Vietnam: how UNCAC review helps build bridges with government

16 May 2013, by Stephanie Chow and Dow Nga, Towards Transparency.

It has been over a year now since Towards Transparency (TT) published its ‘Survey Report in Support of the Government’s Self-Assessment of the Implementation of the United Nations Convention against Corruption (UNCAC) in Vietnam 2011’.[1] This report evaluated Vietnam’s implementation of the UNCAC and assessed the quality of the government’s official 2011 self-assessment review.

The production and publication of this report was a valuable experience. It initiated a positive dialogue between civil society organisations and the Vietnamese government on the issue of corruption and UNCAC implementation.

Concrete recommendations from TT were acknowledged and added to the government’s official self-assessment report. This year TT was directly asked by the government to input into the drafting process for the amendments to the Law on Anti-Corruption and the new Denunciation Law, which deals with, among other things, the protection of whistleblowers, an area identified as particularly weak in TT’s survey report.

This progress should not be underplayed. It is only in the past few years that independent civil society actors have significantly contributed and been recognised by the government as playing an active role in anti-corruption efforts.[2]

UNCAC reviews in Vietnam

On 18 September 2009 Vietnam became a State Party to the UNCAC. This meant Vietnam was from that time onwards obligated to implement the UNCAC’s provisions and to have this implementation reviewed under the Convention’s review mechanism which was established in November 2009. The official review was scheduled for the second year of the first review cycle (2010 – 2015). It would assess the implementation of UNCAC Chapters III and IV, relating to criminalisation, law enforcement and international cooperation.

The self-assessment part of the review was led by the Government Inspectorate (GI) which presented its draft questionnaire responses at a consultation workshop on 26 July 2011. The country visit took place in February 2012 and was led by governmental experts from Lebanon and Italy.

In 2011 TT produced its parallel civil society review report. Using questionnaires, interviews and a consultation workshop, a wealth of information was collected and analysed from a range of selected experts. These experts came from universities, research institutes and social organisations, including academics from the Ho Chi Minh National Academy of Politics and Public Administration, a number of Vietnamese law faculties and representatives from the Office of the Central Steering Committee for Anti-Corruption. The consultation introduced the UNCAC and its review process to a group of around 20 stakeholders, including CSOs, government representatives and development partners and then invited their comments and inputs. The workshop was organised jointly with the United Nations Development Program (UNDP).

Direct impact

TT shared its draft report with the GI and UNDP. TT’s efforts and parallel report were very well received. It included a number of findings on UNCAC article 17 concerning embezzlement and misappropriation of property by public officials and on UNCAC article 46 concerning mutual legal assistance, which were incorporated into the government’s own country report. The executive summary of the report prepared by the peer review group on Vietnam is publicly available though TT has suggested that the full report should be published.

In addition, after receiving TT’s report, the government’s assessments of Vietnam’s implementation status of a number of UNCAC articles changed from Yes or Yes in part to No, i.e. has not adopted and implemented the measures described or has not complied with the provisions under UNCAC. A representative from GI noted that “the majority of [TT’s] report recommendations were also taken on board” and the report has been described by a UNDP official working on UNCAC as “extremely informative and constructive, very helpful for the on-going discussion.”

On 30-31 August 2011, TT had another chance to share key findings of its survey and draft report with United Nations Office for Drugs and Crime (UNODC) and development partners’ representatives during a visit to Vietnam from Dimitri Vlassis (Head of UNODC’s Corruption and Economic Crime Branch). At the meeting, TT emphasised the importance of CSO engagement in the UNCAC review process and gave an overview of the process behind developing our parallel report.

Dialogue between the State and Civil Society

For TT, the process of conducting the survey and producing the civil society report enabled TT to improve the effectiveness and impact of its work in an environment where CSO participation and recognition of CSO contributions remain a challenge. The report opened up a valuable dialogue between civil society voices and the government. But the door is not yet fully open.

Next steps

From an organisational perspective, the comprehensive analysis of the key gaps and loopholes in anti-corruption legislation and policies undertaken in TT’s parallel report has enabled us to identify where we should prioritise and focus our efforts, allowing us to clarify and consolidate strategic goals and objectives.

TT is preparing to use the findings from the review process to produce an UNCAC implementation monitoring tool, which will track legislative updates and amendments relevant to Vietnam’s UNCAC obligations. This tool will be used as a baseline for future monitoring and advocacy activities on UNCAC implementation and to improve transparency in the implementation process.

  1. This report evaluated Vietnam’s implementation of the UNCAC and assessed the quality of the government’s official 2011 self-assessment review. Topics covered by the report included civil society participation in the review process, access to information on corruption cases, the implementation and enforcement of anti-corruption laws, focusing on UNCAC Chapter III provisions, and mutual legal assistance as covered by UNCAC Chapter IV. A summary of Toward Transparency’s findings and prioritised recommendations can be found in the Executive Summary, which was submitted to the fourth UNCAC Conference of State Parties in Marrakesh, 2011. The full report is available here.
  2. Transparency International’s National Integrity System Assessment on Vietnam, 2006 noted that, “government anti-corruption efforts remain predominantly the outcome of internal discussions.” See page 14. The report can be found here.