Vietnamese Prime Minister Nguyen Tan Dung will lead a Vietnamese delegation to the sixty-eighth session of the United Nations General Assembly (UNGA 68), chaired by Dr. John William Ashe, with the aim to further promote relations between Vietnam and the United Nations.
The United Nations has been a key partner in Vietnam’s development ever since Vietnam became its 149th member state on September 20, 1977. In the early years of hardship and post-war reconstruction, UN agencies were on the ground providing assistance to Vietnam’s rebuilding efforts. As the ‘doi moi’ (renovation) reforms began to take shape, the UN connected Vietnam with international expertise, knowledge and technical assistance to support the country’s rapid development progress.
PM Dung’s speech to the General Assembly will touch upon Vietnam’s experience in carrying out the MDGs and, according to diplomatic sources, on the role that Vietnam wants to play in a regional and international context.
In particular, he will underline the need to ensure ‘strategic trust’ as the basis for conflict prevention, conflict resolutions and disputes among countries. A ‘strategic trust’ that the Prime Minister had emphasized during the Shangri-La Dialogue–an annual regional security forum–held last June in Singapore. “Trust is the beginning of all friendships and cooperation, the remedy that works to prevent calculations that could risk conflicts. Trust must be treasured and nurtured constantly by concrete, consistent actions and, most importantly, with a sincere attitude,” Dung said on that occasion.
The UNGA 68 will be also an occasion for Dung to talk about maritime security in the South China Sea and thus underline Vietnam’s position among the six countries—namely Brunei, China, Malaysia, the Philippines, Taiwan and Vietnam— claiming sovereignty over several groups of islands. The disputes in what the Vietnamese denominate as the East Sea are a top priority for the Vietnamese government, convinced that the issue should be settled through peaceful measures, based on international law, especially the 1982 United Nations Convention on the Law of Sea (UNCLOS) and in the spirit of the Declaration on Conduct of the Parties in the East Sea (DOC), towards the early conclusion of a Code of Conduct (COC).
The maritime security in the South China Sea is no longer a regional issue. Further evidence of this was the meeting between U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry and Chinese Foreign Minister Wang Yi in Washington in the days that saw the opening of UNGA 68. According to Voice of America, during the meeting Chinese Foreign Ministry Spokesman Hong Lei pointed out that “Chinese activities around the islands and surrounding waters–in the South China Sea–are completely within Chinese sovereignty.”
Apart from the South China Sea issue, which is becoming a potential conflict zone, the Vietnamese PM will confirm the wish to join United Nations peacekeeping operations. Already last June, deputy Minister of National Defence, Senior Lieutenant General Nguyen Chi Vinh, made the plea during his visit to the Department of Peacekeeping Operations in New York.
Furthermore, in New York the head of the Vietnamese government and members of the Politburo will lobby for a seat on the UN Economic and Social Council (ECOSOC) for the 2016/18 term and the UN Human Rights Council (UNHRC) for the 2014/16 term. ECOSOC, formed by 54 members (of which 11 are Asian States) is responsible for coordinating the economic, social and related work of 14 UN specialized agencies, their functional commissions and five regional commissions. The UNHRC, on the other hand, with 47 members (among them 13 Asian States) elected by the General Assembly, is an inter-governmental body within the United Nations System.
The Vietnamese candidacy to the UNHRC is backed also by the Association of the South-East Asian Nations (ASEAN). Among this year’s candidates to the UNHRC are Russia and China. Current members also include Libya, Kazakhstan and The Congo. The elections are scheduled for Nov. 12 and over the last months there has been criticism especially from civil society groups and international organizations.
“By electing massive abusers of human rights to the very body charged with protecting them, the UN is about to drop more rotten ingredients into the soup,” said Hillel Neuer, executive director of UN Watch, a non-governmental organization based in Geneva. Moreover, last August, after the execution of a 27-year-old convicted murderer in Hanoi, thus ending an 18-month pause in the country’s use of the death penalty, the United Nations stated that human rights in Vietnam had suffered “a major setback”.
Last but not least, the Vietnamese delegation will try to push for Vietnam to receive non-permanent membership of the United Nations Security Council (UNSC) for the 2020-2021 term. ASEAN already agreed to nominate Malaysia as a candidate for a UNSC non-permanent member seat in 2015-2016, Thailand in 2017-2018, Indonesia in 2019-2020, Vietnam in 2020-2021 and the Philippines in 2027-2028. The 10 non-permanent members each serve two-year terms, but their tenures do not end simultaneously. The Socialist Republic of Vietnam already served as non-permanent member during the 2008/09 term, after which, in October 2007, the United Nations General Assembly cast a near unanimous vote (183 out of 190) in favour of Vietnam for what was to be its first time in this position since it joined the UN in 1977.