The Convention on the Prohibition of the Use, Stockpiling, Production, and Transfer of Anti-Personnel Mines and on Their Destruction (thankfully shortened to the Mine Ban Treaty).
To me these UN agreements were just so many words, and since I wasn’t living in the world of landmines, it was hard to be passionate about international conventions far removed from day-to-day life. But this is where NGOs and advocacy groups come in, when they negotiate on behalf of individuals to ensure that governments keep their end of the deal to do everything they should to protect and uphold the essential freedoms of their citizens, according to the conventions those governments have signed and ratified.
So Vietnam signed the Conventions on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities in 2007–a major step. Since then, Landmine Survivors Network-Vietnam (LSN-V), along with other advocacy groups in the country, has worked in a disability working group to try to get the Convention ratified. LSN-V also advocates for equal rights for landmine survivors and individuals living with disabilities in a positive way that doesn’t label them as charity cases or as superheroes, but as normal people trying to live their lives to the fullest. I like the wording of LSN-V’s mission, which says something to the effect of “we work to promote a society where people with disability, particularly landmine survivors and amputees, can fulfill their potential, help their families, and contribute to their community.”
That’s why I’m going to Vietnam this summer; that’s why I’ll work with and learn from the dedicated folks at LSN-V: to incorporate the vocabulary of rights into my everyday speech, to become familiar with these two UN conventions so that I can use them to further the work of LSN-V on the grassroots level. And as an AP Peace Fellow, I’ll help LSN-V distribute that information so that it can reach a broad, web-based audience.
It’s a dynamic time, as Vietnam moves towards middle-income nation status and international NGOs need to make way for local NGOs. It’ll be an adventure, and as soon as I get my bearings or a steady internet connection (whichever comes first), I’ll tell you about the 23-hour nonstop train ride from Saigon to Dong Hoi.
Posted By Chi Vu
Posted Jun 10th, 2008