People’s voice and access to justice key to solving environmental disputes

Jan 25, 2018

Ha Noi 25 January 2018- As environmental disputes, especially between citizens and businesses, are increasing, it is important to ensure better environmental justice as well as people’s access to information and participation in decision-making in environmental matters that affect them.

This is the core premise of today’s thematic discussion: “Environmental disputes, social changes, and distributive justice: Case studies, comparative analysis, and policy implications for Viet Nam”.

According to the 2016 Viet Nam Provincial Governance and Public Administration Performance Index (the 2016 PAPI), environmental concerns ranked as the second most urgent matter that citizens expected the State to address (after poverty and hunger). In addition, the 2016 PAPI survey shows that, 77% of the respondents suggested that the State gave priority to environmental protection rather than economic growth at all costs. 

The United Nations Development Programmme (UNDP) in Viet Nam and the National Economics University (NEU) held this event to present and discuss the findings of their latest thematic research, which provides insights into the causes and effects of past and on-going environmental disputes. Utilizing environmental justice and social construction frameworks, the research has presented policy options for Viet Nam to consider in its efforts to promote a healthier environment for all.

UNDP Country Director in Viet Nam, Ms Caitlin Wiesen, highlighted the need to better understand the dynamics of environmental disputes in Viet Nam, the socio-economic and political implications to safeguard environmental rights, as well as access to justice for those who are victims.  She said: “The case studies analysed in the research and experience from other countries show that three factors are important in order to ensure environmental rights: i) consulting with communities before governments take actions that will affect the environment; ii) ensuring individuals have access to information and to participating in decision-making in environmental matters that affect them; and iii) providing access to courts or any mediation mechanisms to settle environmental disputes.”

According to Professor Tran Tho Dat, President of the National Economic University, most policy and research initiatives in Viet Nam have focused on the levels of pollution, leaving environmental injustice under-studied. A one-sided focus on the harm caused by pollution can underestimate the sense of injustice that animates and amplifies environmental disputes.

“Environmental disputes are not just economic-technical issues but social ones,” Professor Tran Tho Dat said. “Research and international experience show that administrative management system, on its own, cannot effectively control environmental pollution and solve disputes. Therefore, it is necessary to have policy that encourage the participation as well as social, political and professional organizations, such as universities, research institutes, in the environmental management system.”

For further information, please contact

Nguyen Viet Lan, 84-24-38500158 nguyen.viet.lan@undp.org

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