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Thứ Năm, ngày 19/05/2022

Law on Environmental Protection 2020: Strengthening responsibility in international integration and cooperation in the field of environment

20/05/2021

The trend of international integration and cooperation on environmental protection

    International integration is the process of proactively accepting, applying and participating in the development of international laws and standards to serve the best interests of the nation. Broadly, international integration involves the acceptance, participation in the development and implementation of international standards, including: generally accepted institutions, laws, practices, principles and standards. These standards can be formed from the process of international cooperation, through agreements, between states or standards and practices set by non-governmental organizations and associations widely accepted by organizations and individuals in the world.

    From the early 90s of the twentieth century up to now, Việt Nam’s international integration on economics has gradually been expanded and developed on a larger and larger scale, covering almost all sectors of the national economy (trade, services, investment, industrial, agricultural, fishery production, intellectual property ...) with many diversified forms (unilateral, bilateral, multilateral). Two key contents of the integration process are: On the one hand, reforming the economics, innovating all areas of social life; on the other hand, implementing liberalization, opening markets, developing a business environment, increasing exchange of trade, investment, services... with foreign countries.

    Việt Nam has in turn participated in regional and international organizations, signed bilateral and multilateral economic agreements with many countries and organizations around the world. Up to now, Việt Nam has established diplomatic relations with 189 countries, economic relations with more than 224 countries and territories, of which relations with 30 countries as strategic and comprehensive partners (16 strategic partners and 14 comprehensive partners) and is a member of most important regional and international organizations with an increasingly enhanced position and role.

    In recent years, in the implementation of guidelines and policies on strengthening international integration, especially international integration on economics, Việt Nam has had great achievements in all aspects of politics, economics, society, culture, education, diplomacy and security - defense... Especially, achievements from the process of international integration on economics have contributed to the high and stable economic development of the country for a long time, step by step narrowed the development gap between countries. In addition to the process of extensive international integration on economics, international integration and cooperation in the field of natural resources and environment over the past time are also being promoted to meet the actual requirements and current trends.

    So far, Việt Nam has joined and is a member of 28 multilateral international agreements related to natural resources and environment (MEAs), in which, especially the Free Trade Agreements (FTA) signed recently have strengthened the interactivity between policies on trade and policies related to the environment. International integration in general and in the field of natural resources and environment in particular has contributed to enhancing the role, position and reputation of Việt Nam for the international community, also bringing benefits in many aspects to the country in recent years. Nowadays, international integration in general, international integration and cooperation on environment in particular continue to evolve in a deeper trend in content and level and broader in scope and form. This trend of international integration and cooperation has brought many benefits, opportunities and potentials to countries, but at the same time it creates challenges for developing countries like Việt Nam. Some of the main trends in international integration and cooperation in the field of environment can be generalized such as: Increasing scope, scale and extent, increasing legal obligations and levels; Diversity in contents and fields continues to form many international frameworks or "playgrounds" with many new "rules" on many geographical scales, from regional to global; Accountability requirements and demands increase with participation, accompanied by increased investment and financial contributions; The mechanism of evaluating and monitoring the implementation of committed obligations in the integration process is increasingly tight, accompanied by sanctions for non-compliance and implementation of committed obligations.

 Advantages and disadvantages, challenges in international integration and cooperation in the field of environment

    International integration and cooperation in the field of environment took place early with the country's process of international integration, in which some contents over time have had quite deep integration such as conservation and biodiversity or wastes and chemicals. The process of international integration and cooperation on environment has basically met with the world's trends and is consistent with the country's development process, positively contributing to the process of developing institutions, policy and legal systems on environmental protection of Việt Nam. However, in addition to the positive aspects, international integration in the field of environment also faces difficulties and challenges related to awareness, financial and human resources, technical and technological skills and issues related to responsibilities as well as mechanisms and policies, in particular:

- Financial resources to invest in activities related to international integration on environment to meet the increasingly high practical requirements of the integration process are still limited, leading to passiveness and dependence on the external support sources, integration activities have not actually come into reality and the practical effectiveness is not high.

- Human resources involved in management and implementation of international integration currently have many shortcomings in terms of quantity, capacity and experience due to the lack of long-term strategic investment in human resource training.

