Introducing a new perspective: environment in relation to human rights

07 January 2008 | News story

A two-day training workshop was conducted in mid-December 2007 for government officials at the Vietnamese Institute for Human Rights (VIHR) to address the issue of environment in relation to health and human rights.

The workshop was co-organized by VIHR and The World Conservation Union (IUCN) in Viet Nam and was based on the results of a survey conducted in September and October 2007. The survey was implemented by experts from VIHR and the Viet Nam Association for Conservation of Nature and Environment (VACNE) to analyze legislature and government policies to assure the human right to good health and sound living environment as well as the implications of environmental degradation on human life.  IUCN provided preparatory support for the workshop by reviewing Viet Nam’s compliance with relevant international treaties.

During the workshop, the potential impacts of climate change emerged as a major obstacle to the realization of human rights in Viet Nam. It is estimated that about 20 million Vietnamese people will be directly affected by predicted sea level increase due to climate change.  Based on the example of climate change, the nexus between the environment and human rights was clearly established for all workshop participants.

The workshop concluded with recommendations for VIHR and IUCN Viet Nam to collaborate on future training courses for the environmental police and high-ranking party officials.

The survey conducted prior to the workshop indicates that there is a low level of awareness on international environmental policies, laws and international human rights treaties among high ranking party officials (25.5%).  Staff from other government agencies were found to have a slightly higher level of awareness (30.7%).

A large number of political leaders, bureaucrats from various government agencies and people from Ha Noi, Bac Ninh and Ha Tay were interviewed in the survey in order to ascertain the level of awareness and knowledge on international environmental and human rights conventions. National issues pertaining to connections between the environment, human health and natural resources management were also discussed.

Approximately 45 participants attended the workshop representing environment and human rights stakeholders, including researchers, policy makers, national and provincial enforcement officers as well as journalists.