Ha Ngoc Lan, CTIP Project Manager, EpiC Vietnam
Nguyen Thanh Van, CTIP Project Officer, EpiC Vietnam
Rachel Coley, Technical Advisor and Project Manager, EpiC Vietnam
Featured image: Four key ministries joined together in the signing ceremony of the inter-ministerial coordination regulation in Hanoi on 18 July 2022. (Photo credit: Đức Mạnh, Nhân Dân newspaper).
Globally, human trafficking is a complex topic that requires the engagement of stakeholders from the community, private sector, government, and nongovernmental organizations. In Vietnam, where trafficking is a major concern, these challenges are amplified by ambiguity around the roles of four key ministries in victim support. This can cause inefficient or ineffective management of victims when they are at their most vulnerable.
The United States Agency for International Development (USAID)-funded Meeting Targets and Maintaining Epidemic Control (EpiC) project worked with Vietnam’s Ministry of Labor, Invalids, and Social Affairs (MOLISA) to improve support for human trafficking victims. While MOLISA is a key player in these efforts, victims of trafficking usually engage with many government officials, including:
- Border guards (overseen by the Ministry of Defense)
- Embassy staff and other representatives abroad (overseen by the Ministry of Foreign Affairs)
- Police (overseen by the Ministry of Public Security)
- Social workers (overseen by MOLISA)
Historically, the role of each ministry in addressing trafficking has been vague and efforts have been fragmented. To improve this, the EpiC project in Vietnam and MOLISA worked together with each ministry to co-create legal guidance, known as the Inter-ministerial Coordination Framework or “the framework.” The framework guides ministries on how to coordinate care for victims at the national level and serves as a model for developing a similar provincial framework.
Developing the framework involved an extensive, four-stage consultative process.
Stage 1: Conduct an assessment
To establish a baseline, EpiC and MOLISA reviewed existing national guidance on addressing trafficking. This desk review helped identify clear gaps. They then organized two provincial study tours to review on-the-ground realities in provinces, where most coordination and victim support take place. Together, MOLISA, the Border Guard Command, the Ministry of Public Security, the Ministry of Justice, and EpiC reviewed how legal regulations were applied in each province. The team had several group discussions and interviews with the Department of Labor, social work centers, and front-line workers in each province to better understand achievements and challenges in receiving, identifying, referring, protecting, and supporting victims of trafficking.
Stage 2: Draft the framework
Based on the results from the assessment stage, EpiC and MOLISA began drafting the text of the framework using clear, concise, collaborative language. The draft framework formalized successful coordination efforts and filled the identified gaps.
The framework focused on three objectives:
- Provide general information about the scope, principles, and forms of coordination.
- Outline specific actions that require coordination; stipulate clear responsibilities; and provide guidance on coordination among the relevant ministries for the reception, protection, and support for victims of trafficking.
- Ensure uniform implementation of the framework by engaged ministries.
Stage 3: Build consensus
EpiC and MOLISA convened staff from relevant ministries on three separate occasions to build consensus on the contents of the framework. Each draft was reviewed in detail, and robust discussion ensured clear content and consistent guidance. After each meeting, EpiC and MOLISA incorporated the feedback into a new draft. As the document neared completion, it was shared with international organizations, embassies, and nongovernmental organizations for additional feedback. Once the staff at each ministry agreed with the contents, a final draft was shared with the minister from each ministry for approval.
Stage 4: Finalize the framework
While inter-ministry efforts can be challenging, this type of collaboration is essential to ensure that victims get the support they need. By formalizing the procedures for identifying, assisting, and referring victims of trafficking in one unified document, victims of trafficking can access high-quality support regardless of province.
To celebrate the commitment of the participating ministries and promote the new framework, EpiC supported MOLISA to organize a public signing ceremony. Vice-ministers from each agency stood before more than 70 representatives from the ministries, international agencies, embassies, and media to sign the framework. The event was shared across multiple media outlets, including a segment on the evening news on the primary state-owned television network.
The national framework requires provincial departments, which mirror national ministries, to create their own frameworks and adapt national guidance to fit provincial needs. EpiC and MOLISA will continue to support the development of provincial frameworks in specific provinces. MOLISA plans to evaluate the effectiveness of the national framework annually and submit reports to Vietnam’s National Steering Committee on Crime Prevention.
In addition to policy interventions, EpiC and MOLISA are collaborating to build the capacity of front-line officials to provide victim-centered support.
More information about the framework is available here.