The eighth round of the Australia-Vietnam Human Rights Dialogue concluded on 18 February in Canberra.
The Dialogue demonstrates the maturity of Australia’s relationship with Vietnam and provides both countries with an opportunity for open, frank and constructive discussion about human rights issues.
Topics discussed at the Dialogue on 17 February included national approaches to human rights, ethnic minorities and indigenous issues, freedom of expression and association, criminal justice and judicial reform, and freedom of religion. The Dialogue also provided an opportunity for Australia to raise a number of individual cases of human rights concern.
The Australian delegation was led by Mr Hugh Borrowman, First Assistant Secretary of DFAT’s South-East Asia Division and also included the Hon Laurie Ferguson, Chair of the Human Rights Sub-Committee and the Hon Julie Bishop, Deputy Leader of the Opposition and Shadow Minister for Foreign Affairs. The Hon Catherine Branson QC, President of the Australian Human Rights Commission, and officers from relevant Australian Government departments also participated. The Vietnamese delegation was led by Mr Hoang Chi Trung, Director-General, Department of International Organisations, Ministry of Foreign Affairs, and included officials from a number of Vietnamese government agencies.
The Dialogue discussed the Australia-Vietnam Human Rights Technical Cooperation Program. This program, managed by the Australian Human Rights Commission, strengthens Vietnam’s capacity to implement international and domestic human rights commitments. It is working with key Vietnamese Government institutions and representatives of local community associations to help increase access to legal services for women and minority groups, improve criminal justice procedures and enhance broader understanding of international human rights principles. A fourth phase of the program is expected to commence later in 2011.
The Vietnamese delegation to the Human Rights Dialogue also undertook a program of site visits on 18 February, which included meetings with Australia’s peak human rights NGOs, the Attorney-General’s Department and a prison visit.