- The system of policies and laws in general in all sectors is still in the process of being improved, the coordination in the process of developing legal documents to internalize the committed international obligations still has limitations and inefficiencies, leading to overlap and conflict of contents between regulations or gaps in management, affecting the efficiency of enforcement.

- The coordination and collaboration mechanism between relevant agencies (Ministries, sectors) at the Central and local levels in the process of implementing and fullfilling international obligations and commitments has not been really effective, sometimes it is impractical leading to the status of effectiveness and efficiency in the implementation of international obligations to which Việt Nam has committed is not high.

- The trend of increasing commitments and obligations over time in international integration in general and international integration on environment in particular has created economic pressures and great challenges in the human resources needed to fulfill the committed obligations for developing countries, including Việt Nam.

- The current network of staff participating in international integration activities on environment is still concentrated domestically, mainly in the system of state management agencies of Việt Nam. In fact, there is no deep participation in the organizational system of management and operation of international frameworks, therefore the influence and initiative of Việt Nam in the current international frameworks related to the environment are still quite modest.

Basic and new points about the contents of international integration and cooperation in the law on environmental protection (lep) 2020

    Identifying the importance of international integration and cooperation in the field of environment to the nation's development, in recent years, guidelines, policies and laws on international integration and cooperation on environment have basically met the world's trends and in line with the country's development process. The LEP 2020 has been formulated with fundamental changes in its contents with many new policies, in which the contents of international integration and cooperation on environmental protection are specified in Chapter XII (Articles 155 and 156).

    The LEP 2020 has overcome the limitations of the contents of international integration and cooperation of the LEP 2014. Specifically, the LEP 2020 has been adjusted and updated to suit the context, practical requirements on the management work and current international integration and cooperation trends. Major new points and changes include:

   Title of the Chapter (International Integration and Cooperation on Environmental Protection), this is the first time that the term "international integration" has been officially prescribed into a specialized law to clearly distinguish the two activities and regulations related to international integration and cooperation.

    Setting out principles to establish the legal framework and corridor to guide international integration and cooperation such as ensuring “implementation on the basis of equality, mutual benefit, strengthening synergy and enhancing the nation's position and reputation, respecting independence, sovereignty and territorial integrity, complying with the laws of each party, international law and commitments in international treaties and international agreements related to the environment ”.

   Combining international integration on economics and international integration on environment, in which international integration on environment aims to support and promote economic development. Also, setting out the principle of handling international disputes on environment that will be "resolved through peaceful means, according to international practices, laws and the laws of the parties concerned" to respond with the actual requirements of legally binding commitments and the application of sanctions for environmental related content in FTAs.

    Dispute settlement provisions stipulate principles of dispute settlement by international practices, but still must ensure interests and in accordance with domestic law. This provision aims to avoid risks and disadvantages for Việt Nam when participating in future environmental dispute resolution.

    The roles and responsibilities of the State, and responsibilities of organizations and individuals for international integration and cooperation activities on environmental protection are clearly defined. Strengthening international integration in general, including international integration in the field of environment, is the policy of the Party and State. Currently, international integration and cooperation on environment are taking place extensively, diversity in levels, contents and forms, involving Ministries, sectors and fields at different levels. The LEP 2020 clearly defines the responsibilities of management agencies, organizations and individuals, and clearly defines contents and scope of permission and encouragement in international integration and cooperation activities.

    Contents and forms, modes of international cooperation are not restricted or regulated, provided that international cooperation activities on environmental protection are consistent with international and domestic laws. The purpose of this change and adjustment is to diversify contents, forms and methods, and encourage initiative and creativity in international cooperation. In other words, international cooperation activities on environment will not be prohibited and restricted without violating domestic and international laws.

    The LEP 2020 also stipulates that the Ministry of Natural Resources and Environment is the focal point responsible for synthesizing and reporting on international integration and cooperation on environment. There are currently nearly 30 international treaties related to the field of environment. The management and implementation of international treaties are assigned to different ministries and sectors. The new regulation assigns the responsibility of the focal point to synthesize and report to ensure the consistency of the long-term orientation and strategy in the international integration and cooperation activities on environmental protection of the country in general.

Hoàng Xuân Huy

Department of Intrernational Cooperation, MONRE

Northern Environment Administration

(Source: Vietnam Environment Administration Magazine, English Edition I - 2021)

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