Multilateral diplomacy deserves to have a higher place among priorities of Vietnam’s foreign policy in the coming time, said Deputy Prime Minister and Foreign Minister Pham Binh Minh in a recent article.

The official explained that the growing globalization and emergence of challenges on a global scale call for cooperation among countries, regardless of their size, and multilateral frameworks prove to be the most suitable mechanisms for such cooperation.

He continued to say that the trend of multi-polarisation and democraticisation in international relations also creates opportunities for small and medium-sized countries to have a bigger voice in multilateral frameworks through coordinating with partners that share the same viewpoints and interests.

The Deputy PM and FM noted that Vietnam has paid heed to multilateral diplomacy ever since the foundation of the modern Vietnam. During the first years of the resistance war for national independence, President Ho Chi Minh sent letters to the United Nations nine times to make use the role of this largest international organisation. Throughout the country’s 70-year modern history, multilateral diplomacy has contributed greatly to the struggle for national independence and reunification and the protection of national security and development interests as well as the enhancement of the country’s position in the international arena, as seen at the Geneva Conference in 1954, the Paris Conference in 1973 and many other important forums.

The 11th National Party Congress marked a new milestone in the diplomatic policy with the direction of proactive and active international integration, which was put in details in the Politburo’s Resolution 22 as “proactively and actively participating in multilateral institutions, contributing to building fair and democratic political and economic order, preventing wars and conflicts, strengthening peace and promoting win-win cooperation”.

Following this policy, multilateral diplomacy has been elevated to a new high, reaping remarkable achievements during the past several years, the FM said, naming Vietnam’s election with high votes to several important agencies of the UN such as the Security Council (2008-2009 tenure), the Human Rights Council (2014-2016 tenure), the Economic and Social Council (2016-2018 tenure), the International Atomic Energy Agency’s Board of Governors (2013-2015 tenure), the World Heritage Committee (2013-2017 tenure) and the UNESCO Executive Board (2015-2019 tenure).

“It is not without reason that UN Secretary General Ban Ki-moon said Vietnam would be a real pioneer of the UN when he visited the country in May this year,” wrote the FM.

Vietnam has taken the lead in joining hands with other ASEAN member countries to build the ASEAN Community and consolidate the group’s central role in the evolving regional structure, he said.

After joining the bloc 20 years ago, Vietnam has played an active role in the admission of Cambodia, Laos and Myanmar into the association, realising the dream of an ASEAN grouping ten countries in the region.

Vietnam has also been the vanguard in implementing measures to build the ASEAN Economic Community, the official said, adding the country has become a bridge connecting mainland and island ASEAN economies and promoting cooperation between the group and its partners, thus turning the bloc into a centre of the economic-trade network and connectivity in Asia-the Pacific.

The country has affirmed its role as an active nuclear in Southeast Asia in promoting dialogue with the aim of preserving a peaceful environment, security and stability in the region, pushing for serious adherence to the Declaration on the Conduct of Parties in the East Sea (DOC) and striving for the early formation of the Code of Conduct in the East Sea (COC) on the basis of international law and common norms.

Deputy PM and FM Pham Binh Minh also stressed Vietnam’s initiatives to mitigate risks caused by natural disasters, and manage and use water resources in a sustainable manner at regional and sub-regional mechanisms and forums such as the Asia-Pacific Economic Cooperation (APEC) and the Asia-Europe Meeting (ASEM), thus bringing practical benefits to residents in the region.

According to him, multilateral diplomatic activities have been increased in both depth and width through various channels of the Party, State, National Assembly and people-to-people exchange, winning trust from the international community as evidenced by the country’s hosting of important regional and global events such as the 19 th meeting of International Conference of Asian Political Parties ( ICAPP ) Standing Committee in April 2013, the 132 nd IPU General Assembly in April 2015 and the APEC forum in 2017.

Vietnam’s international cooperation has been rolled out on a larger scale to address regional and global matters, especially those regarding development such as climate change, food and water resource security, poverty reduction, structural reform, green growth, regional connectivity and human resource development, instead of focusing of national issues relating to peace and war as it did in the past.

The UN has honoured Vietnam as one of the few nations that lead in poverty elimination and the realisation of the Millennium Development Goals and the One UN Initiative, he said.

In 2014, Vietnam joined the UN peace-keeping mission for the first time. The country also became the first Southeast Asian nation to ratify seven out of nine UN’s key conventions on human rights and accelerate the revision of domestic regulations to suit international practices, particularly in protecting the rights of minority and vulnerable groups in society.

The Deputy PM and FM also highlighted Vietnam’s participation in the Trans-Pacific Partnership (TPP) agreement, the Regional Comprehensive Economic Partnership (RCEP) agreement and the Asian Infrastructure Investment Bank (AIIB) at the beginning as a sound strategic measure, which enables the country to join in deciding the rules of these mechanisms as a founding member, thus maximizing national interest.

This is a new approach which will help the country get an active role in multilateral mechanisms which are usually dominated by powerful countries, he said.

With 15 free trade agreements to be signed or take effect by 2020, Vietnam will become involved in a network of regional FTAs with 58 partners, including all five permanent members of the UN Security Council and 15 G20 countries, which will account for 80 percent of the world GDP.

Besides quantitative benefits, the effective use of multilateral diplomacy within the ASEAN has raised Vietnam’s strategic value and role in powerful countries’ policy towards the region, Deputy PM Minh said, adding that over the past 15 years, Vietnam has established strategic and comprehensive partnerships with all neighbouring countries and those having important role and position in the world.

Through multilateral cooperation mechanisms with ASEAN at the centre, Vietnam’s interests have become increasingly intertwined with those of major countries with great influence in the region and the world, thus helping maintain a peaceful and stable environment and take advantage of resources in service of the country’s development.

With all these achievements, Vietnam’s multilateral diplomacy is confident to move forwards with a new way of thinking, new approach and new position, he affirmed.

Accordingly, the official said, the country should make drastic change from the thinking of “participating in” to “proactively joining in building common rules” based on a multi-sectoral approach.

Vietnam will take the initiative in making proposals and suggesting ideas to multi-lateral mechanisms, particularly the ASEAN and the Sub-Mekong region, while enhancing the effectiveness of its membership in the UN, the Non-Aligned Movement, the WTO, the APEC forum, the ASEM, the Francophone and other frameworks.

From now to 2020, the country should strive to successfully fulfill tasks in its new posts, particularly in its capacity as members of the UN Human Rights Council for the 2014-2016 tenure and the Economic and Social Council for the 2016-2018 tenure, and in hosting major multilateral activities.

It is a must for the diplomatic sector to map out an overall long-term plan for the next 10-20 years, which is the prerequisite to elevate the sector’s position in order to meet new requirements of the comprehensive international integration.

Deputy PM Minh laid emphasis on the fulfillment of major international commitments during the 2016-2020 period, including WTO commitments, FTAs and those on climate change response raised by Prime Minister Nguyen Tan Dung at the recent 21st Conference of Parties to the UN Framework Convention on Climate Change ( COP21 ) in Paris.

Vietnam’s multilateral activities will focus on sustainable development and coping with global challenges, particularly in areas in service of the country’s socio-economic development strategy for 2011-2020, he said.

Such huge tasks ahead require concerted efforts of all ministries and branches with diplomats playing the key role, the official stressed.

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