Lawyer Nguyễn Tiến
Lawyer Nguyễn Tiến Lập spoke to the journal Sài gòn Economic Times on the need to address the interest of the people when evaluating economic projects
How should we evaluate the opinions of affected groups of people or communities in an economic project in Việt Nam?
Investment projects, in one way or another, all cause impacts on economics, society and the environment. The bigger a project, the bigger its impact. What I want to emphasise here is that the impacts are both positive and negative. A project may bring about positive economic impacts but cause negative impacts on the environment, like the Formosa Steel Project in the central province of Hà Tĩnh.
Though our Law on Investment has been revised several times, it still has constraints, particularly in project impacts assessment. Most of the assessment are based on information provided by the investors and government agencies involved in the appraising process. In that process, an independent professional agency is rarely invited to attend the meeting or the consultation with people who will be affected by the project.
In my opinion, it has been taken for granted that the State is the representative of the people. So there is no need to organise consultations with the people. Proof of what I’m saying is the case of the Formosa Steel Mill.
In 2011, the United Nations adopted a resolution on common principles covering business and human rights. Under the document, all governments, investors and enterprises have to respect and protect human rights which have been legally acknowledged, particularly the right to livelihood, the right to live in a clean and safe environment. That’s why for an investment project, all affected communities have the right to participate in assessing the project’s environmental, economic and societal impacts. But in Việt Nam I’m afraid to say that this idea is still alien to many people.
Do you have any comments on land planning activities, particularly for big projects in our country?
Land planning activities are a headache for all of society, including people in power and the public.
Legally speaking, land planning supports the novel idea of equal, fair and sustainable development.
However, the quality of our land planning is poor. It is subjective and people are out for their own benefits.
It is high time for people in this field to adopt a more positive attitude toward the development of the nation and understand the true nature of the market economy that Việt Nam has been pursuing. _VNS