Paving the Way for the Regulation of Lobbying Practices in Viet Nam

Phu Quoc, Viet Nam, 27 November 2021 - Lobbying is not officially recognized or subject to specific regulation under law of Viet Nam. In recent years, the topic has increasingly come under discussion in academic and political forums. Proponents of lobbying consider it an essential part of the public policy development process, playing an important role in a democratic and rule-of-law based society. Conversely, many have highlighted the possible link between unregulated lobbying practices and corruption. Powerful corporations have special interests in public policies to achieve business objectives. Without integrity checks, lobbying can expose politicians and decision-makers at all levels of a public administration to corruption, enabling collusion, corporate capture, and biases in the design of policies and the allocation of resources.

OECD Principles for Integrity and Transparency in Lobbying can be accessed here

To discuss laws on lobbying internationally, corruption risks, and recommendations for Viet Nam, UNODC brought together over 50 participants on 27 November 2021 in Phu Quoc, Kien Giang, including parliamentarians, academics, researchers, legislators, legal ex-perts, high ranking government officials and civil society representatives. In addition to this, over 250 attendees participated online, representing agencies from across the Government of Viet Nam, as well as the Korean Anti-Corruption and Civil Rights Commission and the Embassy of Korea in Hanoi. During the workshop, legal experts discussed legal provisions on lobbying in various countries, includ-ing the UK, US, Germany, Russia and South Korea. Practitioners shared their experiences of practicing public policy advocacy. Participants discussed the risks associated with individual laws and policies on lobbying, and agreed on a series of practical recommendations for the context of Viet Nam.

Ms. Nguyen Nguyet Minh, Officer-in-Charge of UNODC in Viet Nam, gives an overview of the goals of the workshop

Key topics discussed during the workshop in-clude:

Lobbying can lead to the entrenchment of vested interests in policymak-ing

A number of speakers noted that the incentives for companies to further their interests through lobbying were powerful, giving an unequal weight to the influence of certain groups on policymaking processes. Dr. Vu Thanh Tu Anh, Dean of the Fulbright School of Public Policy and Management and Member of the Prime Minister's Economic Advisory Group, noted that lobbying activities disadvantage small groups and the public, since “policy advocacy is the game of large interest groups.”

H.E. Mr Nguyen Minh Thuyet, Member of Parliament, noted that the “policy cor-ruption” caused by untransparent lobbying practices had far-reaching consequences, impacting the basic rights of the public, fair opportunities for businesses and the overall investment environment. He highlighted that as lobbying is not officially recognized, lawmakers do not have enough information about the limits of what is acceptable. This also leads to the lack of transparency in policy making, caus-ing law-making activities to be dominated by large interest groups.

The risks associated with lobbying can be minimized through regula-tion and transparency measures

Given the strong corporate incentives to carry out advocacy activities, a number of speakers argued that regulation was needed to limit its most damaging impacts. H.E. Dr, Nguyen Dinh Quyen, Vice Chairman of the National Assembly’s Scientific Council, accepted that “lobbying is inevitable”, but called for a law to ensure that it takes place “in an open and transparent manner, that does not result in corrupt practices”.

H.E. Dr. Luu Binh Nhuong, Vice Chairman of the National Assembly’s Commit-tee for People’s Aspirations, argued that “the failure to officially acknowledge and recognize lobbying activities in law is one of the causes leading to the lack of control of this activity, which still takes place whether or not it is regulated by law”.

Regulations around lobbying play a role in the creation of a fair and inclusive society

Speaking at the workshop, H.E. Mr. Park Noh Wan, the Ambassador of the Republic of Korea to Viet Nam, emphasized the importance of enhancing transparency and reducing corruption as part of the development pro-cess. Ms. Nguyen Nguyet Minh, Officer-in Charge of the UNODC in Viet Nam, stated that “lobbying based on inclusive access to decision-makers can create processes built on the foundations of inclusive development and justice for all”. She linked such moves to SDG Target 16.7, which aims to ensure re-sponsive, inclusive and representative decision-making.

This high-level workshop was co-delivered by the United Nations Office on Drugs and Crime (UNODC) and the Viet Nam National Uni-versity, under the sponsorship of the Governments of Australia and Republic of Korea.

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