedom of all religious denominations to practice their faith; growth of civil society, including promoting a free press, viable and independent legal institutions, and a vibrant NGO sector; and promoting respect for internationally recognized worker rights, particularly freedom of association and countering trafficking in persons. The U.S. Government uses: diplomatic influence; targeted dialogue with government officials on the benefits to the country of expanded freedoms and an improved human rights environment; public diplomacy efforts aimed at educating key decision makers, future leaders, and the general public; capacity building programs in a variety of fields that strengthen civil society organizations; and formal dialogues with the government on human rights and labor issues. The U.S. Government works closely with like-minded diplomatic missions in Hanoi and Ho Chi Minh City to coordinate efforts to promote human rights.
Part 2: Supporting Top Priorities and Other Aspects of Human Rights and Democratic Governance
In meetings with leading government officials and in statements to the local and international media, the U.S. Government continues to promote human rights as a top U.S. priority. The U.S. Government regularly calls for the government to improve the human rights situation, to release prisoners of conscience, and to enhance religious freedom. The U.S. Government has reiterated that a strengthened bilateral relationship and increasing socioeconomic development hinge on progress with respect to human rights and internationally recognized core labor rights. Specifically, the U.S. Government meets regularly with top officials of the ministries of public security and foreign affairs to press for the release of prisoners of conscience and calls for Embassy access to individual prisoners of concern to ascertain their conditions, urge that prisoners be treated according to international standards, and express U.S. interest in their cases. In addition, the U.S. Government meets with other officials, including the ministers of justice and information and communication as well as leaders of the national assembly, to press for reforms to institute the rule of law and allow for greater Internet and press freedoms. Discussions continue regularly at the working level as well. These include calls to reform the criminal code, rescind recent restrictions on press freedom, and allow foreign news bureaus greater operating rights. The U.S. Government also meets with political dissidents and civil society leaders to encourage their efforts to exercise their universal right to freedom of speech and expression.
In meetings with the Vietnamese community in the United States as well as with a wide range of U.S.-based democracy and human rights groups, the U.S. Government listens to specific human rights concerns and seeks input on how best to promote human rights in Vietnam. The U.S. Government also meets with top religious leaders in Vietnam to assess respect for religious freedom. U.S. officials regularly meet with the government's Committee on Religious Affairs and other senior officials, including provincial leaders in areas where specific problems exist, and urge them to bring their laws and practices in line with international standards and to implement fully Vietnam’s Religion Law. The United States continues to hold an annual Human Rights Dialogue, in which U.S. officials raise a wide range of issues and concerns. A Human Rights Dialogue took place in Washington, D.C., in November 2009.
The U.S. Government continued on-going labor cooperation in such areas as improving freedom of association and collective bargaining, labor inspection and enforcement, and preventing and eliminating exploitative child labor and trafficking in persons. The U.S. Government frequently encourages the Government of Vietnam to reform its labor laws to meet international labor standards, including the completion of the comprehensive revision of the Labor Code and the Trade Union law on which the Department of Labor (DOL), the U.S. Trade Representative, and the Bureau for Democracy, Human Rights and Labor provided input. The Embassy is working with: the Ministries of Labor, Invalids, and Social Affairs (MOLISA); Vietnam Chamber of Commerce and Industry; and the Vietnam General Confederation of Labor to promote industrial relations and more effective dispute resolution mechanisms. The Embassy continues to support two major U.S. Government-funded labor reform projects promoting sustainable labor compliance in the apparel and footwear sectors and improved industrial relations. Human resource development, social insurance, expanded labor rights, occupational health and safety, and labor export issues are other important areas of the Embassy's ongoing labor dialogue. Labor issues were on the agenda in the 2009 Trade and Investment Framework Agreement talks in Washington, D.C., and a DOL-MOLISA Labor Dialogue is planned for Fall 2010.
The Embassy participates in an international donor dialogue, sponsored by the Central Steering Committee on Anti-Corruption, on the issue of government corruption. On press freedom, the Embassy supports the professionalization of the media by bringing local journalists to the United States for training through the International Visitor Leadership Program and conducting training in Vietnam and the region. The United States facilitates the capacity building of civil institutions and NGOs, including through programs to train lawyers and to limit the spread of HIV/AIDS. The U.S. Government engages the government's National Steering Committee on its anti-trafficking National Program of Action and the role of civil society. The Embassy also continues to engage the government on many women's issues through active grant programs on the prevention of domestic violence and the promotion of women's political participation.