My first month at LSN-V has been primarily focused on assisting with the preparations for the National Workshop on Victim Assistance and International Cooperation taking place this coming Tuesday in Hanoi. LSN-V is one of the hosts of the event and I am excited to be able to participate–though I’m a little nervous that I’ve been selected to help facilitate the discussion group made up of Vietnamese government officials. I will have to be on my best (and most diplomatic) behavior.
This Workshop is the first of its kind in Vietnam and there will be a large contingent of survivors participating, mostly through LSN-V’s involvement. As the name of the Workshop implies, there are a number of issues to be addressed; I will attempt to unpack them in the most coherent–and least boring–way possible. Here we go.
Victim assistance essentially bundles up a variety of issues including disability rights, development rights, non-discrimination, public health and more. The task of the Workshop is to shed some light on how three international conventions-the Mine Ban Treaty (MBT), The Convention on Cluster Munitions (CCM), and the Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities (CRPD)-provide a framework for a rights-based approach to victim assistance, and why this would be good model for Vietnam.
Well, you might ask, how is a rights-based approach different and/or better from the current approach? The difference of a rights-based approach is that it shifts victim assistance away from a charity-based model to one of social empowerment and inclusion. Why is that better? There are a number of opinions on this matter, but from my perspective, the biggest difference is that a charity-based model is unsustainable. Charity, despite the best of intentions, often creates dependence. And dependence, in turn, often exacerbates marginalization and poverty. Although there are certainly some situations in which a charity-model is most appropriate, such as when the goal is immediate relief, for long-term development it can actually be counterproductive.
A rights-based approach is one that survivors themselves help build. And from the limited time I’ve been able to spend with the survivors here in Vietnam it is clear that they are already doing just that. However, without a corresponding shift in policy their efforts will continue to be the exception as opposed to the rule. So that is the goal of the workshop: push for a change in policy to better reflect the changes already happening on the ground. Very bottom-up indeed!
By far the biggest concern I have heard from survivors is a lack of employment opportunities. As Vietnam’s economy continues to grow the gap between survivors and the rest of society is getting wider. I look forward to watching the survivors raise their voices at the workshop and hopefully get a step closer to closing the gap.
Posted By Gretchen Murphy
Posted Jul 2nd, 2009