Conditions for civil society and its effectiveness need improvement

May 9, 2006

Ha Noi According to the results of the first-ever national study of Viet Nam’s civil society, there is a diverse mix of highly-engaged groups and organizations working in Viet Nam, but cooperation between them is still weak and they are having limited impact.

The study, carried out between April 2005 and March of this year, is part of an international Civil Society Index project in more than 50 countries. Created by an international NGO called CIVICUS: World Alliance for Citizen Participation, the same methodology has been used in other countries in the region, including China, East Timor, India, Indonesia and Mongolia.

"This is the first time this kind of research study has been carried out in Viet Nam,” said Dr. Dang Ngoc Dinh, the National Coordinator of the project and the Director of the Viet Nam Institute for Development Studies (VIDS). “The most important objective of the paper is to give Vietnamese a tool to understand civil society in Viet Nam, and I believe that this objective has been largely achieved. At the same time, we recognize the need for more in depth studies about the organisation, activities and impact of civil society organisations in Viet Nam."

Project Coordinator and editor of the report, Irene Norlund presented the report in Ha Noi today.
The project implemented by VIDS and supported by the UN Development Programme and the Netherlands Development Organization SNV, aims to promote an enabling environment for people's participation and civil society development by assessing the conditions, characteristics, contributions and participation of civil society in Viet Nam.

Civil society is seen by CIVICUS as the “arena outside of the family, the state and the market where people associate to advance common interests.” This definition is broad and inclusive, and embraces both individuals and voluntary and non-profit organizations, philanthropic institutions, social and political movements and other forms of social involvement that exist outside or overlaps with the state, business world and family.

According to the study, Viet Nam benefits from a diverse mix of organisations of very different origin, structure, legitimacy, purposes and financing. Civil society is highly engaged in charity, voluntarism, and enjoys a fairly high level of trust from people.

However, the study also shows that cooperation and networking between organisations is weak, compounded by a relatively poor socio-political environment for civil society development, which diminishes the overall impact.  Organisations were also found to be weak when it comes to promoting transparency and democracy, both important values to make the organisations stronger and more trusted in society.

At the presentation of the study today in Ha Noi, The study will contribute to creating awareness and dialogue among a broad range of stakeholders about the current status and the future direction of civil society and people's participation in Viet Nam.

Contact informationMs. Ninh Thi Hoa Tel: (84-4)-942-1495 Ext.  250.
Michael Coleman, Tel: (84-4) 942-1495 x161