New legal teaching method to benefit poor and vulnerable communities in Viet Nam

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 MG 4946 resizedHa Noi, 6 November 2014 –  An innovative UNDP approach is set better equip a new generation of Vietnamese lawyers will skills to better serve members of vulnerable communities.

Today, representatives from UNDP, the Danish embassy, legal aid centers, private law companies, Foreign Trade University professors and law students met in Ha Noi to discuss the impacts  of the programme “Support community-based legal needs assessment and provision of legal services” and its future sustainability following an initial two-month pilot in Bac Giang Province.

The initiative broke new ground in Viet Nam by making law school learning more effective and relevant to society’s needs today by combining theory with real life experiences and at the same time helping rural labourers better understand their legal rights.

Workers disadvantaged by lack of legal rights awareness

Despite achieving impressive economic growth over the past 10 years, Viet Nam’s justice services have struggled to keep pace with such rapid changes. Public understanding of legal issues remains limited with many simply unaware of their legal rights. This is especially the case for socially disadvantaged groups, such as women and labourers working in industrial zones.

This lack of awareness of legal rights has left many workers in disadvantaged and vulnerable positions. These workers accept often exploitative company rules as a matter of course without the protection of their basic legal rights and are unable to negotiate their terms of employment.

An exciting, effective and low cost innovation initiative for vulnerable communities

To address this worrying trend, UNDP and the Foreign Trade University School of Law joined hands to develop a new way of learning for law students to allow them to better meet the needs of disadvantaged communities.

The centerpiece of the pilot was a weekend community legal needs assessment of people working at Dinh Tram Industrial Zone in Bac Giang Province, near Ha Noi. A group of law students from the university divided into five sub-groups to stay overnight with different families. Before the trip, the students were trained in soft skills by teachers and private to become more confident to interact with the community. These skills also allowed them to better understand the lives of vulnerable people through using listening and questioning skills which will equip them to be better lawyers in the future.

“What made this programme innovative was not technology. It was approaching an existing problem with a slightly different solution using resources that were easily available and low-cost. Law students spent a weekend with a villager, for whom law is a mystery, to have informal conversations about it. They also understood how the law affects the lives of poor workers in Viet Nam. The residents now have better awareness of their rights,” said UNDP legal advisor Mr. Scott Ciment.

Ms. Lone Jensen, Policy Advisor to the Danish Embassy in Ha Noi, told today’s meeting she was impressed with the programme’s results.

“We are supporting many innovation projects around the world especially ones that integrate theory into practice, such as this programme. Danida is very pleased to support this innovation programme with UNDP and the Foreign Trade University,” she said.

Ms. Nguyen Tu Anh, Deputy Director of Ha Noi Legal Aid Center, said her organization would work closely with the Foreign Trade University School of Law to replicate this innovative approach.

“By working together, we can help other vulnerable groups such as the disabled and rural women,” she said.

Mr. Nguyen Hung Quang, director of NHQuang law firm, also endorsed the programme’s ability to deliver meaningful results.

“It helps students understand the needs and lives of disadvantage people. These insights will help students develop a code of ethics to help them in future careers as lawyers,” said Mr. Quang.

More information:
Watch the video: Community legal aid: worker access to labour rights in innovative way