Conference on “Roles and experiences of CSOs in development”

On July 15th 2017, the conference on “Roles and experiences of Vietnamese CSOs in development” was held in Ho Chi Minh City by Institute of Leadership and Public Policy (ViLEAP) of Ho Chi Minh National Academy of Politics and Research Center for Management and Sustainable Development (MSD) with the purpose of promoting the roles of Civil Society Organizations (CSOs) in Viet Nam as well as connecting the public and social sector to contribute to the development of the country altogether.

“The conference was very practical, contributing to the increasing understanding between CSOs and public sector, especially for future policy makers” – said the Representative of Disability Research and Capacity Development center (DRD). Participants of the conference included Representatives of CSOs in the South; Representatives of State officials attending Master’s Degree in Public Policy K23; Lecturers, researchers at the Politics Academy Region II.

At the beginning of the first phase of the Conference – “An overview on the role of CSOs in development”, Mr. Bui Phuong Dinh, Director of Institute of Leadership and Public Policy discussed “Policy-making with the participation of stakeholders”. According to Mr. Dinh, Policy-making in Viet Nam nowadays still has some existing limitations, namely: Heavy top-down Policy -making process, linear and lack of risk management system; signs of corruption; Policy monopoly is no longer a particular phenomenon; Policy Advocacy is weak on evidence; Fostering the participation of stakeholders in the policy-making process remains limited.

Mr. Bui Hai Thiem, from Legislative Studies Institute of Standing Committee of the National Assembly, has pointed out the roles of CSOs in development and their participation in Policy-making process. Mr. Thiem also stated that at present, the State and Party had changed their perception of CSOs and their roles. This is evidenced in Article 25 and Article 28 of the 2013 Constitution which refers to the relationship between citizens and the State, civil rights of managing the state and society, human rights including association registration as a fundamental right. However, CSOs “has their roles acknowledged but the status is low, the acknowledgement is not yet consistent in policy thinking and acting”.

Through the presentation “Comment on the prospect of civil society organizations in social life in Vietnam nowadays”, MA. Tran Van Huan – Deputy Dean of Faculty of Sociology and Leadership Sciences, Management – Politics Academy Region II, concluded that the existence and development of CSOs is necessary and rooted based on 4 factors. Firstly, Civil Society Organizations (CSOs) work with the principles, goals and missions complying with cultural values and ethnic ethics. CSOs demonstrate vividly that they are contributing to the carefree spread of humanity and bringing out the values that society, especially, disadvantaged groups in society, are in need of. Secondly, the need for support; quick, carefree, efficient help; association; self-consolidation from society and community is the factor contributing to the prospect of CSOs’ development. Thirdly, the fact that CSOs can remedy certain restrictions in the State’s operation and collaborate with the State for common goals of the state and society becomes a factor creating prospect of these organizations in social life. Fourthly, the State and Party’s awareness of, interest in and facilitation for CSOs is starting to change in a positive and dramatic way and at the same time creates a strong legal basis for the development prospects of these organizations.

In the second phase – “Connecting: Practical Contribution of CSOs to development”, the two organizations: Disability Research and Capacity Development center – DRD and LIFE shared their activities of supporting vulnerable groups such as people with disabilities, people living with HIV/AIDS, MSM; etc. These organizations also shared their experiences in collaborating with Government agencies in order to ensure the sustainability of their programs because International Organizations’ sponsorship only lasts for a limited period of time.
The discussion among participants of the conference was very lively. In particular, representatives of CSOs also talked about their difficulties in operatiaon as well as in policy advocacy process due to legal regulations.

The discussion shows that CSOs still need to have their roles acknowledged and to have their operations facilitated by authorities at all levels because what these organizations need is an open policy framework enabling them to execute their role to contribute to the development of the country in a satisfying way. And in order to achieve that, Government authorities should be more open.
Participants of the conference were also willing to share their experiences in Policy Advocacy and collaborating with State Agencies. Policy Advocacy activities should get local authorities involved, select influencers, provide different perspectives; supply evidence, connect CSOs together and choose the time. CSOs have the advantage of operating in the area close to grassroots therefore it is easy for them to spot policy problems. However, CSOs themselves also need to improve their capacity, especially skills related to policy advocacy and capability to provide policy solutions for effective policy advocacy. CSOs need to be aware of that the policy should be changed based on the people’s actual needs instead of comparison with other countries’ laws.

Thus, fostering the development of CSOs “requires close, goodwill cooperation and open-minded perspectives among management bodies as well as CSOs’ effort to assert themselves”.